India Intelligence Report

   Vacancies & Exodus Plague Defense


Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the Parliament that 27% of the Army's strength below the rank of Lt. Colonel was vacant due to shortage of suitable candidates. He said that the Army is trying to attract more people and make a career in the Army a worthy option for the youth. Incessant insurgencies, bad political management of armed forces, seemingly callous deployment of the Army in troubled areas, and lower pay scales are reasons why there is a lack of interest in serving in the Army.

The Air Force (IAF) suffers from a different problem where senior officers with a lot of flying experience are leaving for commercial aviation. The IAF says that it is tightening service leaving norms to ward off poaching by civil aviation companies. Between January 2003 and April 2006, 18 Flight Lieutenants, 31 Squadron Leaders, 166 Wing Commanders, and 55 Group Captains totaling 275 pilots have left the service.

To get to be a flight lieutenant, an officer has to fly at least 4 years, a Squadron Leader 7 years, Wing Commander 13 years, and Group Captain is 17 years. Most pilots who have left have completed more than 1000 hours of flying which 4 times more than the mandatory requirement of 200 hours to get a commercial flying license. Adding to this exodus, the IAF has 254 unfilled vacancies of the 3269 authorized positions. Premature retirements during 2003, 04, and 05 was 72, 116, and 58 but IAF says that these officers have completed their useful tenure.

The most ridiculous thing is that the IAF pilots are being asked to fly state-owned airlines. Mukherjee says "The requests are considered individually on merits after ensuring that such deputation does not affect operational preparedness of the Air Force." He did not elaborate what he defines as "operational preparedness" and it also begs the question whether the IAF has more pilots that required which it most probably does not.

From 2002 to 2005, the IAF deputed 143 pilots to companies like Indian Airlines, Air India, and Alliance Air. The fear is that whether political pressure is forcing this deputation or whether they are lured into this deputation for temporary commercial gain. Neither scenario is beneficial nor is it clear what the IAF would gains from such deputation.