New Delhi, Apr 17: Indian Air Force recently started its pan-India exercise “GaganShakti”, under which its fighter jets conducted 5,000 sorties in just three days along the Western border with Pakistan. After the first leg of the exercise, the force has turned its focus on the Northern border with China. The idea behind the exercise is to prepare for a two-front war.

This is not the first time that an exercise of this level has taken place. Similar exercises were conducted during Operation Brasstacks in 1986-1987, or Operation Parakram in 2001-2002, TOI reported.

According to reports, the IAF practised both its defensive and offensive strategies keeping in mind the deficit in the number of planes required currently. India needs 42 squadrons but is managing with just 31 fighter squadrons.

A total of 1,150 fighters, aircraft, helicopters and drones took part in the exercise. Air defence missiles, radars, surveillance and other units were deployed to check the operational readiness of the force. Both Army and Navy also participated in integrated land-air-sea combat operations exercise.

The IAF maintained 83 per cent operational availability of planes for the exercise as against 55%-60% in peacetime. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa told the newspaper that the aim was to “validate our operational capabilities and concepts in a realistic war-like scenario.” He added the exercise was not aimed against any country.

The IAF on Saturday demonstrated its mid-air refuelling capability to carry out air dominance and deep strike validation over the extended area of interest in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The IAF conducted maritime air operations on the Western seaboard, with its frontline fighter Su-30 MKIs.

“The fighters took from an eastern air base, engaged multiple targets in the western seaboard covering a distance of more than 2500 Km. Finally, it landed at a southern air base, thus covering a total distance of 4000 Km, in a single mission,” read an IAF official release.

These long-range missions were made possible by the support of IL-78 Flight refuelling aircraft. These joint operations were held in unison with the help of Indian Navy’s Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) platform, P-8I aircraft.

(Agency Inputs)