The Indian Air Force (IAF) has drafted a new security procedure under which it has decided to spend at least Rs 6,800 crore on fortifying 54 out of its 950 flying and non-flying airbases that it identified to be vulnerable to attacks in its recently concluded security audit. The audit was ordered by the Ministry of Defence after the 2 January terror attack this year on IAF’s Pathankot airbase in Punjab. The new protocol document includes shoot-at-sight orders on any unauthorised person who trespasses into any airbase or tries to. It also bans construction of any structure within a 100-metre radius of any airbase. The IAF has also sought permission from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to induct 10 additional squadrons of Garud commandos to increase security at its bases.
The audit, ordered after the Pathankot terrorist attack on the IAF airbase, found security loopholes in several airbases. “The Pathankot attack exposed the chinks in the security setup at our critical airbases. We have expedited actions to plug the loopholes,” a top source in the IAF told The Sunday Guardian. “We have accelerated the process to fortify 54 of our critical flying airbases. We have also sought permission from the MoD to induct 10 squadrons (1,000 personnel) of Garud commandos — in addition to the over 1,000 commandos currently in the force — to guard our 950 flying and non-flying assets (airbases),” the source said.
The security revision will move ahead in two phases. “The first phase will include installation of new and more advanced surveillance systems like motion sensors, infrared detection systems, mobile surveillance systems and quad-copter drones as an eye in the sky. We will also have mobile patrol units along with a new contingent of security personnel including Air Force Police and Garud commandos to replace the army’s Defence Security Corps personnel at these critical bases,” he said.
“The second phase will include installation of automatic weapon stations, unmanned ground vehicles along with a new fleet of latest generation armoured vehicles for the Air Force security personnel. The first phase will be completed by 2018. After completion of the first stage, we will move to the second phase,” he said.
The Pathankot attack raised many questions, not just on the role played, allegedly by an insider, but also on the serious lack of security systems and surveillance equipment at the Air Force base. “After initial reports from the NIA and defence intelligence, we drafted a plan to secure our most critical installations, especially the ones that are closer to the border. Seven Indian personnel lost their lives in the attack. No more shall die like this,” the source said.
The Rs 6,800 crore grant is for the first phase. More funds will be sanctioned from the ministry, as and when required. The amount might increase in the coming years. Each airbase needs at least Rs 150 crore for installing surveillance systems, laying a fresh defensive compound in concrete and barbed wire that will then be electrified.
Questioned on the need to induct more commandos, he explained, “Most of our Air Force bases are guarded by Defence Security Corps (DSC) personnel. They are superannuated soldiers who are serving for security duties in and around the base compounds. They don’t carry firearms or any other weapons with them generally and are given rifles during emergency situations. There is also a very small number of active personnel in the Air Force Police. Sometimes, the air troops have to guard the bases. Overall increase in security personnel is a long term target. But for now, we want at least the emergency squads to be in place in sufficient number.”
Of the seven security personnel killed at the Pathankot airbase, five were DSC personnel, one was an NSG commando and the seventh was an Air Force Garud commando.