The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Saturday (Febraury 16) carried out a mega exercise in Pokhran, Rajasthan, involving almost all variants of its fighter jets and attack helicopters, in a fire power demonstration near the border with Pakistan. The exercise came two days after 40 CRPF personnel were killed in a suicide attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday (February 15) said security forces have been given full freedom to retaliate against the attack.
While speaking at the ‘’Exercise Vayu Shakti-2019′, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa did not name Pakistan or the Pulwama attack but said IAF is ready for an “appropriate response” on the orders by the country’s political leadership. This was not retaliation. The targets struck were well inside India, in the Pokhran Field Firing Range. This was a pre-planned exercise called Vayu Shakti, which the IAF carries out once every three years, to demonstrate it is equipped, rehearsed and ready for action. It has been rehearsing Exercise Vayu Shakti for almost a month.
“While showcasing our strike capabilities, we don’t let our Air Defence Guard down. In wars, we have an ever-present sub-conventional threat as the enemy knows he cannot defeat us in a conventional conflict. We show our capabilities to punish insert and extricate troops from hostile territories”. “I wish to assure the nation of the IAF’s capability and commitment in meeting national security challenges and defending the sovereignty of our country,” Dhanoa said.
This was demonstrated in spectacular fashion, with Dhanoa himself arriving in a C-130 special forces aircraft that landed right in front of the spectators on a makeshift airstrip barely 800 metres long.The C-130 is built for inserting commando es into enemy territory using makeshift airstrips. Thereafter, the Pokhran Ranges resonated with explosions as each of the IAF’s fighter aircraft struck a variety of simulated targets with unerring accuracy. For the first time, the MiG-29UPG — an air-to-air fighter that has now been upgraded to a multi-role aircraft — showcased its new ground strike capability. Also featuring for the first time was the swing role capability of the Tejas fighter, which fired a missile at an enemy aircraft and also struck a ground target in the same mission. The indigenous Akash missile also engaged and directly hit a simulated aircraft target by night.
The exercise meant to showcase India’s defence preparedness comes in the backdrop of the dastardly attack by Pakistan-based banned terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). The attack targetted a bus in the 78-vehicle convoy of the CRPF on Thursday snuffing out lives of 40 jawans. India blames Pakistan for allowing JeM to use its territory and target India with impunity. More than 40 countries condemned the attack and the United States called upon Pakistan to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure on its soil.