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Aerospace Power in 21st century
Sharp end of a sharp edge

 

 
 
  Published : March 2014
 
 
 
 

The Fifth “Jumbo” Majumdar International conference on “Conflict and Aerospace Power in 21st century”, was organised by Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), on February 4-5, in New Delhi, commemorating one of the great pioneers of the Indian Air Force (IAF), late Wing Commander KK “Jumbo” Majumdar.

 

In his inaugural address, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Arup Raha, highlighted the importance of this year’s topic by stating that “Aerospace Power in 21st century will establish itself as the sharp end of a sharp edge in combat power”. Aerospace power with its ability to simultaneously interface and influence the land and sea operations was best suited for providing prompt multiple response options to political leadership in times of national security crises. While deliberating his views on future propositions and challenges he brought about the blurring of boundaries between peace, war, armed conflict and terrorism and conveyed that the transition between these boundaries is thinning. In 21st century, geopolitical environment will continue to evolve and change despite the unipolar world order with emergence of new power centres, thereby necessitating realignments of power structures. Speaking on Information warfare, he emphasised on the development of space and cyber warfare capabilities and elaborated on the need to address information domain as a key force multiplier. He highlighted the importance of aerospace power in control of the air, improving situational awareness, ISR requirements and precision strike capabilities.

The conduct of the seminar included sessions on topics like ‘Understanding Strategic Cultures’, ‘Trends in Aerospace Power’, ‘Security of Outer Space: Opportunities and Challenges’, ‘Military Balance in Asia’ and, ‘Trends in Defence Modernisation’.

The first session on ‘Understanding Strategic Cultures’ was chaired by Air Marshal (Retd) Vinod Patney Director General, CAPS, who stated that the study of strategic culture is more of an art and has not yet been dealt with utmost sincerity. The session was aimed to interpret as to how one country would respond and act under different circumstances. The speakers Dr Shalini Chawla, MV Rappai and Prof Arun Mohanty shared their views on strategic culture of Pakistan, China and Russia, respectively. They brought out as how the varieties of factors like historical experiences, geographical location, threat perception and religion played an important role in shaping and influencing the growth and approach of a nation.

Subsequent session on ’Trends in Aerospace Power’ included topics of ‘Air Power as Instrument of Coercion’ by AVM (Retd) Manmohan Bahadur, ‘Trends in Aero Space Power - Technology and Affordability’ by Gp Capt (Retd) Sudhir Verma and ‘Directed Energy Weapons and Air Power’ by Prof Premchand. The session listed out the challenges in face of intermeshing of the air, space and cyber domains. It focused on the new synergistic capabilities of a modern, technology driven Air Force, covering the need for a framework and road map for procurement of future generation aircrafts and development of DEWs Capability.

On second day of the conference, the session on ’Security of Outer Space: Opportunities and Challenges’ was chaired by Air Marshal (Retd) LK Malhotra, Distinguished Fellow CAPS. Stressing the need to improve on transparency in outer space and development of space policies, he presented his views on increasing exploitation of space, problem of space debris, satellite collisions and the necessity of a viable Code of Conduct. Wg Cdr Ajay Lele, Wg Cdr KK Nair and Dr Manpreet Sethi presented their views on the central theme of ‘Outer Space’ bringing about historical perspectives, space achievements, space militarisation, space weapons and issues of space security. They brought out as to how space assets contribute to strategic and economic benefits. Issue of vulnerability of space assets was highlighted in the shadow of development and testing of ASAT weapons. The session presented a detailed insight on existing Space laws, treaties and Code of Conduct and how the use of space for peaceful purposes was challenged by legal ambiguity.

The session on ’Military Balance in Asia’ was chaired by Air Marshal (Retd) TM Asthana, who stated that twenty-first century belongs to Asia. He, however, mentioned that security environment in Asia is, by and large, influenced by historical disputes, nuclearisation, energy resources and the growing potential of China. He opined that war on terror, disarmament, social upheavals in many of the Asian countries, and, impact of unilateralism of the US on Asian countries are the factors shaping economic contours in Asia and thereby, affecting globalisation. Prof GVC Naidu, Prof Srikanth Kondapalli and Gp Capt (Retd) Ravinder Singh Chhatwal, presented their views on the topic of ’India-Southeast Asia: Military Interactions’, ’Chinese Response to America’s Rebalancing’ and ’Military Implications of China’s Rise’, respectively.

The last session on ’Trends in Defence Modernisation’ was chaired by Air Marshal (Retd) NV Tyagi. He stated that modernisation is driven by doctrine, threat perception and in some cases by military aspirations and is limited by availability of resources. Amit Cowshish gave his views on ’India’s Future Defence Budgets’ bringing about the requirements, projections, limitations, allocations and utilisation under the heads of revenue and capital budgets. Mohan Guruswamy, shared his views on ’China’s Economic Trajectory and Defence Modernisation’. Air Vice Marshal SB Deo, DG Air Operations presented his views on ’IAF in 2032’ and gave a brief insight of its planning and preparedness for that period.

In his valedictory speech, Air Marshall RK Sharma, Vice Chief of Air Staff said that the mix of topics in the seminar was keeping in the mind the objective of enabling and empowering the war fighter with knowledge. He pointed out that developing a strategic culture for India based on the study of the same of other countries will benefit the nation in the long run. He also highlighted how air power was important and critical to national power. He pointed out that future wars would be short and sharp with greater unpredictability which will require assured, swift and flexible response. The need for keeping the Indian Air Force (IAF) tactically and technologically superior is essential to win any air wars. Raising concerns over development of ASAT capabilities by few countries, he stressed the need to defend the space based capabilities and allocation of higher resources towards research and development in aerospace sector.

 
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