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Air Marshal SS Soman (Retd)

Air Marshal SS Soman PVSM AVSM VM retired as Air Officer Commanding in Chief of Western Air Command, IAF in 2015. He was commissioned in the Flying Branch of the Indian Air Force in December 1976 and has more than 3400 hours of flying on fighter aircraft. Air Marshal Soman has held many appointments which include Commanding Officer of a Fighter Squadron, Chief Flying Instructor at Flying Instructors School (FIS), Chief Operations Officer (COO) at Srinagar during Operation Parakram and Air Officer Commanding at a premier IAF base. He has served as Asst Defence Adviser at the High Commission of India, Dhaka.

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  1. Cmde HA Gokhale, Veteran IN

    This article is too structured to suit the IAF point of view. Author may remember not so pleasant disagreement beteeen IN and IAF over Maritime Rec aircraft. Comparing US with India is comparing Jamuns with apples. We tom-tom the fact that we shall attack no one ever and therfor our posture is totally defensive. USA is not. They claim that they can hit any part of the world within hours through their resources, especially through Carrier aircraft. Even during Kargill, we scruplously avoided crossing the IB, Balakot being the sole exception which we may not have to repeat. With such a mindset ,isn’t IAF willy-nilly a supporting arm of the Army which has to ensure that no land is lost to enemy? We will capture some enemy land for post Cease-fire neotiations which we alwyas give back. The un-answered question is who shall be incharge of interdiction ops in enemy territory which which IAF shall do as ‘offensive defense’. Speaking about Status, it looks as if Drone warfare is the sunrise warfare which can come totally under IAF.

  2. Rajiv Lakhwara

    It is quite evident that unfortunately for the services particularly and nation in general the quality of professionalism and knowledge of the CDS is going to cause lots of heartburns and mutual distrust. The General is quite determined to bring a feeling of mistrust rather than uniting the three services who all individually are by far one of the best in the world. Stark example how an inept commander can really spoil an otherwise very wise move or idea.

  3. Shashikant Oak

    “over the years we have developed airpower blindness which will only aggravate the process that has been adopted for theaterisation.”
    Well said Sir…

  4. Dinesh Vaswani

    Air Mshl SSoman is an extremely knowledgeable officer who has headed two theaters in the IAF. I completely agree with him that the IAF can’t be placed as a helping arm to the army. The IAF definitely is one of the best and amongst the several roles it undertakes only one part of it is providing air support for the army. Which too has been mainly taken over by Army Aviation Corps. Hence, claims of IAF being only a support element to the army is rather naive.

    The Integrated Air Defense Command maybe a great concept but it’s rather obvious that Air Defense requires thorough knowledge of the air elements and tactics. This is definitely an open and shut case without even blinking an eye.

    The IAF has been contemplating of jointness or jointmanship of the three services since ages, however with genuine integration rather than only a paper exercise.

  5. Gp Capt Johnson Chacko

    Thete needs to be a doctrinal base which elucidates as to how defence of India is to be managed. Integration is the key, not theaterisation leading to disintegration.

    We need to enact a law to reorganise the Armed Forces. At present CDS is an appointment without legal sanction. If theater commanders are to report to him then there has to a law for him to exercise command over them. No officer can exercise judicial powers over a junior from another service. A command in which judicial powers cannot be exercised is not a command.

  6. Laljee Verma

    CDS was a ludicrous idea. How can you have someone heading a theatre command without having all the resources under control? Is the effort to create another Chief? History is replete with examples where Army Air Forces have performed badly and separate Air Forces have done much better. The US learnt the lessons early and converted their Army Air Force to a separate strategic Air Force in the initial phase of World War II. Theatre commands work well when you have large resources, which India does not have. Take the Air Force for example. The Air Force is deficient of more than a dozen squadrons. Can they fragment their resources further to theatre commands and still retain their strategic role which is the paramount responsibility of the air force? As I mentioned earlier it is a dangerous idea to have Integrated Theatre Commands in the present scenario, the CDS is hell-bent upon pushing it through. It will be a dangerous move. If they do a mock paper exercise in the form of an ‘Appreciation’ it will be clear that Integrated Theatre Commands will not work. Even with the armoured assets, it will be clear that one theatre command may be fighting with all integrated resources whereas another theatre command may have resources sitting idle. And, if required to be moved from the East to the West it may be a time-consuming exercise, apart from leaving a theatre unguarded. It has been stated that these theatre commands would report to the CDS. Will, they bypass the service chiefs? The CDS does not have absolute control over men and material but wants to become another Chief without due responsibility. Security of the country may still be the prime responsibility of the respective chiefs. The idea of having theatre commands and fragment the resources, especially of the air force may cost the country dearly in the future.
    Laljee Verma, Rtd Air Mshl, a thinker and an author.


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