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In a recent opinion piece published on “The Print,” Lt Gen (Dr) Prakash Menon (retd), Director of the Strategic Studies Programme at the Takshashila Institution and former military adviser to the National Security Council Secretariat, advocates for the establishment of an airborne command post. This proposition comes at a crucial juncture when advancements in satellite-based geospatial monitoring technologies have made concealing underground facilities increasingly difficult. Lt Gen Menon argues that an airborne command post presents a compelling solution to this challenge, offering enhanced survivability and redundancy to the nuclear command authority.

The primary rationale behind the proposal for an airborne command post lies in the evolving landscape of strategic defense. With the advent of sophisticated satellite surveillance capabilities, the concealment of underground facilities, traditionally used for housing command centers, has become a daunting task. Once detected, these fixed installations are susceptible to targeted attacks, including communication jamming, thereby compromising the command and control capabilities vital for nuclear deterrence.

An airborne command post, on the other hand, offers distinct advantages in terms of survivability and flexibility. Unlike stationary underground facilities, an airborne platform is not confined to a fixed location, making it inherently more resilient to preemptive strikes. Its mobility allows for strategic maneuvering, utilizing extensive airspace to evade detection and potential attacks. Additionally, the deployment of decoys and other deceptive measures further enhances the operational security of the airborne command post.

While the endurance of an airborne platform is constrained by its fuel-carrying capacity, this limitation is mitigated by its ability to maintain operational readiness through aerial refueling. Moreover, the advantages gained in terms of protection outweigh the constraints imposed by fuel limitations. Lt Gen Menon suggests a complementary approach where one command chain operates from an underground facility while the other operates from an airborne platform, thereby maximizing redundancy and survivability.

Central to the argument for an airborne command post is the imperative of safeguarding the nuclear command authority. In an era marked by geopolitical uncertainties and evolving security threats, ensuring the survivability of the command and control infrastructure is paramount for deterrence stability. The airborne command post offers an additional layer of redundancy, strengthening the resilience of the nuclear command structure against adversarial attempts to disrupt or degrade its functionality.