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IAF showcases combat capabilities in Pokhran

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Indian Air Forces fighter planes during Exercise Iron Fist in the desert of Pokhran on Friday. A PTI Photo

POKHRAN (PTI): The Thar desert witnessed a scintillating display of the might of the Indian Air Force with performance by air warriors and over 180 aircraft leaving the audience spellbound which included President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The thundering sound of finest fighter jets -- Sukhoi, Mirage, MiG and Jaguar -- rocked the sky at this otherwise calm place on Friday (March 18), which is historically known for series of nuclear tests conducted in 1998 during former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's tenure.

The firing of Akash missile was also undertaken for the first time in IAF's history of firepower demonstration.

The demonstration of operational and firepower capabilities by fighter jets, choppers and transport aircraft of the IAF in the day-night mammoth exercise named "Iron Fist 2016" near the Indo-Pak border was in six themes, making it one of the biggest events of the force which showcased more than 22 types of platforms and weapons systems.

The exercise started with the day and dusk events and ended with display of night operations.

Through their courageous manoeuvre, fighter pilots showed transformation of the Air Force, air defence and combat skills of its personnel in carrying out multi-faceted operations.

The grand event began with flypast showing IAF's journey over eight decades, with the aircraft of 1930s era -- Tiger Moth. Then came a superb fly past by seven aircraft including MiG and Sukhoi. It was followed by tactical manoeuver by a team of four 'Surya Kiran' aircraft.

The sound of precision-based bombings at simulated targets by Mirage-2000, Sukhoi 30, MiG-27 and Jaguar astounded all audience.

The Air Force showcased its multi-layered air defence operations through fly-past by flight refuelling aircraft, IL-78 FRA along with two Sukhoi 30 fighter jets which demonstrated the ability to extend on-station endurance and strategic reach of fighter aircraft.

This exercise also included surface-to-air guided weapons like IGLA, shoulder-fired missile system and the OSA-AK missiles striking down airborne targets.

Capability demonstration of the indigenously developed 'Tejas' aircraft to deliver laser guided bomb and fire an air-to-air missile and the capacity of the indigenous Light Combat Helicopter to carry out rocket firing was also displayed during the programme.

A total of 24 Garud commandos were para dropped by L 17 Globemaster aircraft to showcase their ability to carry out highly sophisticated operations.

At sun set, few aircraft participated to show their prowess in accomplishing night targets and demonstrated all weather operations.

The drills by fighter aircraft Sukhoi 30, Mirage 2000, Jaguar, MiG-29, attack helicopters, remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and high tech airborne warning and control system received applause from hundreds of visitors.

The event was also attended by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Air Chief Arup Raha, Army Chief General Dalbir Suhag, Navy Chief R K Dhowan and scores of defence personnel.

Vintage aircraft 'Tigermoth' evoked memories of the birth of military aviation of the country. It was followed by Pilatus, the latest trainer aircraft in the Force.

The elite Garud force of IAF, which suffered casualties in the Pathankot attack, also participated in the exercise, demonstrating its ability to work as a counter-terror force.

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