Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 12 February 2019
Indian Air Force (IAF) will be conducting exercise Vayu Shakti at Pokhran on 16th February to demonstrate airforce capabilities. The coveted exercise is done once in 3 years at Pokhran range, 55 kilometers from Jaisalmer by road. The firepower demo will be conducted during day, dusk and night to showcase airforce’s 24×7 operational capability. “President of India Ramnath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vice President Venkaiyah Naidu are likely to miss the coveted event this time due to prior engagements”, said Air Marshal Anil Khosla, Vice Chief of Air Staff. “We will share the list”, he added.
The exercise Vayu Shakti on 16th February will begin at 1735 hours with the arrival of Raksha Mantri, Nirmala Sitharaman. For the first time, MiG- 29 Upgrade will showcase air to ground attack capability, ALH Mk-IV will demo 20 mm gun firing, Akash missile will fire at maneuverable expendable aerial target (MEAT) while unmanned P-IV will attack on a simulated radar target.
The aircrafts participating in the exercise will be operating from Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Uttarlai, Phalodi, Nal, Hindon and Agra airbase. IAF’s specialized force ‘Garuds’ will also show their prowess.
The purpose of the exercise is to “identfy, detect, fix and engage the targets. HADR flavor will also be demonstrated as we stand with the nation during disasters”. “Mix of lethality, precission and mix of legacy and modern aircrafts with varity of weapons including smart weapons during the exercise will be used”, Air Marshal Anil Khosla informed reporters during the press briefing on the exercise.
Amongst fighters, MiG- 29, Jaguar, Su-30 mki, MiG- 27 will be participating while India’s indigenous 3.5 generation LCA Tejas will demonstrate it’s swing role capability. Amongst transport aircrafts, AN- 32, C-130 J and AE&WAC. IAF will fire Akash missile, Astra Air to Air Beyond Visual Range (BVR) will to demonstrate night operational capabilities. The exercise will be a presentation on IAF’s ability to detect target and multi spectrum operation capability.
On the day of the exercise, temperature is likely to 28 degrees till 5 pm witnessing a sudden drop in temperature post sunset to around 20 degree till midnight. The sunset will happen at 1838 hours. The simulated targets will be 1-3 kilometers from where people will be seated.
The run of the events is as follows:
Arrival of RM 1735 hrs
Trooping colours by 2x Mi- 17 V5
Address by Chief of Air Staff (CAS), ACM BS Dhanoa
1x Jaguar at 500 ft on a photomission
Supersonic run by MiG-29 at 150 m
1xP-IV weapon firing on simulated radar target
Radar simulated 2 …. will deliver 5×250 Kg bombs
Assault Landing by 1xC-130J
Assault landing by C-130J
Bambi Bucket by 2xMi-17V5
Combat free fall
AN- 32 will insert troops behind enemy lines
Pechora firing at 1906
AKASH firing on MEAT
Mi-17V5 firing 40×80 mm rocket
MiG-27 firing 2×1000 kg bomb
Su-30nki will drop 22×100 KG bomb
Jaguar will drop 3x 100kg bomb— deep penetration aircraft
5x450Kg by 1xSu-30 at 6000 ft at 1930 hrs
Vayu Shakti is a demonstration with training value in the exercise. Ministers, members of various committees, training officers, officers from sister services are also invited. Some will attend on full dress rehearsal while others will attend on final day. Gaganshakti and Live wire were full spectrum exercise. Indian Air Force has become focused, and conduct capability based exercise.
Vice Chief said that the exercise like Gaganshakti or Live Wire is a full year capability. Gaganshakti or live wire, start about a year before, decides, 14-15 topics, sent tocommand, 3 months for research and discussion, then war gaming and table top exercise. All the operation command under one roof. The execution, real time and then debrief objective based. Firepower demo is a display, what can be done.
In Vayu Shakti 135- 138 aircrafts taking part in this exercise. Air Marshal Khosla said that “the decreasing number of squadron is not going to affect this exercise”.
During the press brief, Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal VR Chaudhary addressed a reporter’s question on Russia providing sovereign guarantee on recently concluded contract for S-400 Missile, “There is no sovereign guarantee in S-400 missile procurement contract”.
“Rafale will boost Indian Air Force’s capability”, Vice Chief Anil Khosla said while reponding to National Defence question on future operational capabily of IAF amid reports of India’s adversaries developing 6th generation fighter jet as China already inducted Chengdu J-21. “This is subjective, and perception as manufacturer will always say that it’s aircraft is 5th generation. We make two plans based on today’s capabilities and future challenges”, Air Marshal Khosla added.
He also said that RFP for 110 MMRCA is already issued and 6 manufacturers with 7 platforms have responded. Soon IAF will issue QRs.
The vice chief said that Indian Air Force is under process of working out as what all to be included in the Sukhoi-30mki upgrade as 23 aircrafts out of contrated 272 aircrafts are yet to be delivered.
Shailesh Kumar is an independent journalist with over 15 years of experience in crime, political and defence reporting for leading media brands including Star News, India TV and NewsX. He is the founder editor of defence and security news portal, National Defence.