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Aero India 2023

'Vayu Shakti': IAF displays growing combat prowess at Pokhran desert


A fire power demonstration during Vayu Shakti 2024 at Pokhran Range, in Jaisalmer district, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. A PTI Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Indian Air Force has demonstrated its combat prowess in a massive day and night exercise featuring missiles, drones and over 120 aircraft including fighter jets and attack helicopters in Rajasthan's Pokhran desert, in a breathtaking display of its air power close to the frontier with Pakistan.

The lAF also showcased its rising capabilities in rapid deployment of combat assets by airlifting weapons like M-777 ultra-light howitzers and other military platforms during the 'Vayu Shakti' exercise on Saturday.

The mega air exercise came amid the lingering border row with China in eastern Ladakh.

In keeping with the exercise's theme 'Lightning Strike from the Sky', frontline fighter jets including the Rafale, Su-30 MKI, MiG-29, Mirage-2000 and Tejas attacked and destroyed simulated enemy targets on ground and in the air with deadly precision.

The attacks were delivered in multiple modes and directions, employing a variety of precision guided munitions as well as conventional bombs and rockets, the IAF said.

Upholding lAF's firm commitment to 'Atmanirbhar Bharat', the indigenously built Tejas aircraft showcased its swing-role capability and destroyed an aerial target with a missile, followed by the engagement of a ground target with bombs.

Keeping up with the technological advancements in the combat domain and the lessons learnt from recent conflicts, the lAF also displayed a long-range unmanned drone, which destroyed a simulated enemy radar site with pinpoint accuracy, the IAF said in a statement.

An IAF Rafale jet also successfully engaged an aerial target with a beyond visual range air-to-air missile.

The event began with three Chetak helicopters trooping the national flag and the Air Force ensign, flying past the grandstand with the national anthem playing in the background.

It was followed by a perfectly timed 'Sonic Boom' created by a Rafale aircraft. Two Jaguar aircraft flying at low levels followed the Rafale, taking high fidelity reconnaissance images of the area.

Combat support operations by transport aircraft included a containerised delivery system drop by a C-17 heavy-lift aircraft and an assault landing by a C-130J carrying IAF special forces, Garuds.

The Apache attack helicopter demonstrated its firepower in this event for the first time, by engaging targets with air-to-ground guided missiles, while Mi-17 helicopters engaged ground targets with rockets.

Joint operations included the IAF and Indian Army's weaponised version of the advanced light helicopters Mk-IV devastating simulated enemy targets using their rockets and swivel guns.

As another first, IAF's Chinook helicopters demonstrated rapid deployment of combat assets by airlifting the Indian Army's M-777 Ultra-Light Howitzers in an underslung mode enabling prompt destruction of simulated enemy targets on ground.

As the sun set on the horizon, Garuds inserted by Mi-17 helicopters carried out an 'Urban Intervention' demonstrating their prowess in anti-terror operations aimed at clearing hideouts of inimical elements.

The indigenous air defence systems, Akash and SAMAR missile systems were also showcased, destroying multiple aerial targets.

Night events displayed for the first time the capabilities of indigenous light combat helicopter 'Prachand' wherein it neutralised designated target with rockets.

It was followed by a Jaguar and Su-30 MKI dropping heavy calibre and area weapons at night showcasing the strategic bombing capability of the lAF.

Remotely piloted aircraft carried out the bomb damage assessment of all targets that was live streamed to the operations centre and to the audience.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen Anil Chauhan witnessed the exercise.

The event also included a free fall drop by the Akashganga team and flare dispensing by C-130J by night. In the spirit of jointness, a tri-services band enthralled the audience with their tunes.

During the display, approximately 50 tonnes of ordnance was dropped in a short span of two hours over an area of two square km. The event truly showcased IAF's offensive lethality and precision targeting capability.

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