The air force has issued shoot-on-sight orders against intruders at more than 20 of its front-line bases in the western sector after Pakistani terrorists attacked the Pathankot airbase in January, a senior IAF officer said on Wednesday.
The decision to place the airbases on high alert has been taken after the IAF recently conducted a comprehensive security audit of its vital installations.
“Security personnel at bases under the operationally-critical Western Air Command have been ordered to shoot down intruders without warning. Under ordinary circumstances a warning would have been issued,” the officer said.
Airbases at Avantipur, Srinagar, Adampur, Halwara, Chandigarh, Ambala and Hindon are among those put on high alert.
Six Pakistani terrorists had stormed the 18 Wing fighter base in Pathankot on January 2 with the intention to destroy topline military hardware such as Russian-origin MiG-21 fighters and a mix of Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters hangared there. Severn soldiers were killed in the pre-dawn strike that exposed security gaps, forcing the air force to do a safety audit.
The audit identified 54 vital bases where security will be upgraded at a cost of more than Rs 8,000 crore. “Pathankot has been a learning experience. We plan to tap smart technologies available globally for perimeter protection of huge bases,” the IAF officer revealed.
He said the 54 airbases would get smart fences, vibration detection systems, mini-drones, thermal cameras and night vision equipment to detect trespassers and respond swiftly in case of an attempted breach.
“The government is backing our plan and we want to fast-track its implementation. We will do it in one go.”
A three-star officer is heading the committee monitoring the implementation of new security measures.
The terrorists succeeded in breaching the high-security Pathankot fighter base, though the facility was on the highest state of alert following intelligence about a possible 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.
Civilian airports around the world address security challenges using technological solutions.
Another problem is rampant unauthorised civilian constructions close to air force facilities. The IAF has raised this blatant violation of guidelines with the government again after the Pathankot attack to ensure rules were implemented — no construction within 100 metres of any airbase and within 900 metres of its ammunition depots. It has also firmed up plans to induct into the force at least 10 more units of Garud commandos with 70-80 men each to secure its bases.