Tag Archives: IAF

PATHANKOT ATTACK: Armed forces did well to take on terrorists but govt’s defensiveness hurt morale says top commander

Air Marshal_S.B.Deo
Air Marshal SB Deo (retired) was the senior-most military commander on the ground when the Pathankot air force station was attacked by multiple terrorists in the wee hours of January 2, 2016.

Having landed there hours before the terrorists struck and stayed after they were neutralised, Air Marshal Deo had a view of the counter-attack which few did. After hanging up his boots as the Vice Chief of the Indian Air Force last year, the distinguished air warrior who is also a FCL (Fighter Combat Leader) and a “Cat A” Qualified Flying Instructor with over 3800 hours opened up on his experience to BBC’s Jugal Purohit. 

The interview was conducted at Nagpur.

Jugal Purohit
BBC Correspondent Jugal Purohit

Q: The third anniversary of Pathankot attack is upon us. If you can tell us something about your role, your memories of what you saw.

A: By attacking an airfield, you are talking it to an entirely different level. Pathankot is situated in Punjab, not in J&K, not in any kind of disputed territory and airfields were never meant to be protected the way you are protecting your borders because airfields are in our territory and we are protecting the airfields only against aerial threat. So from that angle, it is a soft target and to this day I keep wondering why was the government on the defensive on Pathankot attack. It was a job well done.

Q: What in the government’s response made you feel that they were on the defensive?

A: I really don’t know. There was a very concerted media campaign that pulled out things that were thirty years old, people getting at GARUDs (IAF special forces) saying GARUDs are bad, GARUDs are this and that. For God’s sake you ask the army about Garuds! They’ve won one Ashok Chakra, (many) Kirti Chakras, Shaurya Chakras and…the government really didn’t have to be on the defensive. Let’s talk about Lt Col Niranjan (NSG officer who was killed by an IED on a dead terrorist’s body), the kind of press he got, its treason man! I can’t imagine and the rumours that he was taking a selfie! The GARUDs were hurt very badly. They came to me and said look at the kind of stories that are being leaked.

Q: It would have helped the morale had the govt not been that defensive?

A: Yes, it would have. Definitely. Government to my mind did not have to be on the defensive. Pathankot was a well handled operation. An airfield is a target rich environment. In an airfield there is so much to be attacked, there is fuel, aircraft and we managed to protect all that.

Q: Did you have a discussion with the govt over them being defensive and the impact it had on the men?

A: I did discuss, there were occasions. But the GARUDs proved themselves in Kashmir. It left me with little to say actually.









Q: How do you want people to remember Pathankot?

A: It was a job well done. Lessons have been learnt and I hope for Pakistan’s sake that something similar won’t happen again. Because if it does then Pakistan will have to pay a far heavier price than it did during the surgical strikes.

Two lessons that we learnt from Pathankot – one is a technical lesson which we always knew but something like Pathankot had to happen perhaps. That lesson is that 5.56 mm ammunition calibre of guns is of no use in such situations. Terrorists coming here are like rabid dogs, having pumped themselves with steroids and injections, they have lost fear and don’t expect to be looked after and want to keep pressing the trigger. We need ammunition that can kill, not merely injure.

Second concerns the perimeter security of bases. You will say three years have gone and what has happened but making a system like the Integrated Perimeter Security System (IPSS) foolproof and thereafter ensuring you follow all norms of procurement, it takes a while. And this is the first system that we are trying. So while I agree that it has taken longer than it should but still it is on track. So once such a system comes in and it is deployed at bases then you are far more certain that there will be no intrusions.







Q: NIA says terrorists were left undetected near the Military Engineering Services (MES) sheds where there were dilapidated sheds, some vehicles…

A: Let me tell you what their plan was. Their plan was to get out from there (MES sheds). Get to the vehicle yard, pick up a vehicle and drive inside. And once you have a vehicle with you and that was what we were worried about, that when you are inside a vehicle you can quickly move from place to place. They could have created havoc inside. So it was very important to isolate them and also to ensure that they were not in the technical area (where aircraft and vital assets are stored). We didn’t know where they were. So the first thing we did with the help of the army was to sanitise the technical area. That helped us a great deal. Once we were sure that they were not in the technical area we kept the airfield open, the NSG could fly in. Thereafter the army which has a lot of experience, withdrew for the night. They said they didn’t know where the threat could be. Even they could’ve been under threat. In fact the NSG wanted to split their resources and they had a discussion with us and decided to stay at the airfield only.





Q: If their plan was to take a vehicle and go around, the terrorists had one full day (they entered on January 1 and were detected on January 2 as per the NIA). What kept them from doing what they wanted to?

A: The time to attack is always the wee hours of the morning. So they have come all the way and they reached us by 4am and by then the base is sort of awake thus making it not the right time to attack. The right time is an hour or two earlier. And they need to rest so that they could prepare for a fight. So tactically, what they were doing was correct by waiting for the right time.

Q: So the terrorists waiting and planning in a way helped the IAF buy time too.

A:  Absolutely yes. We had a C130 aircraft airborne. I had the UAVs flying. Our communication worked well. We were getting a live display of whatever the UAV was seeing sitting in our control room. So that helped us.

First information of a possible terrorist attack came to me at 3 ‘o’ clock in the afternoon as the C-in-C (Commander in Chief, Western Air Command) and I got this from the chief of air staff (CAS) who was speaking to the NSA (National Security Advisor) and at that time we had the intelligence to show that yes, the airfield could be one of the targets. In fact when I reached there, there was still some of vacillation among authorities there whether it is a law and order issue or actually a terrorist issue till the time I clarified that if somebody cries wolf ten times then ten times you need to stand up – that is one lesson we have learnt.

Well I was there to take stock of the situation since it had come from the highest of quarters and I had to satisfy myself and I would have gone back the next day if there was nothing but its just that when I was there the shooting started. So once the shooting starts then I can’t go back.  It looks very bad and and honestly for me it was a very exciting experience. I had a first look at how our young people fight and that was the most heartening thing.

Q: If you had issued instructions for the base to prepare assuming the terrorists had already sneaked in then why were the DSC men unarmed?

A: I agree with you. They should have been with weapons. They should not have come out in the open. If they just been under lock down. There would have been fewer casualties. It would have helped had they gone into a lockdown properly.

Q: How do you explain an operation where we don’t know how many terrorists there were?

A: Things are always very uncertain.

Q: How many terrorists were there in reality? If there were four then they were killed on Jan 2 and if there were six, which the NIA investigation does not there were, then we kept on the operation on for long.

A: NIA knows best, I really don’t know. Only a scientific inquiry can establish.

Q: We were told firing happened. Forces retaliated.

A: We did feel then that there was somebody inside but then strange things happen when you are under fire.

Q: Do you feel that perhaps there were some terrorists who may have escaped

A: No possibility of that. I don’t think so.

Q: When the Pakistani investigators were allowed inside Pathankot, was the air force consulted?

A: We were consulted. We made sure we broke the wall. They didn’t get to see anything else that they couldn’t have using Google.

Q: How do you see the impact of the Rafale on IAF and armed forces going forward?

A: Yes. Pace of acquisition will become slower. Defence preparedness will be compromised and we will also end up paying more for the delay that occurs.

Q: Far from bringing out cleaner process, you feel the impact of this controversy will be negative.

A: Yes. I can’t fault the procedures. They are sometimes far too pedantic. We should encourage people to take clean decisions.




Air Marshal SB Deo’s words provide a much needed understanding of what unfolded behind the high walls of the air force station at Pathankot in those critical hours.

Arguably the operation was a tactical success.

However it came at a steep price.

Three years later, the shadow of Pathankot continues to haunt the policy makers.

  • Barely five months before Pathankot was breached, a high-profile terrorist attack was carried out in Dina Nagar in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. This attack, at a driving distance of less than 30km from Pathankot, should’ve been enough to put the counter-terrorist mechanism into action.
  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its charge sheet mentions that ‘four heavily armed terrorists infiltrated into Indian territory on 30.12.2015 from Pakistan, after illegally crossing the Indo-Pak border through the forest near the Simbal Border Outpost of the Border Security Force’. That they could not be confronted till 0235hours of January 2, 2016 raises questions about India’s preparedness. The NIA suggests that the terrorists after infiltrating the airbase post 4am on January 1 rested, made multiple calls to their relatives and handlers and could hide undetected for nearly 24 hours. Astonishing!
  • Another question concerns the number of terrorists who actually targetted Pathankot. If you ask the NIA, the number is four. The then defence minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar after touring the base following the attack had said, ‘NIA will confirm the presence of six terrorists’. Three years after, Air Marshal SB Deo remained unsure. Did some of the terrorists who attacked Pathankot managed to flee? Or was there an incorrect estimation made about the number of terrorists?
  • While describing the two terrorists who he claimed were the last to be eliminated, Mr Parrikar said they were armed not with AK-47 rifles but with pistols and grenades.
  • A parliamentary panel had hinted at Indian narco-syndicate facilitating the terrorists’ entry and journey into Pathankot. That was an issue left unaddressed.
  • While terrorists are supposed to not follow a pattern and throw up surprises, surprisingly, after Pathankot, many military bases in India have been attacked – Nagrota, Sunjuwan and Uri among others. What does this show?
  • Similarly the sequence of events at the airbase remains muddled. While all stake holders agree that the air force’s Garud commandos were the first to engage the terrorists, the then Defence Minister Mr Parrikar inside Parliament had said thereafter the NSG took the fight. However, the General Officer Commanding Army’s Western Command Lieutenant General KJ Singh under whose purview the Pathankot region fell said it was the Army and not the NSG that took on terrorists!
  • Pakistan which initially had shown support in investigating the case at its end, sent its Joint Investigation Team to India between March 27 – April 1, 2016. While the NIA claims it was provided with all elements including a visit to the air base, reciprocal cooperation has remained a non-starter.
  • India’s allegations against Pakistan whether it concerns terrorism or drug trade emanating from the latter into the former are not new. Yet, about 12km of the total 558km-long international border that the state of Punjab shares with Pakistan has been left unaddressed. Being riverine territory, erecting fences may not be possible but technological solutions have to be found.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was approached for its comment but chose not to respond.


S-400 MISSILE DEAL: India stamps her feet and Washington’s blinking (for now)



It was an annual summit between the heads of states of two nuclear powers, two nations who’ve worked together through critical junctures in history.

Yet it was also a summit where expectations were fixated on one line.

And when that one line was there, in print, little else mattered.

The reference here is to the deal for five, Russian S-400 Long Range Surface to Air Missile systems for Indian Air Force (IAF). The contract for the supply of these systems was ‘concluded’ said point number 45 of the Indo-Russian joint statement. While the cost of the system is reportedly in excess of $5.4 billion, there was no official word.

‘The S-400 was offered to India not long after it was inducted by Russia in 2007. We should’ve moved on it some years ago.” 


For reasons we will go into a little later, Washington’s current crusade against Moscow is likely to land this deal and thereby India’s key interests in its crosshair.

Before proceeding, a little context will help.

The IAF, said to be the world’s fourth largest air force, is in dire straits.

While it must hold ‘at least’ 45 squadrons of fighter jets to defend India’s airspace (each squadron can consist of 17-18 fighter jets), what it holds is 31 ‘active’ squadrons. Indian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence, in its report in December last year was informed by the IAF that ‘as 14 squadrons of MiG 21, 27 & 29 (fighter jets) are due for de-induction in next 10 years, the present level of 33 squadrons will further go down to 19 by 2027, and may further reduce to 16 by 2032’. When it heard the response of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the same committee remarked, ‘The issue of depletion in squadron strength has been taken up repeatedly by the Committee over the years. However, no concrete measure seem to be taken hitherto.’

Does it then come as a surprise that the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa only on Wednesday termed the S-400 along with two squadrons of French Rafale jets, as a ‘booster dose’?

There is yet another side to the IAF’s predicament.

In the words of Ajai Malhotra, who was India’s Ambassador in Moscow between 2011 and 2013, “the S-400 was offered to India not long after it was inducted by Russia in 2007. We should’ve moved on it some years ago.  With there being no comparable choice available and with China also signing up for the S-400 system, it has become a necessity for us”.

Now let’s shift focus to Washington.

Smarting under what it believes was Russian meddling in the elections that brought Donald Trump to the presidency and acting with a burning desire to make Moscow pay, the US Congress last year brought in a legislation named ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’.

In fact on the day of signing it, he went on record to call it ‘seriously flawed’ and added, “As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress”.

What it does is to force the President’s hand in imposing five or more sanctions ‘with respect to a person the President determines knowingly, on or after such date of enactment, engages in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation.’

Malhotra’s successor in Moscow and currently the head of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), PS Raghavan contextualised it by saying, “CAATSA requires President Trump to say that India has reduced its dependency on Russia. But there is nothing to show that India has.”

If after determining that India’s actions do constitute a ‘significant transaction’, America’s Secretary of State and Secretary of Treasury initiate sanctions using Sec 231 of the Act, using Section 235 of the CAATSA, President Trump can waive or delay the imposition of sanctions.

To be sure, it is not an act that Trump signed happily.

In fact on the day of signing it, he went on record to call it ‘seriously flawed’ and added, “As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress”.

There is one more thing he said that day,a line which many pragmatists in Delhi and elsewhere are holding onto.

He added, “(CAATSA) disadvantages American companies…because those sanctions could negatively affect American companies and those of our allies”.

Speaking of the defence sector alone, ‘American companies’ that Trump referred to have benefitted immensely from their entry into the Indian bazaar.

modi putin
Data analysed by SIPRI shows that while the volume of Russian weapons export to India remained unchanged between 2008-12 and 2013-17, that of the US increased by a whopping 557 per cent in that period!

Unfortunately for India and fortunately for international defence equipment manufacturers, India has emerged an even stronger importer of weapons. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), between 2013 and 2017, India accounted for 12 per cent of the global share of imports, the highest for any country.


And the one country that has gained the most is not Russia but the United States.

Data analysed by SIPRI shows that while the volume of Russian weapons export to India remained unchanged between 2008-12 and 2013-17, that of the US increased by a whopping 557 per cent in that period!

Malhotra analysed, “Sanctioning India would meet neither Trump’s nor indeed larger US interests”.

Still no one wants to predict how Washington is going to react to a deal it did not want signed.

Observers however are firm – sanctions or no sanctions, when it comes to national security, India must protect her interests.

Malhotra said, “Let quiet diplomacy do its task of making the Americans better understand our position and appreciate our very genuine concerns. We may well take US views into account as regards Iranian oil, but will not do so in cases where our national security is involved”.

Even if the S-400 deal goes through with India unpunished, there are concerns about the long-term.

Raghavan remarked how US officials have more than once enunciated their desire to end India’s reliance on Russia. “After all, this is about selling major defence platforms to India. However, the level of technology that India gets from Russia, the US simply can’t give as yet, due to a variety of reasons,” he added.

Using acts like CAATSA, the US may want to make India move more firmly into its orbit which would basically mean making India more accountable and amenable to buying US platforms and moving away from Russia.

What must India do?

Raghavan offered the last word

“What the US needs to understand is India is in a very difficult position. We have to balance ties with China and Russia both on terms favourable to us, not the US. But you know, a deal is always possible”.

Isn’t that what Trump thinks too?

WARGAME GAGANSHAKTI: What is the IAF saying?

By Jugal R Purohit

New Delhi

In the early hours of Saturday, April 14, a fully-armed Sukhoi 30 – the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) frontline fighter plane – roared as it took off from the Kalaikunda air force station in West Bengal.

The Russian-origin combat aircraft was soon above Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea before turning back to land at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. Using mid-air refuelling, the Sukhoi, which can fly at a speed of 2500 kilometres per hour, demonstrated something any air force would give its right arm for – a reach of 4000km in a single flight.

But this did not happen in isolation.

Photo (3)
A Su30 undergoing mid-air refuelling during Gaganshakti 2018. Picture Courtesy: IAF

Consider this:

  • Between April 8 and 22, the IAF nearly shut all its training and pulled out nearly 1400 of its officers and 14,000 men for a wargame. Almost anyone fit to fly was directed to make themselves available.
  • In that period, nearly 1100 of its aircraft were specially deployed across the length and breadth of the country on ‘operational duty’.
  • So intense was the effort that fighter, transport aircraft, helicopters, Flight Refuelling Aircraft (FRA), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) put together generated a staggering 11000 flights/sorties between them.

In conjunction with elements of the Indian Army and the Indian Navy, the IAF had mounted what many term as one of its biggest-ever exercise. They named it ‘Gaganshakti 2018’.

VIDEO: GAGANSHAKTI 2018 – IAF Presentation – http://indianairforce.nic.in/video-gallery/5

“If war were to happen tomorrow, we would like to be in a position where we can sustain a high tempo of operations. Gaganshakti 2018 was where we tested ourselves extensively and results were satisfying”, said an officer aware of the intricacies of the exercise.

While the exercise was initiated with a focus on India’s western borders, mid-way, the IAF re-positioned its forces on India’s eastern frontiers.

File Photo 1
IAF: In the mountainous terrain the movement of the troops from one valley to another is a challenging task. The redeployment of forces from one area of interest to another may at times take couple of days. Inter Valley Troop Transfer operations help to reposition the desired forces within a couple of hours. Picture Courtesy: IAF

The message was clear.

The IAF was publically practising for a two-front conflict.

Photo (2)
IAF: This assault included paradrop of 560 paratroopers, combat vehicles and GPS guided cargo platforms. The landing force was dropped behind the simulated enemy lines to soften up the likely resistance to our own armoured offensive. Picture Courtesy: IAF

But, there is more to the story.

World’s fourth largest air force, the IAF, is operating with 31 squadrons of fighter jets whereas it needs 45 squadrons.

Also, the IAF appears to be in deep financial trouble – from purchasing new equipment to maintaining the older one, the impact is pervasive.

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, headed by veteran BJP leader Major General BC Khanduri (Retired) tabled its forty first report in Lok Sabha on March 13, 2018 (

  • (For 2018-19) Shortfall of Rs.6440 crore in the Revenue Budget is likely to impact the operational preparedness, ability to procure spares & fuel, apart from leaving gaps in training programs, serviceability of older systems and provision of basic amenities to the Air Force personnel.
  • …percentage share of Air Force budget has declined considerably during the last few years.
  • Allocations made under the capital head for the Air Force, which is largely accountable for modernization budget of the Service, has consistently plummeted. In the year 2007-08, it was to the tune of 17.51 per cent of the total defence budget and has gone down to 11.96 per cent in the year 2016-17.
  • …there appears to be a lack of sufficient sincerity towards capacity enhancement and modernization of the Air Force.
Major General BC Khanduri (R) is a BJP MP and a former chief minister

The report also reveals how the IAF from 2016 onwards was made to pay over Rs 2500 crore in customs duty, an amount which was to be reimbursed to the service but never was. In fact, out of its meagre resources, the IAF is set to further shell out Rs 1726.98 crore towards custom duties in 2018-19 too!

Indeed in the coming years, some of the earlier inked deals like the one for French fighter Rafale and American helicopter Chinook are expected to fructify. However, these are fruits of what has been inked in the past.

Yet, by the end of the next decade, the IAF will be left with a paltry 19 squadrons says the same Parliamentary panel.

An undated file photo of the J-20 released by Chinese state media XINHUA with the claim that these stealth birds had been commissioned earlier this year

A decade is all that separates a rapidly-modernising Chinese air force from the IAF which, as of now enjoys the upper hand in a trans-Himalayan encounter of the type Gaganshakti 2018 envisaged says Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (Retired), a veteran helicopter pilot.

“Today, we have better equipment, better support fleet and much better aircrew training. However if we cannot generate a top class next generation fighter in house in the coming decade, then it is anyone’s guess where India’s advantage will be”, he added.

It took the IAF nearly nine months to plan out Gaganshakti 2018. A conflict, however limited, may not provide such a cushion. The IAF is also mindful that the day they square off with China, Pakistan may jump in too.

“We have a task at hand. What we don’t have are the best tools. When will they arrive, no one can tell”, explained an officer.

He added, “With Gaganshakti 2018, we exercised our Plan B”.

KAMOV-226T: An air ambulance which is now the cure for IAF & Army’s chopper woes

Report appeared in MAIL TODAY newspaper dated Oct 16, 2016

VIDEO: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/kamov-226-t-make-in-india-siachen/1/788099.html



PHOTOS & VIDEO: Tracing the just-revived, magnificent Suryakiran of IAF – From Hunters to Kirans and now, the Hawk

Thunderbolts 1 Thunderbolts A-63-11

Asian Aerospace 2004 A selection of Images from the Olympus Photo Team at Asian Aerospace 2004  being held at Changi Expo center, Singapore. Scenes from the , air display and aircraft. Mandatory Credit  Olympus Singapore 2004 No reslaes, No Archives No Syndication
Asian Aerospace 2004
A selection of Images from the Olympus Photo Team at Asian Aerospace 2004 being held at Changi Expo center, Singapore.
Scenes from the , air display and aircraft.
Mandatory Credit
Olympus Singapore 2004
No reslaes, No Archives No Syndication

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War Hero ‘Professor’ spills the beans on one of the most riveting tales from #1965War

Article appeared in MAIL TODAY newspaper on September 22, 2015
Article appeared in MAIL TODAY newspaper on September 22, 2015



VVIP Chopper Purchase: The Scam That Wasn’t?

Left without an option, IAF is now diverting Mi17 V5 choppers at its Chandigarh-based Base Repair Depot and equipping it for VVIP duties. This gives rise to the question that if it were so easy then why wasn't this option explored in the first place. On the other side, it makes one wonder whether we will end up compromising the safety of our VVIPs?
Left without an option, IAF is now diverting Mi17 V5 choppers at its Chandigarh-based Base Repair Depot and equipping it for VVIP duties. This gives rise to the question that if it were so easy then why wasn’t this option explored in the first place. On the other side, it makes one wonder whether we will end up compromising the safety of our VVIPs?


In 145 pages, a three judge panel based out of Busto Arsizio, has busted the so-called scam in India’s procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters for VVIP travel. This detailed judgement which has been accessed for the first time, by INDIA TODAY, not only acquits the main accused, top officials of the manufacturing firm AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica but also former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi. The only case, as argued by the prosecution, which the judges were convinced about concerned tax evasion.

The trial which was wrapped up in 16 months, between June 2013 and October 2014, has squarely ended in an embarrassment for the Italian prosecutors as well as the Indian Ministry of Defence as it was based on the actions of the former that the MoD decided to scrap the entire contract. This decision was taken despite the Central Bureau of Investigation which was tasked for the job not even filing a chargesheet. Further, the actions of the then Defence Minister AK Antony ensured that the Indian Air Force (IAF), whose responsibility it is to ensure safe and secure VVIP travel, had to divert its operational Mi17V5 helicopters for the task. In an email response, the IAF admitted that it is diverting and modifying its helicopters for the VVIP travel role. When asked, Antony offered no comment and only said, “I will have to study the facts.”

Meanwhile, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has said that till the contract was called off, India had paid to AgustaWestland a total of Rs 1586 cr. It was also revealed that India had recovered the sum paid to the firm.

Excerpts from the judgement:

  • Prosecution could not establish that there existed a corruptive agreement between ACM Tyagi and the accused
  • Individual letters brought before us by the prosecution do no establish corruption by ACM Tyagi
  • Prosecution failed to construct, in fact and in law, a case of international corruption
  • Documents with notings like ‘AP’, ‘FM’, ‘POL’ can not be read as indicative of accusation of corruption
  • Proven that close business links existed between Carlo Gerosa and ACM Tyagi’s brother Juli Tyagi in different sectors like oil, railways
  • Haschke Guido Ralph did manage to make Finmeccanica General Manager Zappa meet ACM Tyagi when the latter was IAF chief  


  • ORSI GUISEPPE (Arrested on March 12, 2013 when he was the Chairman and Managing Director of Finmeccanica)
  • SPAGNOLINI BRUNO (Arrested on March 12, 2013 when he was the CEO of AgustaWestland)



Two main accused joined hands with other collaborators including ex-IAF boss ACM SP Tyagi to tweak tender conditions. Prosecution said through the Air Chief Marshal the ‘service ceiling’ (the maximum altitude at which an aircraft can fly) was lowered from 18000 feet to 15000 feet SO THAT AGUSTAWESTLAND could participate. In addition, a phenomenon called as DRIFT DOWN ALTITUDE was introduced (if there is an engine failure, the minimum rate of descent i.e it will decelerate the downfall to manageable levels in common man’s parlance).

In this fashion, the prosecution said, AgustaWestland won the contract.


Prosecution alleged that GUISEPPE & SPAGNOLINI to EVADE TAXES joined hands with


To generate FALSI RECEIPTS OF EUR 21,425,647 FROM 2007 TO 2011 as payment to IDS (which the prosecution felt was an alibi)




ACM Tyagi: ‘UPA knew all was in order, yet panicked’

In an interview to INDIA TODAY’s Jugal R Purohit, former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal Shashi Tyagi reacts to the judgement delivered by the Italian court.

Q. What are your first thoughts on this judgment from the Italian court?

A. We always and all along knew that our procedures were correct. So it does not surprise me. The government of the day went to the floor of the house to say that there were no violations yet their actions did not match with their words. Why should we have waited for an Italian court to tell us what we knew?

Q. The UPA could have handled it better. Would you agree?

A. Sorry to say but the then government lacked conviction. We said we knew all was fine and yet believed an Italian crook and began inquiring and hounding our own men, questioning our own procedures. The government simply panicked. As elected representatives, you need to have a resolve. Just because opposition and media make noise you will panic! That is not the way to go about it in mature democracies. Unique to this case was the fact that two Prime Ministers’ Offices (PMOs), two National Security Advisers (NSAs), Defence Ministers and several air chiefs were involved and all probity was maintained. But still.

Q. What, in your opinion, could have been done?

A. Since there were allegations, an inquiry was definitely required. But there are ways to do it. For example, a discrete one would have established. I know for a fact that such an internal exercise was done by the MoD and the IAF HQs. Yet we acted in a totally opposite fashion. This was to maintain a clean image of sorts perhaps. Do we realise that the whole world is watching us? For a country like ours, it does not augur well to behave in the manner we did.

Q. How was the journey for you since the day your name was mentioned in the scam?

A. I am a victim of circumstances. After all there is an Italian crook who claimed somewhere that he got some work done from me. So I am facing the music. Even today, notwithstanding what has happened in Italy, in our country, I am an accused. The CBI is still investigating. My biggest worry is about our men at the lowest level. Imagine the kind of impact such allegations make on them. They will start thinking whether or not they can believe their leadership and in the armed forces, this is a very serious matter.

Q. Do we or do we not require a VVIP fleet?

A. We absolutely do. Where is the doubt? India is growing in stature, our interests are growing and if you ask me, as a citizen would I not want to see my President, Vice President, Prime Minister and visiting dignitaries travel in a safe and secure plane, I will say yes. And we can afford it so why not!


  • 1999: IAF raised the issue of purchase of VVIP choppers since existing Mi8 were to exhaust their service limits
  • 2003: Following a global hunt initiated in the previous year, service parameters for purchase of choppers were changed
  • 2006: Fresh proposals from global manufacturers were sought
  • February 2010: Ministry of Defence signed contract with AgustaWestland for supply of 12 VVIP helicopters for EURO 556.262 million
  • February 2012: First reports began circulating, speaking about a scam in the procurement
  • February 2013: MoD asked the CBI to investigate the deal following the arrest in Italy of top officials from AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica
  • January 2014: MoD terminates the contract for the choppers

AgustaWestland reacts to INDIA TODAY report

“Following the suspension of the contract to supply AW101 VVIP helicopters to India – a sanction not provided for the under contract – a request was made to India’s Ministry of Defence by AgustaWestland in April 2013 invoking the contractual provision for bilateral discussions. Since then there have been a series of further requests for discussions. Regrettably, to date, there has been no response from India’s MoD. 

The company’s earnest desire is to have a dialogue with the Indian authorities. AgustaWestland remains totally committed to working with the Government of India to resolve the issues confronting us and to allow the Indian armed forces to receive the equipment they need. However, we do not see how we can achieve this if a dialogue is not established. The ongoing need to resolve this issue has left AgustaWestland with no other option but to invoke arbitration through Counsel; the next step prescribed by the contract. This is not a step we take lightly.

While the arbitration proceedings themselves are confidential, the issues in question relate to the unilateral suspension of the contract. Neither the contract nor the associated Integrity Pact confers such rights on the Indian MoD.

AgustaWestland is justly proud to have served the Government of India for more than 40 years. We want our relationship with India to continue and flourish and consequently we remain deeply concerned at the current situation.”