Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday visited the Chabua Air Force Station in Dibrugarh to oversee the Indian Air Force’s biggest exercise in a war-like scenario in recent time called ‘Gagan Shakti’ at the country’s easternmost fighter base.
The Defence Minister along with Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa and other top Air Force officials also took stock of the operational preparedness and infrastructural strength of the Chabua air base, which is considered the first line of defence in the easternmost front of the country.
Chabua is the second airbase in the northeast after Tezpur to house the indomitable Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets that are capable of striking targets deep inside China.
“The mighty Indian Air Force is capable of thwarting any threat from outside forces. Such a mega-scale exercise is being held by the IAF for the first time in the country. As the Defence Minister, I’m satisfied and proud of the IAF and its defence preparedness,” the defence minister said at Chabua.
Gagan Shakti-2018 is the biggest peace time military exercise undertaken by India since Operation Brasstacks in 1986-1987. To conduct this exercise, the IAF has mobilized more than 1,100 combat, transport and rotary wing (helicopter) aircrafts, apart from 300 officers and 1500 airmen.
The IAF is conducting all terrain operations- desert, high altitude, maritime scenarios and special operations- in real time with specific focus on key areas like aerial combat, air to surface combat, paratrooper assault and medical evacuation.
The first phase of the exercise began on April 10, in which the focus was on the western border with Pakistan. In this phase, Su-30 and Jaguar fighter aircraft equipped with the potent Brahmos and Harpoon Anti-ship missiles addressed in-depth targets over the Western sea boards.
Currently, phase two – the combat mission – is going on with the focus now shifting to the eastern corridor – near the China border in the Northeastern States. This will go on until April 23.
Extensive missions will be flown by the Su-30 and Jaguar in conjunction with the Indian Navy’s P-8i MR aircraft using long range weapons to refine and practice offensive and defensive tactics against maritime targets.
The two-week long exercise will involve almost the entire assets of the IAF, including its fighter squadrons, and will be used to assess war waging might of the force.
Tezpuir-based defence spokesperson Lt Col Harsh Wardhan Pande informed that the defence minister landed at Chabua air base at about 11 in the morning. She then took a MI -17 and went to Pasighat in western Arunachal Pradesh.
At Pasighat ALG, two SU- 30s took off and then C1-30 J landed, from which Garud Commandos simulated taking over of the Base. She was also briefed about the uploading of rockets in a MI Gunship.
She took off for the DM Range. SU-30s dropped 3 1000 pounders, then performed Carpet Bombing of 16 100 ponders. MI 17 gunships fired rockets. RM was sitting in the tower with the Air Chief. She also observed the bomb drop area with one camera placed at the bomb drop zone.
After coming back to the Chabua base, the defence minister saw bomb-loading into the SU- 30 MKIs.
Pande said that it was preparedness (Taiyari ) – Shakti air warriors readiness . The fighter plane is able to cover from western sector to northern sector within two hours and is able to overpower the enemies of India.
Defence minister Sitharaman also said, “This was needed in the western sector but this Gagan Shakti-2018 exercise is being done here because the situation is different in this bordering sector and we are prepared 100 per cent within three days and it will be regular.”