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 Exercise Vayu Shakti-24: IAF showcases its offensive capabilities at Pokhran 
Feb 18, 2024 01:14 pm

India-made platforms such as the Tejas aircraft, Prachand helicopters, and Akash and Samar surface-to-air missile systems were among the elements featured The Indian Air Force on Saturday showcased its offensive capabilities by day and night at the Pokhran air-to-ground range near Jaisalmer, with fighter jets carrying out precision strikes against simulated enemy aircraft and targets on the ground, including runways, bridges, ammunition dumps, radar sites, terror camps, thermal power plants and ordnance factories, to ensure superiority in the battlefield. Exercise Vayu Shakti-24, based on the theme Lightning Strike from the Sky, saw IAF's combat platforms drop around 50 tonnes of ordnance in a span of two hours over an area measuring two square km. The highlights of the exercise, which involved more than 120 aircraft, included Jaguar fighter jets destroying an 'ammunition dump' in a high-speed, low-level strike, Sukhoi- 30s targeting a 'bridge', the Rafale deploying its Mica missile to down an enemy jet simulated by a drone, and Apache attack helicopters firing their Hellfire missiles to take out a 'tank formation.' India-made platforms such as the light combat aircraft Tejas, Prachand light combat helicopters, and Akash and Samar surface-to-air missile systems were among the elements featured in the exercise.Those present included chief of defence staff General Anil Chauhan, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar, several top military officials and defence attaches of various countries. "These attacks were delivered in multiple modes and directions, employing a variety of precision-guided munitions as well as conventional bombs and rockets," IAF said in a statement. The Tejas fighters showcased their swing-role capability as they first engaged an aerial target and later a ground target. "Keeping up with the technological advancements in combat domain and the lessons learnt from recent conflicts, lAF also displayed a long-range unmanned drone, which destroyed a simulated enemy radar site with pinpoint accuracy," the statement said. Vayu Shakti was last held at Pokhran in February 2019 when fighter planes targeted and destroyed simulated enemy sites, demonstrating IAF’s capability to hit hard, hit fast and hit with precision.The army’s M777 ultra-light howitzers also fired at targets at Vayu Shakti-24. Chinook helicopters carried these 155 mm/39-calibre howitzers to the Pokhran range as an underslung load. The demonstration of IAF’s capabilities included MiG-29s and Mirage 2000s pounding targets with bombs, Rudra helicopters destroying tanks with their rockets and the C-130J special operations aircraft carrying out an assault landing. The night element of the exercise involved the Jaguars, Sukhoi-30s, Prachand helicopters, Akash missile system and the M777 howitzers. "The night events displayed for the first time the capabilities of the indigenous Prachand wherein it neutralised the designated target with rockets. This was followed by a Jaguar and Su-30 dropping heavy calibre and area weapons showcasing the strategic bombing capability of the lAF," the statement said.Remotely piloted aircraft carried out the damage assessment of all targets that was live-streamed to the operations centre and the audience. The line-up of events included Garud commandos slithering down the Mi-17 helicopter to carry out an 'urban intervention', displaying their prowess in operations aimed at clearing terror hideouts.  Combat support operations by transport aircraft included a containerised delivery system drop by a C-17 heavy-lift aircraft. This year will be a busy one for IAF. In the coming months, it will host a mega exercise that is expected to bring together 12 global air forces, with the focus being on improving interoperability, imbibing best practices from one another and boosting military cooperation among the participating countries. Named Tarang Shakti, it will be the biggest multi-nation air exercise to be conducted on Indian soil and will involve fighter jets, transport aircraft, helicopters, mid-air refuellers, airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, and unmanned systems.To be sure, while Tarang Shakti will be the biggest multilateral exercise to be conducted in India, IAF has taken part in several such drills on foreign soil. This year IAF will also conduct its pan-India and the largest-of-its-kind exercise, Gagan Shakti, the officials said. In the 2018 edition of Gagan Shakti, the air force clocked more than 11,000 sorties during the two-phase air manoeuvres that saw the concentration of the air force’s deployed assets move from the western sector to the eastern front in less than 48 hours. It sought to test the IAF’s readiness and stamina for a two-front war with China and Pakistan. From deep strikes to air dominance and maritime operations to air defence, the IAF practised every manoeuvre in the book in its preparation for a short and intense war.