Pan-India drill to test IAF's ability

New Delhi, DHNS: Indian Air Force (IAF) will undertake its biggest ever war game involving nearly 1,100 aircraft to practice quick deployment of troops between two valleys in the Himalayas and test the viability of its operational plans.

To be held between April 10-21, Exercise Gagan Shakti 2018 will be a pan-Indian day-night mock drill, the IAF will test its ability to fight the enemy along the western (Pakistan) and northern (China) borders.

Nearly 300 officers and 15,000 men will be involved in the exercise in which more than 3,500 sorties would be undertaken by the IAF aircraft.

While every IAF command will participate in the exercise, several Army and Navy units have also been roped into for the making the drills as close as to the reality.

"It will be as real as it gets (in a conflict situation). The focus will be on weapon delivery as we will find out who was shot and who wasn't," IAF sources said.

One of the key components of the drill is intra-valley transfer of troops, which would come handy for the Indian military if it is faced with another Doklam-like situation in future.

Last year Indian and Chinese troops had a 72-day long face-off at Doklam plateau, near India-Bhutan-China tri-junction, necessitating mobilisation of troops in the eastern sector along the Sino-Indian border.

Sources said IAF would take about 48 hours to shift troops from one front to another.

For quick transfer, mainly the new C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft and Mi-17V5 choppers would be used. Even the 9 IL-76 aircraft, that are past their technical lives, still being flown by the IAF will also be used in the exercise.

The exercise will also be the first major war drill of the 45 Squadron flying the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft.

"IAF will test the viability of its operational plan in multiple threat scenario with embedded emergency and contingency," a source said.

As a part of the drill will take place near the western border, Pakistan authorities have duly been informed.

"Notwithstanding the scale of the exercise, there will be very little impact on civil flights," said an IAF official.

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