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IAF’s 10-day mega exercise ‘Gagan Shakti’ begins from April 1-10

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is showcasing its might and capability to carry out high-octane operations during the upcoming ‘Gagan Shakti-2024‘ exercise “in a realistic environment” from April 1-10. The exercise involves all air force bases and assets scattered across the country.

Objectives and Previous Edition

‘Gagan Shakti’ was last held in 2018, when the IAF clocked more than 11,000 sorties during the two-phase air manoeuvres. The previous edition saw the concentration of the force’s deployed assets move from the western sector to the eastern front in less than 48 hours. It sought to test the IAF’s readiness for a two-front war with China and Pakistan. The IAF practiced every manoeuvre, including deep strikes, air dominance, maritime operations, and air defence, to prepare for a short and intense war.

Recent Exercises and Preparedness

The latest drills follow the Vayu Shakti-2024 exercise, conducted on February 17 at the Pokhran air-to-ground range near Jaisalmer. The IAF deployed its frontline assets, including the Rafale fighter jets, Mirage-2000s, Sukhoi-30 MKIs, Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), Jaguars, Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, Apache attack helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, and surface-to-air missile systems.

This year’s Vayu Shakti was followed by the tri-services Bharat Shakti exercise, witnessed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Pokhran on March 12. The integrated tri-services ‘live fire and manoeuvre’ exercise displayed how the Indian military plans to leverage its indigenous capabilities for dominating the battlefield and crushing any threat to national security.

Incident and Showcase of Capabilities

A Tejas aircraft crashed near Jaisalmer minutes after taking part in the tri-services exercise, the first incident for the TEJAS MK-1.

Apart from the TEJAS MK-1, the exercise featured several weapons and systems, including the light combat helicopter Prachand, armed advanced light helicopters, T-90 tanks, BMP-II infantry combat vehicles, drone launched precision guided munitions, a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles, rockets, air defence weapons, and artillery guns such as the Dhanush, Sharang and K9 Vajra.

Upcoming Multilateral Exercise

Later this year, the IAF will host a mega exercise that is expected to bring together 12 global air forces, with a focus on improving interoperability, imbibing best practices from one another, and boosting military cooperation among the participating countries.

Named ‘Tarang Shakti’, this will be the biggest multi-nation air exercise to be conducted on Indian soil. It will involve fighter jets, transport aircraft, helicopters, mid-air refuelers, airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, and unmanned systems. While ‘Tarang Shakti’ will be the biggest multilateral exercise to be conducted in India, the IAF has taken part in several such drills on foreign soil.

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