India intimates Pakistan of huge IAF deployment along western borders

India intimates Pakistan of huge IAF deployment along western borders

NEW DELHI - With an eye on the two-front threat posed by China and Pakistan, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning for Gagan Shakti, a country-wide training exercise, scheduled to take place during April 11-21.

The exercise will be conducted in two separate phases for western and northern borders across India and deep over the Indian waters. More than 15,000 IAF personnel, including 300 officers, will move from their bases during the exercise which will see the involvement of over 1,100 aircraft. This would mean 3,000 to 4,000 sorties per day during the exercise.

Stating that “we fight against capabilities” without mentioning the adversaries, IAF sources said that the first phase of Gagan Shakti will see practice by forces deployed along the western border while the second phase will be for practice along the northern border.

As per the existing protocol, Pakistan has already been intimated of the exercise. The IAF is struggling with a shortfall of fighter aircraft, with only 31 fighter squadrons in its fleet against an authorization of 42 squadrons.

To overcome the shortfall, while dealing with both China and Pakistan, IAF is practising the concept of ‘surge operations’ during the exercise. In surge operations, the IAF will be able to generate more sorties with the same number of aircraft by improving their maintenance and serviceability. This will be the first time when surge operations will be practiced at the level of the IAF.

IAF sources said that although Gagan Shakti, a force level exercise, is conducted every two years, this is the first time indigenously manufactured Tejas LCA fighter jets will participate in the exercise. IAF had raised one squadron of Tejas in 2016 but it awaits the full complement of HAL-made fighters for its fleet.

One of the highlights of the exercise, sources said, was the high serviceability levels of the aircraft during the period. They said that the number of aircraft available during the exercise will be much higher than the stipulated targets, which has been made possible by support from DPSUs such as HAL, Bengaluru. HAL will depute 300 of its best technicians for the exercise.