New Delhi, Apr 14 (PTI) The Indian Air Force (IAF) today carried out a maritime air operation on the western sea board to check its deep strike capability in the Indian Ocean Region and beyond.

The drill was part of a mega combat exercise launched last week by the IAF to check its operational preparedness with a focus on dealing with all possible security challenges including from China and Pakistan.

“As part of the ongoing massive IAF exercise Gaganshakti’, IAF conducted maritime air operations on the western sea board, with the clear aim of air dominance and deep strike validation over the extended area of interest in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR),” the IAF said in a statement.

Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal S B Deo visited the Sirsa air force base in Haryana to take stock of the mega exercise. Later, Mitra and Deo took a sortie in Sukhoi fighter jet.

In today’s drill, a fleet of Su-30 fighter jets took off from a base on the eastern coast, engaged multiple targets in the western seaboard, at distances beyond 2,500 km, and landed at a southern base, covering a total distance of 4,000 km, in a single mission, it said.

“These staggering ranges were made possible by support of IL-78 flight refuelling aircraft, thus ensuring long-range strike capabilities for our fighter aircraft, ” the IAF said.

The operation was supported by Indian Navy’s P-8i reconnaissance aircraft and AWACS of IAF.

Officials said the two-week-long exercise is involving almost the entire assets of the IAF including its fighter squadrons and the main objective of the day-and-night drill is to check war waging capability of the force.

The IAF said the exercise ‘Gaganshakti’ has provided an ideal environment to evaluate joint operations with the Navy.

“The exploitation of the combat support assets helps to extend the reach in the entire IOR, our strategic area of influence,” the IAF said.

The officials said the exercise from April 8-22 is one of the biggest in recent decades, adding Pakistan has already been informed about it as per laid down protocol.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.