Shoot-at-sight orders for trespassers at western sector airbases

The Indian Air Force has issued shoot-at-sight orders against intruders at more than 20 of its front-line bases in the western sector following the terror attack on the Pathankot fighter base, said a senior officer familiar with a comprehensive security audit carried out by the IAF.

“Security personnel at the bases under the operationally-critical Western Air Command have been ordered to shoot down intruders without giving them any warning. Under ordinary circumstances, a warning would have been issued,” the IAF officer said.

The airbases at Avantipur, Srinagar, Adampur, Halwara, Chandigarh, Ambala and Hindon are among those that have been put on alert.

Six terrorists had stormed the 18 Wing fighter base at Pathankot on January 2 with the intention of destroying Russian-origin MiG-21 fighters and a mix of Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters parked there. Seven security men were killed in the strike that exposed gaps in security, forcing the IAF to carry out the special audit.

The IAF has identified 54 vital bases where security will be upgraded at a cost of more than Rs 8,000 crore. “The Pathankot strike has been a learning experience. We plan to tap smart technologies available globally for perimeter protection of huge bases.” He said the airbases would get smart fences, vibration detection systems, mini drones, thermal cameras and night vision equipment to detect intruders and respond swiftly in case of an attempted breach.

He said: “The government is backing our plan and we want to fast-track its implementation. We will do it in one go.” Civil airports around the world address security challenges using technological solutions.

A three-star officer is heading the committee monitoring the implementation of new security measures.

Pakistani terrorists succeeded in breaching the high-security Pathankot fighter base despite the facility being on the highest state of alert following intelligence about a possible terror strike. Several years ago Israeli teams had visited the Hindon air force base outside New Delhi to demonstrate how smart solutions could help protect vital military installations but the plan never took off.

Another problem the IAF is grappling with is unauthorised construction in the vicinity of its facilities in blatant violation of guidelines. The IAF has raised the matter with the government again to ensure that the rules are implemented – no construction within 100 metres of any airbase and within 900 metres of its ammunition depots.

The IAF is also working on a plan to raise more commando units to secure its bases. It has firmed up plans to raise at least 10 more units of Garud commandos with 70-80 men each.

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