Ga­gan­shakti 2018

“Shak­ing the Heav­ens and split­ting the Earth”

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Vayu - Based on in­for­ma­tion re­leased by PRO, IAF and MoD sources

The IAF con­ducted its largest air ex­er­cise ex­tant ( Ga­gan­shakti) for two weeks in April 2018, its di­men­sion, range and lethal­ity de­scribed as ‘Shak­ing the Heav­ens and split­ting the Earth’. The IAF flew a re­ported 11000 sor­ties, most of them by fight­ers but there was also un­prece­dented em­ploy­ment of trans­port air­craft and he­li­copters for spe­cial mis­sions.

The IAF con­ducted its Ex­er­cise Ga­gan­shakti from 8 to 22 April 2018 but planning for this had re­port­edly been set in mo­tion al­most nine months ear­lier. De­scribed as the largest ex­er­cise in the past three decades, with its di­men­sion range and lethal­ity trans­lated into ‘ shak­ing the heav­ens and split­ting the earth’, this was quite in con­trast to the gen­eral pub­lic per­cep­tion that the IAF is much in need of en­hance­ment of its fighter squadron strength from the present 31 to 42 and more, along with dras­tic mod­erni­sa­tion and sub­stan­tial in­crease in its other as­sets.

“In­dia has not wit­nessed any­thing on this scale since Ex­er­cise Brass Tacks in 1987”, stated Air Chief Mar­shal Biren­der Singh Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff, and added that the western neighbour was ap­par­ently con­cerned by the sheer scale and com­plex­ity of Ga­gan­shakti 2018. Ac­cord­ing to the Air Chief, the coun­try’s western neighbour had mon­i­tored the Ex­er­cise closely through their air­borne warn­ing and con­trol sys­tems.

Con­sid­er­ing that this mas­sive ex­er­cise was dur­ing peace time, in a real con­fronta­tion, vi­tal as­sets and am­mu­ni­tion (mis­siles, bombs, etc) would have been used re­sult­ing in di­min­ish­ing war re­serves. The aim of the ex­er­cise was to sur­mount con­straints of econ­omy for con­serv­ing air power needed when the real chal­lenges oc­cured.

As enun­ci­ated by the CAS, “The in­ten­tion of the Ex­er­cise was to val­i­date our op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties and con­cepts in a re­al­is­tic war-like sce­nario as well as check our abil­ity to sus­tain high-tempo op­er­a­tions. It is not aimed at any coun­try.”

The ex­er­cise was con­ducted in two phases so that all Com­mands of the IAF got ad­e­quate op­por­tu­nity to test the ef­fi­cacy of their pre­pared­ness. Phase-I of the ex­er­cise in­volved activation of Western, South Western and South­ern Air Com­mands, with the af­fil­i­ated Army and Naval com­po­nents. Phase-II of the ex­er­cise in­volved activation of Western, Cen­tral, East­ern and South­ern Air Com­mands. Re-de­ploy­ment for PhaseII in­volved re­lo­cat­ing the forces so as to be ef­fec­tive at the new lo­ca­tions within a short span of 48 hours. This was made pos­si­ble by round the clock op­er­a­tions of heavy lift trans­port air­craft like the C-17 and Il-76 as well as by em­ploy­ing a large num­ber of tac­ti­cal air­lift air­craft, C-130s and An-32s. The IAF also used civil char­tered flights and trains for mo­bil­i­sa­tion of its re­sources.

Dur­ing the ex­er­cise, a spec­trum of com­bat mis­sions, en­com­pass­ing var­i­ous air sit­u­a­tions, were con­ducted. Fighter air­craft were in­volved in surge op­er­a­tions, gen­er­at­ing max­i­mum num­ber of sor­ties in a 24-hour cy­cle. These in­cluded long range mis­sions with con­cen­trated live and sim­u­lated weapon re­lease at var­i­ous air- to- ground ranges in In­dia, creation

of an air de­fence um­brella to fa­cil­i­tate op­er­a­tion of ground forces and Counter Sur­face Force Op­er­a­tions in sup­port of the Army in var­i­ous sec­tors. Dur­ing both phases, Mar­itime Op­er­a­tions in­volv­ing long range mar­itime strikes with Mar­itime Re­con­nais­sance pro­vided by In­dian Navy air­craft also took place. The in­te­gra­tion of Te­jas LCAs and Akash SAMs in the op­er­a­tional ma­trix of the IAF was checked out. In ad­di­tion, ca­pa­bil­i­ties of up­graded Mi­rage 2000s and MiG-29s were tested in an op­er­a­tional en­vi­ron­ment. Var­i­ous types of ae­rial weapons, in­clud­ing stand­off and pre­ci­sion weapons, were em­ployed to val­i­date their use in air op­er­a­tions.

Com­bat Sup­port Op­er­a­tions in­volved mis­sions by force en­ablers like AWACS and mid-air re­fu­ellers, Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions in­clud­ing a Bat­tal­ion Group paradrop, Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions by IAF’s Garud Com­man­dos, Com­bat Search and Res­cue for ef­fec­tive ex­trac­tion of downed air­crew be­hind en­emy lines, res­cue from the sea and op­er­a­tions from Ad­vanced Land­ing Grounds. The trans­port air­craft un­der­took mass ca­su­alty evac­u­a­tion mis­sions both in East­ern and Western Sec­tors. He­li­copter mis­sions in­cluded Spe­cial Heli­borne Op­er­a­tions, ca­su­alty evac­u­a­tion, strike mis­sions against ‘en­emy’ for­ma­tions and In­ter-Val­ley troop transfers.

For joint op­er­a­tions, the IAF’s joint com­mand and con­trol struc­tures along­side the In­dian Army and the Navy, in­volv­ing Ad­vance Head­quar­ters of the IAF colo­cated with Army Com­mands, Tac­ti­cal Air Cen­tres, Mar­itime Air Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre and Mar­itime El­e­ments of the Air Force were ac­ti­vated. Army troops and com­bat ve­hi­cles were de­ployed in sim­u­la­tion Tac­ti­cal Bat­tle Ar­eas in var­i­ous sec­tors and some Army ex­er­cises were dove­tailed with air op­er­a­tions for sim­u­la­tion of re­al­is­tic bat­tle­field en­vi­ron­ment. War­ships were de­ployed, both in the Ara­bian Sea and the Bay of Ben­gal, for sim­u­lat­ing anti-ship­ping strikes by IAF air­craft op­er­at­ing from bases on the east and west coast, as well as from the is­land ter­ri­to­ries.

“The Ex­er­cise e mphat­i­cally demon­strated the IAF’s proven com­mand over op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of its as­sets yield­ing air­power in de­fence of the cen­tury.” The Su-30MKIs, with a com­bat ra­dius of 1500 km with­out mid- air re­fu­el­ing op­er­ated from an east­ern coastal air­base to strike a mul­ti­ple tar­gets in the western seaboard over dis­tances beyond 2200 km be­fore re­cov­er­ing to a south­ern base cov­er­ing a to­tal dis­tance of about 4000 km in sin­gle non-stop mis­sions.

The IAF was able to achieve 80% ser­vice­abil­ity of air­craft while radars and sur­face-to-air guided weapons main­tained a ser­vice­abil­ity of 97%, which in­cluded some legacy sys­tems that were over 40 years old. Fo­cused ef­fort en­abled a dis­patch of more than 95% for com­bat as­sets, 100% avail­abil­ity of com­bat sup­port sys­tems and al­most 100% dis­patch rates of com­bat en­ablers.

There were no re­ports of ca­su­al­ties in var­i­ous mis­sions in the air or on the ground. Amongst the few glitches was that of a Jaguar veer­ing off the run­way at Bhuj ow­ing to un­favourable weather con­di­tions and six of the eight Te­jas LCAs de­vel­op­ing some snags, but quickly fixed by HAL engi­neers.

Dur­ing the Ex­er­cise, De­fence Min­is­ter Nir­mala Sitharaman vis­ited Chabua air­base in As­sam and Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh and ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion with the man­ner in which the Ex­er­cise was con­ducted.

What stood out was the demon­stra­tion by the IAF through deep sea mis­sions that mil­i­tary bases along­side In­dian mar­itime bound­ary are within its strik­ing range of the IAF. Su-30MKI air­craft took off from bases in South­ern In­dia in­clud­ing Tan­javur and Su­lur with Brah­mos su­per­sonic cruise mis­siles, hav­ing a range of 300 km and car­ried out sim­u­lated strikes in the Malacca straits, Nine De­gree Channel and other sen­si­tive ar­eas.

An im­pres­sive as­pect of the Ex­er­cise was the mas­sive de­ploy­ment of air and ground crew plus other per­son­nel set­ting an un­prece­dented record of sor­ties flown by the fighter and trans­port air­craft. The IAF flew some 11000 sor­ties dur­ing the Ex­er­cise, 9000 by fight­ers in­clud­ing Su30MKIs, Mi­rage 2000s, Jaguars, MiG-29s, MiG-21s, MiG-27s, Te­jas and some Hawk ad­vanced jet train­ers.

Su-30MKIs on long-range mis­sions

IAF Her­cules air­dropped Spe­cial Forces in crit­i­cal sec­tors

‘Garud’ spe­cial forces de­ploy­ing from Her­cules

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.