The Indian Air Force (IAF) is working to tighten rules to prevent its pilots from leaving the service and joining private airlines that offer better salary and perquisites, two people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

Some measures are being implemented to arrest the trend of pilots quitting the air force and taking up well-paying flying jobs outside, said one of the two, an air force officer. IAF is also refining its human resource policies to address the aspirations of its pilots by taking several steps, including giving them greater clarity about their career prospects in service, the second person, a government official, said.

Hindustan Times couldn't ascertain the exact changes being contemplated but learns that they will be made shortly, and could involve cooling-off periods and changes in pension plans. The changes are likely to be controversial.

"If we are not able to retain talent, the service suffers. We cannot allow that to happen. It may cause some resentment but we have to see what's good for the service. If someone has pressing reasons, those cases can be looked into separately," the first person said.

While most pilots usually look at leaving the IAF after being overlooked for promotion, there have been cases of people putting in their papers before reaching that stage.

A middle-rung IAF pilot earning up to Rs 2 lakh a month could land a salary that is four times higher as captain in a private airline. Most pilots quit service after being overlooked for promotion and completing 20 years of service, which entitles them to a pension. "The IAF way of life is very good and apart from the salary, there are several intangible benefits. But my work load is far less as a private airlines pilot and there's nothing to complain about the remuneration. As captain, I am responsible for everything after the aircraft door closes and once it opens, my job is over," said an IAF officer who recently quit service and took up a job in a private airlines. The officer asked not to be named.

The first person said that there have been quite a few instances of air force pilots leaving to join private airlines in recent years but couldn't put a number to this.

Experts said it was critical for the IAF to retain talent.

"A pilot gets into operational flying after training for almost 250 to 300 hours in different aircraft. That costs a lot of money. You cannot afford to let trained people go. Other global air forces are also struggling with same issues," said Air Marshal KK Nohwar (retd), director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.