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Posted at: Apr 17, 2018, 1:24 AM; last updated: Apr 17, 2018, 1:24 AM (IST)

IAF set for Himalaya drill off Malacca

Beginning today, exercise hints at assessing readiness for two-front war with Pak, China
IAF set for Himalaya drill off Malacca
A special-operation plane C-130-J

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 16

To test its abilities, the Indian Air Force will on Tuesday commence simultaneous operations all across the Himalayas, from Ladakh to far-eastern Arunachal Pradesh, as part of an ongoing exercise.

The drill includes joint operations with the Navy to practise interdiction of ships in Malacca Straits, through which 85 per cent of China’s oil and gas supplies pass.

The 3,488-km-long de facto India-China boundary, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), runs along the east-west axis of the Himalayas. This is the second phase of the IAF’s exercise ‘Gagan Shakti’, which aims at simultaneous activation of IAF bases and operations in Ladakh, Punjab, Haryana, UP and the East and the North-East, including newly made advanced landing grounds at Tawang, Tuting and Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh.

The drill will include hundreds of fighter jets, including Sukhoi30, MiG-29, Mirage 2000, Jaguar, MiG-21 and Hawk, special-operation planes C-130-J and C-17, besides Russian transporters IL-76 and Mi-17 V5 helicopters.

Air Chief Marshall BS Dhanoa told The Tribune: “The exercise will check the IAF’s preparedness for a high tempo of operations.”

Sources said the focus would be on operating from a large number of bases simultaneously and concentrating on multiple-target attacks, including interdiction. A major effort will also be on assessing the ability to shift troops from one valley to another and to test how much ammunition is dropped and with what accuracy. The 10-day exercise aims to practise simultaneous “wartime drills” along the northern and western frontiers, amply indicating the readiness for a collusive two-front war with Pakistan and China. The exercise will hone war-fighting skills in a real-time scenario.

The first phase was held along the western front. In this, the LCA, Tejas, produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), flying from Phalodi (Jodhpur), had 100 per cent serviceability. “All eight Tejas were available due to very good logistics support by HAL,” said Air Chief Marshall Dhanoa.

The second and last phase of the exercise is set to end by Sunday and the aim is real time coordination, deployment and employment of air power in a short and intense battle scenario.

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