Indian Air Force fighter jets fly during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi
Representational image | Indian Air Force fighter jets | Photo: T. Narayan | Bloomberg
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Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs held a press conference on Friday.

Heavy on morale-boosting sound bytes and designs, there was little information about how the Indian military was poised to support the government, in addition to carrying out its routine duties, and how prepared it was to take on additional roles in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The pronouncements were largely focused on celebrating India’s Covid-19 warriors, for which the chiefs announced a host of initiatives — Indian Air Force flypasts (from Srinagar to Thiruvananthapuram and from Dibrugarh to Kutch) with flower petals being showered on hospitals; Indian Army bands playing motivational tunes along hospitals treating Covid-19 patients in every district of the country; and Indian Navy ships showcasing solidarity with a display of lights along the Indian coast.

Also read: Hundreds of sorties, 336 tonnes of supplies, IAF is now govt’s transport service in lockdown

Reconsider IAF flypast

Activities planned by the Army bands around silent zones like hospitals can be managed, and even be a morale-booster, while the Naval activities do not demand a huge logistical effort either, although very few among the target audience will be able to witness them. But the efficacy of flypasts by the Indian Air Force (IAF) must be reconsidered. There is no doubt that flypasts are great motivators, but it must be assessed if our Covid-19 warriors will really be able to immerse themselves in the experience, or even catch a fleeting glimpse of the aircraft as they pass overhead.

Rather than mobilising fleets across the country, it would make sense to conduct the flypasts over certain concentrated areas as a symbolic gesture, and then share the footage on social media for the benefit of the rest. In fact, a tri-services effort captured in film would be even more impactful.

Moreover, it would be optimum to utilise this latent, spare capacity and deploy it for essential services like transporting stranded people back to their homes safely, efficiently and swiftly, thus supporting other public transport services. This will be a great service, and will be appreciated by our heavily burdened Covid-19 warriors.

Also read: Bureaucracy intact in Indian military. DMA only brings ill-advised orders for armed forces

Assess cost

If it is about trying to replicate last week’s flypast events carried out by the US Air Force and US Navy, then it must be recalled that those had two purposes — maintaining flying currency and providing sufficient practice for their aerobatic teams because their prior engagements had been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. And even when the flypast events were conducted, ‘cost-benefit’ analysis ultimately played a role.

Likewise, it may be prudent for the IAF to figure out how to ensure maximum bang for the buck — boosting morale while providing essential services and preserving operational potential. 

Finally, it must be kept in mind that flying is inherently expensive and hours need to be conserved for a future emergency. Coming soon after the incident wherein the parents of Colonel NS Bal, who died battling cancer last month, couldn’t be accorded an airlift on the IAF’s precious aircraft and had to travel 2,600 km by road to perform their son’s last rites, we should seriously ponder what counts for morale, and how best it can be displayed.

Squadron Leader Anshuman Mainkar (Retd) served in the Indian Air Force and flew the MiG 21 and MiG 27 aircraft. He tweets at @anshumig. Views are personal.

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32 Comments Share Your Views


  1. I loved your blog and thanks for publishing this about deploy iaf fly past migrants home waste flying hours show. I am really happy to come across this exceptionally well written content. Thanks for sharing and look for more in future.One must check this it gives us more info on this topic.

  2. Col, you POV exemplifies exactly what is wrong with the Indian Military’s Officer Corps. The Indian Air force and the tax payer is not a taxi service for retired officers like yourself !
    That flypast was a great morale builder for the Airforce and us civilians. Shed your Army PRIVILEGE ASAP!

  3. Who has confirmed that transport planes only carried rosepetals and nothing else. As per helicopters and fighter aircrafts . Aren’t flight sorties a part of combat readiness. The issue is well addressed by the govt serving dual purpose of maintaining combat readiness. AndMoral boosting of covid warriors.

  4. It is not the sole right of anybody to get the military fighter plane for travel. It is the national interest and protocol which counts. Do not count the personal interest with the Govt. Who is not entitled for the facility.

  5. You nailed the truth sir. Whoever chants jingoistic gullible is nationalist otherwise if anyone questions the cost with in no time declared anti national.

    • Brother the person who brought the truth is an officer , he doesn’t talk about any jawaan he is now saying because he was an officer . have you ever heard that these people did any such thing for Jawan .No. further IAF is not meant for a personal purpose .
      The March pass was not for a single person but as moral booster for whole fighters
      All over India. There are no. Of jawaans in the country who didn’t even attend their father / mother last rites due to outbreak. no one will talk for Them nor they’ll speak as they can understand the situation. But yes we’ll talk for officer . Becoz his parents made the newz

  6. You nailed the truth sir. Whoever chants jingoistic gullible is nationalist otherwise if anyone questions the cost with in no time declared anti national.

  7. As in the past our politicians are hopelessly out of touch with the military realities. It has wasted huge sums to please vote banks, yet it has given pathetic amounts to the forces for modernization.

  8. Such a bunch of Douchebag people are pooping their shitty opinion on extreme leftist propaganda churning tout channel.

  9. If Govt really wants to honour covid warriors then it should release their DA from Jan & July,2020 forthwith. Their financial hardships require withheld DA and not rose petals.

  10. I absolutely agree with the author. There are more better ways to show appreciation to these brave covid 19 warriors, who are deeply immersed in their very demanding work during this very trying time. Maybe they can be provided with better PPE’s or other means which could be ascertained after interacting with them as to their needs. They may have a different take on ways of appreciation by the government.

  11. Sir, if you are jot aware, IAF is already in the mission of covid and so far it has done better in supplying essentials as well as other help. This is jut a tribute. If you compare everything to everything, skip a meal a day and provide the same to a poor. But you will never do that. Because it is a part of life. Same way, these are part of professionalism. ..

  12. I mean yeah government is for sure not doing anything significant… Covid cases are increasing and number of people dying is also increasing….for sure some sort of motivation is required even though it’s some sort of PR stunt. Airforce was used to bring back citizens back to country and should be used to take back migrant workers back… Atleast flights and airports should be reinstated since people are much more aware about this disease and importance of social distancing

  13. Govt should release DA from 1st Jan and July2020 to all Corona Warriors who are govt employees and defence personnel’s, instead of organising fly past which will be inhuman and rubbing salt on wounds of medical staff who have neither been provided PPE nor Police protection or accommodation.

  14. This is another diversion tactic like Tali, thali and diya lighting. These flypasts not going to serve any practical purpose. Health workers are inside hospitals and most people are indoors. Who is going to see ? The points raised are very apt. Govt. can bring people from abroad but doesn’t want to spend on shifting the people within India to their home cities.

  15. It is shame to hear such ludicrous advice by the CDS. Firstly from the very onset we have termed this crisis as epidemic /pandemic. But is it correct ? By using such terms we are only underplaying, understating, underrating its felony and hazard. The truth is , we are in a thick of WW III. The global geopolitical scenario testifies. The virus originated sometime in Nov 19, when trade war between America and China was at its peak.. … Credible deterrence will have its repercussions, resulting in non conventional silent warfare far more lethal and deadly.. ….In any case what stands apparent, sans all talk of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical warfare in army, nation have been caught absolutely unprepared. And what is worst , army has no agenda and has no role to play..But why ? Why then teach about NBC warfare in armed forces ? .Is it all within the books ?….So instead of sitting down , drawing some lessons from the present crisis, and a future road map for such crisis, CDS is resorting to all sorts of theatrics.. Its an absolute SHAME. Army definitely has a role to play. It cannot resort to any exclusiveness..

  16. The fighter squadron are being used for the flypast(which are ofcourse not use to move a mass amount of people).
    As far as I know in our militaries moral boosting is considered as one of the top priority for any Commanding officer.

    The military aircrafts are only used when there is no other option.e.g. bringing back Indian nationals when no intercontinental air service was available.

    IAF has to ensure the vicinity of their game changers near borders so, using Military aircrafts for inland transportation is always a bad idea because if you engage one then govt. will force IAF to engage entire fleet.

    If condition become worse govt. will use trains first. Military is always the last choice.

  17. Spineless article cloaked in reasonable sounding words lacking real courage expected from a fighter pilot. Instead of forthright criticism of Gen Rawat’s cynical ploy to please his political masters for the next plum position – which is why a press conference was needed instead of a press release – we are being told that if this was reduced in scale it would all be OK. No it is not OK to further deflect and distract people from real issues in a crisis and to waste resources on self serving spectacle.

    Why bring in US comparison? It is hardly a role model these days. And there are many good things about the US military that the Indian military can emulate, like the IAF being professional in carrying out accident investigations in a timely and transparent manner.

    Col Bal’s parents were subjected to their ordeal not because it was too expensive or would set a negative precedent but because the political and military leadership knew that it would only attract mild criticism like this article instead of a concerted outcry from the veteran community exposing the powers that be.

    The Indian military is truly responsible for its own downfall and this piece is a great example of how and why.

  18. Everything should not be calculated in terms of Money… It’s sad to hear about Cool Bal… But the service aircrafts are not for the use of family members…if this system starts them AF will be left nothing to do other than transportation of family members…

  19. In times like these a thorough thinking can prove to be fatal. Sometimes you have to do what your inner self tells you. Our CDS did this but the media always needs something to poke at.

  20. Ref to current economical situation every penny spend is become a specious for every country, especially developing country Like India. Moral boost is anyhow required for every one in this country but not on the cost of Taxes we paid.

  21. I think it’s incorrect to link tomorrow’s event with the denial of airlift to parents of Col Bal. I think organisationally we lack foresight and vision. Plus all our great efforts are huge but unplanned, scattered and disjointed. We lack frame work and still believe that maturity and wisdom comes with age and all juniors are kaddus. We forget that appointment gives authority but does not necessarily bring domain expertise nor any special abilities are wrapped up in the appointment box which appointment holder absorbs like a sponge. Vision, foresight and risk appetite is something which does not come overnight.


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