Pokhran. 19 March, 2016. It was the over eight decades long journey of the Indian Air Force(IAF) which was at display in the Indian desert skies, with the aircraft of yesteryear flying wing to wing along with the latest acquisitions of the Indian Air Force. A MiG-27 aircraft heralded the commencement of the flypast by towing the Ex “Iron Fist” banner, which was followed by Supersonic run by the MiG-29 aircraft.
The “real time recce” capability of the IAF was displayed by a Jaguar aircraft. Vintage aircraft flypast by “Tigermoth” evoked the memories of the birth of military aviation in India and was followed by the Pilatus, the latest trainer aircraft of the IAF. The fly past by a mixed formation comprising a MiG-21 Bison, MiG-27 Upgrade, MiG-29 and the mighty Su-30, showcased the transformation of the IAF over the decades.
IAF’s day-night exercise demonstrating its combat and fire power was conducted on 18 Mar 16 at Rajasthan’s Pokhran firing range in the presence of President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chief of the Air Staff stated that the primary objective of this exercise is to reassure the nation about our commitment and capabilities in safeguarding our national interests. The Air Chief said that the IAF moves ahead on its transformation path despite certain constraints, maintaining a high combat potential for meeting challenges.
The majestic fly past of the indigenously developed Airborne Early Warning and Control System and the display of AWACS aircraft highlighted the network enabled operations of the force. The flypast was followed by a synchronized multiple aircraft weapon delivery demonstration of precision based bombing at simulated enemy targets by Mirage-2000, Su-30, MiG-27 Upgrade aircraft and the Jaguar.
After demonstrating the offensive capabilities, the exercise demonstrated the multi-layered Air Defence Operations of the IAF. It comprised of the fly past by the Flight Refuelling aircraft (IL-78 FRA) along with two Su-30 aircraft and the indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’, which displayed its swing role attack capabilities by delivering Laser Guided Bomb (LGB) followed by firing an air to air missile, engaging both targets with deadly precision. The phase also included Surface to Air Guided Weapons like the IGLA shoulder-fired missile system and the OSA-AK missiles striking down airborne targets successfully. There was also a spectacular simulation of a Combat Search and Rescue operation carried out by the IAF’s versatile helicopters, the Mi-35, Mi-25 and Mi-17V5.
This phase showcased the very important role played by the Indian Air Force in support of the ground forces. There were numerous targets simulating the enemy’s vital assets, engaged on the ground from the air by a variety of aircraft on the IAF’s inventory. Apart from the fighters, the assault landing capability of versatile C-130 J aircraft and the fire fighting capability of the Mi-17V5, were also displayed in this phase.
After the demonstration of live weapon, an array of aerobatic displays by the Sarangs, the Suryakirans and the Su-30 added a dash of colour to the evening. The Air Warrior Drill Team (AWDT) and Air Force Symphony Orchestra (AWSO) enthralled the audience with their performances.
As the night drew upon the desert skies, the night capabilities of the IAF came to the fore. A number of targets were engaged in this phase by fighters, transport aircraft and helicopters using rockets as well as bombs. The “Search light” and Slithering Operations engaged the attention of the audience while the Combat Free Fall during the night phase showed how the IAF could take on insertion of troops in the enemy territory undetected. The Akash Missile firing was a first in the history of Fire Power Demonstration. The exercise inched towards a close by a beautiful and awe-inspiring display of Flare dispensation by a C-130J and an An-32 aircraft. The final event of the exercise was the awesome display of firepower by a MiG-27 Upgrade aircraft, giving a befitting close to a grand display.
The event showcased more than 22 types of platforms and Weapons Systems. Frontline fighter aircraft including Sukhoi-30, Mirage-2000, Jaguar, MiG-29, Attack helicopters, Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and high tech AWACS displayed their potential during the show in which prestigious indigenous project – Light Combat Aircraft “Tejas” was also a part. Transport aircraft like An-32, Embraer, IL-76, IL-78 and C-130J participated in all their glory while medium lift helicopters (Mi-17, Mi-17 1V, Mi-17 V5) and attack helicopters (Mi-25, Mi-35) constituted the rotary wing ingredients.
Defence Minister Manohar Parikar, Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Chiefs of Indian Army and Indian Navy were among others present during the Exercise.