Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria speaks to Sushant Singh about how the IAF is working through the COVID-19 pandemic, likely budget cuts and modernisation efforts.
How has the IAF been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, operationally and otherwise?
We have ensured that our operational capability has not been degraded at all. Air defence alert has continued unabated while our transport and helicopter fleets have been working throughout the lockdown period to handle COVID-related tasks, support to state administration and government agencies, as well as air maintenance tasks to support the Army in forward areas. Training and operational methodology was reviewed to ensure segregation of combat crew and preservation of resources.
Our plans were initiated proactively catering to force preservation through travel protocols, mandatory quarantine for vulnerable categories and minimising exposure. We took precautions and preventive measures as early as February, such as preparing isolation and quarantine centres. By March, we had established quarantine facilities in nine locations across India with a capacity of 1,650 personnel. Crisis Management Centres were established at all levels and a corona helpline for IAF personnel has been functional since beginning of March. The IAF remains fully engaged in the collective national effort and has been continuously shouldering tasks as part of Mission Lifeline Udaan and Op Sanjeevani.