India’s Air Force (IAF) will carry out Exercise Vayu Shakti on February 17 in Pokhran Air To Ground Range near Jaisalmer to ‘demonstrate the full spectrum of operations the IAF is able to undertake in a realistic scenario’. After a four-year hiatus, Vayu Shakti looks to make a grand comeback since its previous edition on Feb 16, 2019. According to the IAF vice chief of air staff Air Marshal AP Singh, the overall objective of Vayu Shakti is not solely to train and showcase the assets nor the capabilities of the crews, but to highlight the IAF’s capability of undertaking swift operations that involve major coordination.
The IAF aims to deliver a payload of 40-50 tonnes of munitions within a radius of 1.0km to 1.5km. Elaborating further, Air Marshal Singh told members of the press that a number of firsts would occur throughout the exercise, namely the inaugural participation of the French-made Rafale and domestically-developed Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Prachand light attack helicopter along with the Boeing AH-64E Apache. It would also mark the first time the Boeing C-17 Globemaster will airdrop ammunition in Vayu Shakti.
Air Marshal Singh also said the 75-minute exercise will involve all of the force’s frontline aircraft, with 77 fighter aircraft, 41 helicopters, and five transport aircraft set to join the manoeuvres. Additionally, IAF weapons will also be tested throughout the exercise, with demonstrations of surface-to-air, air-to-air, and air-to-ground weapons platforms. The fighter aircraft involved include the Sukhoi Su-30MKIs, Mikoyan MiG-29UPG, HAL Tejas, SEPECAT Jaguar, Dassault Mirage 2000 and Rafales. Furthermore, M777 howitzers from the Indian Army are to be airlifted underslung by the Boeing CH-47F Chinook.
Aside from that, Indian Army’s HAL Rudra attack helicopter will also fire two of its armaments for the first time, firing only one weapons system in previous Vayu Shakti outings. Other aircraft participating include the HAL Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules, Mil Mi-17 helicopter while the Hawker Siddeley HS748 Avro, Antonov AN-32 aircraft as well as 12 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will also partake in a supporting role.
Among the many weapons platforms scheduled for deployment are the French air-to-air MBDA MICA missiles to be launched from the Rafales while the Russian R-73 missile will be fired from the Tejas. For surface-to-air weapons, the newly-inducted Surface-to-Air Missile for Assured Retaliation (SAMAR) will be present alongside the Bharat Electronics Akash medium-range SAM. The entire exercise will be controlled from the Integrated Air Command and Control System. shp/adj/dl (Pix:Indian Air Force)