The IAF will let loose deadly missiles, ‘smart’ bombs, and precision-guided munitions to test operational readiness against China and Pakistan
The Indian Air Force is all set to undertake the major “Vayu Shakti” 24 firepower exercise, which is held once every three years, with 121 aircraft, helicopters, and drones at Pokhran Air to Ground Range near Jaisalmer on 17 February. The exercise will also showcase joint operations with the Indian Army.
The IAF will let loose its deadly missiles, ‘smart’ bombs and other precision-guided munitions amounting to around 50 tons at one place in full public glare in the deserts of Rajasthan. The Rafale multi-role fighters, which will fire the 70-km range MICA air-to-air missiles, Apache attack helicopters and indigenous Prachand, Dhruv light combat helicopters, will be taking part for the first time in Vayu Shakti. Other front-line aircraft will include Tejas, Sukhoi-30MKI, Mirage-2000, Jaguar and MiG-29 fighters.
“Vayu Shakti will showcase the full spectrum of operations that Indian aerospace power can take on. It is going to be conducted in a near-realistic scenario,” IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal AP Singh said on Friday.
With aircraft operating from multiple air bases during day, dusk and night, the over two-hour exercise will demonstrate IAF’s capability to deliver long-range precision weapons as well as conventional weapons with “accuracy, on time and with devastating effect”.
“Around 40-50 tons of ammunition will be delivered in a radius of 1.5 km in a short span of time. We will also have surface-to-air weapons like Akash and Samar demonstrate their capabilities to track and shoot down intruding aircraft. There will be loitering munitions as well,” the Vice Chief said.
With the tagline “lightning strike from the sky”, Vayu Shakti will also see joint operations with the Army. While IAF’s Chinook helicopters will airlift the M-777 ultra-light howitzers to the exercise area, the Army will also deploy its Rudra attack helicopters.
The strategic signalling behind this major war game is unmistakable at a time when the military confrontation with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is now into its fourth successive winter.