NEW DELHI - Aiming to prepare itself for a short and swift two-front war against China and Pakistan, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out around 10,000 sorties of its entire combat aircraft fleet in three days across the country to demonstrate its capability to undertake high intensity operations with the limited number of aircraft available.
The 72-hour intense war games were part of the first phase of the Exercise Gaganshakti, which is the biggest-ever war game carried out by the air force to prove its mettle, despite facing shortage of around 10 squadrons fighter aircraft due to lack of inductions and phasing out of the old MiG-series planes.
"Almost every combat aircraft of the force carried out six sorties on three consecutive days to demonstrate that we are capable of undertaking high tempo operations with the fleet available to us, and the shortage of combat planes does not have any impact on our capability to handle both war fronts," government sources told Mail Today.
"At some places, the weather conditions hindered the operations of combat aircraft, but we will compensate for it in the next phase. We have shown our capability to do more with the available resources to do away with the shortages," they added. The IAF has a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons, meaning around 840 combat aircraft of different planes, but the service is currently at only 31 squadrons (620 planes) due to delays in induction of any new aircraft and delays in the LCA Tejas combat aircraft programme. Despite the induction of two squadrons of the Rafale combat planes planned from 2019, the situation will not improve in the near future, as around 10 squadrons of the MiG-27 and MiG-21 planes are scheduled to be phased out by the year 2025.
In this scenario, the air force is carrying out more sorties from its existing fleet by improving the maintenance and serviceability of the planes, which helped it to get more out of its planes during the pan-India wargames, which started from April 8 and are expected to continue till April 22.
During the wargames, the air force carried out a drill where the IAF chief Birender Singh Dhanoa was taken to a forward base to monitor the high tempo operations under the protection of Sukhoi-30 combat aircraft.
Gaganshakti will see participation of over 1100 combat and transport aircraft, along with helicopters that will take off from air bases in north India and fly for over ten hours to drop bombs over the seas to demonstrate their capability.
The Indian Navy has also deployed its MiG-29K combat planes, which is deployed for only maritime strike roles over the sea. The aircraft fly along the Air Force to demonstrate its striking capabilities against any future threats.
Even though the Air Force insisted that the exercise is to demonstrate its capabilities and not against any specific country, the force would also focus on rapid deployment of troops along the borders with China.
The drills, known as Inter Valley Troop Transfer (IVTT), would be greatly helpful to tackle any Doklam type of crisis against China, as the force would be able to quickly move troops in large number in case of any incursion by the People's Liberation Army.
The force will also show landing and take off operations of its combat aircraft from the Advanced Landing Grounds in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which have been reactivated in recent years to counter the growing Chinese infrastructure on the Line of Actual Control. - India Today