IAF's `Gagan Shakti' war games underway across all bases
17 April 2018
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has mobilised its entire war-machinery for a high-voltage training exercise `GaganShakti’, participating as many as 1,150 fighter aircraft, helicopters and drones.
After the “surge” in air combat operations on the western front, which saw the IAF fighter jets conducting 5,000 sorties in just three days, the IAF has now shifted its forces to the northern borders for exercises from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.
The integrated land-air-sea combat exercise, Gagan Shakti 2018, is being carried out with active participation of the Army and the Navy in a pan-India format.
“It’s the biggest such exercise in terms of scale since Operation Brasstacks in 1986-1987, or Operation Parakram in 2001-2002 when India nearly went to war with Pakistan after the terror attack on Parliament,” reports quoted a senior IAF officer as saying.
More than 15,000 Air Force personnel, including 300 officers, are participating in the exercise, which has active support from the Indian Army and the Indian Navy.
Through a two-week long training exercise involving its entire fleet from across all its bases in the country, the IAF event aims to validate its might and combat preparedness.
Despite a depleted fleet strength, IAF has achieved 83 per cent serviceability of its aircraft, against the usual 55-60 per cent in peacetime, for the exercise. This has been achieved with active support from defence PSUs like Hindustan Aeronautics and base repair depots, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa said.
IAF also, for the first time, inducted the India-made light combat aircraft Tejas in a major exercise, enhancing its operational capability, firing close combat and beyond visual range missiles. The IAF, which accepted Tejas Mark 1 into its fold, is now awaiting for the improved Tejas Mark 1A and subsequently Tejas Mark II.
The focus of the exercise is on air support, network-centric warfare, attack, counter attack and coordinated warfare, say reports. IAF is also using the exercise to hone air-to-air counter attack and air-to-ground attack capabilities.
This exercise will also give a significant boost to the Make In India programme and the indigenous aircraft development project.
“The aim of the exercise is to validate our operational capabilities and concepts in a realistic war-like scenario as well as check our ability to sustain high-tempo operations. It’s not aimed at any country,” said the IAF chief.
But the game-plan in the western theatre was to generate the maximum possible sorties with the same number of fighters to overwhelm the enemy forces while the intent in the eastern sector is to operate from dispersed locations to avoid the adversary’s rocket forces while undertaking deep strikes with Sukhoi-30MKI fighters being refueled in mid-air by IL-78 aircraft.
The combat manoeuvres along the northern borders will also see intensive high-altitude operations at advanced landing grounds and helipads, some as high as 20,000 feet, as also inter-valley troop transfers and logistics sustenance by heavy-duty helicopters to make up for the lack of roads.