The Indian Air Force on Saturday displayed its precision strike capability in a pre-scheduled firepower demonstration at a time when military options are being discussed within the government to avenge the massacre of 49 CRPF men in a terror attack at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir earlier this week.
IAF’s MiGs, Jaguars, Mirages and Sukhois pounded the ground with heavy-duty bombs and took out simulated enemy targets with precision ammunition, air-to-ground missiles and rockets in two hours of firepower demonstration at Chandhan Air Force range near here.
The targets simulated include terrorists outpost and vehicle convoy inside enemy territory as well as conventional ones like an enemy airbase, ammunition dump and fuel storage.
Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat and IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa witnessed the action in the desert. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman dropped out at the last moment because of other commitments.
"We are showcasing our ability to hit hard, hit fast and hit with precision, hit during the day, hit during the night and hit under adverse weather conditions,” Dhanoa said.
Planned months in advance, the once-in-three years firepower demonstration assumes fresh significance in the wake of the terrible tragedy at Pulwama in which 49 CRPF men were killed in a suicide mission by a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist, who drove a car laden with nearly 150 kg explosives into the convoy.
The drill also has two segments to showcase how quickly commando teams can be inserted into enemy territory using C-130J Super Hercules and An-32 aircraft.
“We showcase our ability to punish, our ability to insert and extricate troops from hostile territories. We have an ever-present sub-conventional threat as the enemy knows he can’t defeat us in a conventional conflict,” Dhanoa said.
Another notable feature was the destruction of the enemy’s missile launchers. As night descended Su-30, Jaguars and MiG 27 Upgrades besides the Mi-17V5 and Mi-35 helicopters destroyed the enemy targets with accuracy, demonstrating IAF’s operational capability by night.
Vayu Shakti 2019 comes a year after Exercise Gagan Shakti where the IAF showcased its ability to fight a two-front by quickly moving the troops from the western front to the east.
“As many as 137 aircraft will participate in Vayu Shakti 2019, making it one of the IAF's biggest firepower demonstrations,” IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal Anil Khosla said here on Tuesday.
Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, an honorary IAF officer, was also among the audience.