Tejas proves its mettle in IAF’s biggest combat exercise

Tejas proves its mettle in IAF’s biggest combat exercise

Notwithstanding few snags they developed during Indian Air Force (IAF) combat exercise Gagan Shakti, a fleet of eight indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft convinced the top brass of the IAF that the homemade combat jet is ready for operation.

Tejas LCA undertook 6 sorties a day. Each mission, lasting for 45 minutes on the lower side to one and half hours, proved the indigenous fighter jet's efficiency in an operational role.

There were technical snags, but none were repetitive in nature. “These were routine glitches. The turnaround time was less than six hours during the exercise. It can't be said these are nagging problems. LCA is a capable aircraft for ground attack,” said an officer.

Besides checking the efficacy and integration of LCA and Aakash air defence missile system, IAF used its biggest war game also to examine the capabilities of upgraded Mirage-2000 and MiG-29 in an operational environment.

During the two-week-long Gaganshakti exercise – the largest buildup of Indian military since Operation Brasstacks in the 1980s, IAF flew 11,000 sorties in two days simulating destruction of enemy targets not only near China and Pakistan borders but also in the high seas. As many as 9,000 sorties were by the fighter aircraft.

A team of 300 experts now analyse different aspects of the massive war game and a report is expected within a week. It took almost nine months for the IAF to prepare for the exercise during which IAF achieved 80% serviceability with its aircraft and 97% with the missiles, some of them are 40 years old system.

The pan-Indian drill was meant to test the IAF's ability to fight in a two-front war scenario. But in reality, it became a sequential exercise rather than a simultaneous one. The men and machines were first tested in the western front and subsequently switched to the eastern front within 48 hours for operations close to the Sino-Indian border.

Also, there was a maritime component as deep strike jets flew over the Indian Ocean to hit at decoy targets set by the Indian Navy. “This is as real as one can get. In an actual war, we take calculated risk, but this was a peacetime exercise,” said an officer.

The impact of the drill was felt across the border. China employed two of its airborne radar systems to keep an eye on the Indian exercise.

“In recent days, India has issued the largest air-to-air manoeuvres in the history of the country. The total number of participating aircraft has reached 1,100! Such large-scale air exercises are currently difficult for other countries except for the United States. If India really has more than 1,100 planes involved in the drill, China and Russia must look at India differently,” says a report (English translation) in one of China's state-controlled media named zhaizou.com.

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