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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Knights of the air

Mandeep Singh Bajwa   October 13, 2013
First Published: 01:23 IST(13/10/2013) | Last Updated: 01:26 IST(13/10/2013)

There's an undeniable mystique about the world of fighter pilots. Those swashbuckling warriors of the skies are stuff that dreams are made of. Swagger, arrogance and confidence are part of a fighter pilot's make-up.  They are in every sense a different breed of warrior. But life as a pilot isn't all about strutting around in aviator glasses. There's some extremely hard work, grueling training and very high professional standards to attain.

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Air forces the world over accept only the very best human resources. Pilots must be able to master technology, be in the very best of physical form and have the requisite mental toughness to stand the rigours of combat. Leadership qualities must go hand in hand with the ability to perform as part of a team.

The physical demands of air warfare require that a fighter pilot must be at the very peak of fitness. Good eyesight is part of the physical conditioning. Pilots also need to possess the physical coordination necessary to overcome the stresses and strains imposed on the body by the forces of gravity. This is particularly so in the context of the high-speed manoeuvres of modern air combat.

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A pilot must have tremendous mental robustness. Ultimately it's the fighter pilot's spirit that reigns supreme. As a lone gladiator, he has to rely on his training as much as on his inherent qualities. He must be able to make the best use of the training imparted to him to optimise his qualities as a warrior and a leader.

It's a far cry, from the combatants of World War 1 in their biplanes to the modern IAF pilots in their sleek, hi-tech jets. The physical and mental attributes of fighter pilots must remain the same, only more sharply defined.

Estimate of enemy intentions

The sudden eruption of Pakistani intrusions across the Line of Control (LOC) in J&K has caused uproar in the country. What are the underlying reasons behind the spurt of attacks on the security forces and the increased infiltration? To know that, we must assess the state of insurgency in Kashmir.

Recent times have seen a marked increase in apprehensions and elimination of terrorists at the hands of the security forces. This is mainly due to better information coming to the army and police, through human and technical means. This increased information about movements, routes and crossings is also the reason an increasing number of infiltrators are being ambushed and eliminated at entry points. The result has been that the violent insurgency is at an all-time low.

Pakistan needs to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir for strategic reasons. It cannot afford any normalisation, as evidenced by increased tourist inflow, the holding of panchayat elections and the political focus shifting to development. By attacking security forces, the ISI is attempting to demoralise them, break up the counter-insurgency grid and disperse counter-infiltration units to create gaps and enable the infiltration of large groups of foreign terrorists to infuse new life into the insurgency.

There can be no doubt that strengthening the security of one's firm base is the foremost priority. Ultimately, however, attack is the best form of defence.

(To share stories and narratives of war, please write to msbajwa@gmail.com or call on 093161-35343. Fighter pilots, in particular.)

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