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New IAF branch for weapon systems operators

WS operators, UAV operators, and missile operations personnel will be unified in a new branch in the Indian Air Force. The air force said that this will cut training costs and increase core competencies across these specialist roles. (United States Air Force)

The Indian government has approved the creation of a new branch for weapon systems (WS) personnel in the Indian Air Force (IAF).

In a statement on 8 October, India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that the “creation of the WS branch would entail unification of all weapon system operators under one entity dedicated to the operational employment of all ground-based and specialist airborne weapon systems”.

Earlier that day, IAF's Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari, said that the new branch will encompass personnel in four specialised streams: surface-to-surface missile units, surface-to-air missile units, operators of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and WS operators in twin or multicrewed aircraft. He was speaking during the 90th Air Force Day parade held in Chandigarh.

ACM Chaudhari added the creation of the branch would prompt an annual saving of INR34 billion (USD410.34 million). This saving will be “due to the reduced expenditure on flying training”, he said.

Existing branches in the IAF include the flying branch, engineering, administration, logistics, accounts, meteorology, and education. According to Janes , WS personnel originate from various branches. These include missile operators from engineering and WS operators who originate from navigation. WS operators undergo initial engineering, administrative, and navigational training. Janes assesses that the new WS branch will obviate the need for this initial and non-specific training.

The new branch “will contribute immensely by enhancing the war fighting capability of the Indian Air Force”, the MoD said.

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