Srinagar: After Pathankot airbase militant attack last year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is sending its commandos for operational training in anti-militancy operations in Kashmir to safeguard its airbases.
Officials say 30 commandos of the IAF have been deployed with Army’s elite counter-insurgency units – Rashtriya Rifles – in north Kashmir for “operational experience and training” in anti-militancy operations.
“We have deployed IAF commandos with the Army’s RR units for training and experience purpose,” said a senior IAF officer.
He said the deployment of the IAF commandos with the Army in the counter-insurgency operation followed after a militant attack on the frontline Air Force Station (AFS) on January 2, 2016.
Pertinently, four heavily-armed militants believed to be from Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) outfit stormed into IAF base in Pathankot, which is barely 35km from the international border with Pakistan.
In the two-day-long gun battle, three IAF security men including a commando were killed along with the militants and six security men were wounded.
The attack rang alarm bells in the security apparatus, particularly in the IAF as the entry of militants beyond periphery could have resulted in the destruction of fighter jets and helicopters housed in the air base.
To augment the defense of the airbases, the IAF decided to send its commandos for operational training and experience in the anti-militancy operations, a senior IAF officer said.
Since August this year, the IAF has deployed 30 of its commandos with the Army for a period of six months to get training in the counter-militancy operations.
“It is an ongoing process and we are sending our men in a phased manner to be with the Army for training,” he said.
However, the deployment of the IAF commandos with the Army in counter-insurgency operations has proved a nightmare as it lost three of its commandos in recent two gunfights in Hajin area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.
Two IAF commandos and an equal number of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants were killed in a gunfight on October 11, at Paribal-Salamabad village of Bandipora.
The slain IAF personnel were identified as Sergeant K. Milind Kishor and Corporal Nilesh Kumar Nayan. Kishor, 33, of Sakri town in Nashik, Maharashtra had joined the IAF in 2002 while as Nayan, 31, of Udhadih village in Bhagalpur district of Bihar had donned the IAF uniform in 2005.
Another blow to IAF came on November 18, when an IAF commando Jyoti Prakash Nirala, 31, was killed in a gunfight in which six Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants died in Hajin’s Chandargeer village of Bandipora.
After LeT militants stormed a major air force base at Awantipora in south Kashmir on October 23, 2001, the IAF felt the need for a specialized force to protect these critical elements.
Finally, in 2004 the IAF established its Garud special force unit to have a dedicated commando force trained in Special Forces techniques, Combat Search and Rescue, Reconnaissance, Counter Insurgency (COIN) Operations and Emergency in response to militant-threats to airfields.
To get operational experience, the IAF commandos were deployed with Army, General Officer Commanding of Srinagar based 15 Corps Lt Gen J S Sandhu said on Sunday.
“In operational experience, we do face battle situation where sometimes we have to sacrifice our lives,” Sandhu told reporters here.