As many as 148 aircraft of the Indian Air Force will take part in the 2022 edition of ‘Vayu Shakti’ that will held at Rajasthan’s Pokhran test facility on March 7, senior officials of the force said on Wednesday. ‘Vayu Shakti’, which is IAF’s biggest exercise, is held every three years to showcase India’s air power. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the chief guest for the event this time, officials familiar with the matter said.
The exercise is being held in the backdrop of IAF’s high-tempo operations in the Ladakh sector where India and China have been locked in a border row since May 2020. A total of 109 fighter jets, 24 helicopters and seven transport planes are among the aircraft that will participate in the drill. “The objective of the exercise is to showcase the capability of IAF to conduct full spectrum operations. It will also demonstrate IAF’s capability to defend vital areas and points by employing surface-to-air guided weapons,” an official said.
The last edition of the exercise was held on February 16, 2019, ten days before IAF bombed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) targets in Pakistan’s Balakot. Since then, IAF has strengthened its combat potential significantly with the induction of Rafale jets armed with potent beyond visual range (BVR) missiles, S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems, a medium range surface-to-air-missile (MRSAM) system and smart air-to-ground weapons, as previously reported by HT.
“The exercise allows countrymen to see for themselves how potent the nation’s air force is. While all manoeuvres cannot obviously be demonstrated, the viewers present, and those watching on television, get a fair idea of the destruction that would be wrought on an adversary should he test India’s resolve,” said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), former additional director general of the Centre for Air Power Studies.
The armament used is one that is earmarked for annual training and hence no depletion takes place in the war waging stocks, he added.Several platforms that have operated in the Ladakh sector will be a part of the drills in the exercise. These include Rafale, MiG-29 and Sukhoi-30 fighter jets, C-17 heavy lifters, C-130J special operations aircraft, Apache AH-64E attack helicopters and CH-47F (I) Chinook multi-mission helicopters.
The platforms inducted after the Balakot raid include the Apaches and Chinooks. To be sure, these acquisitions were planned years before the airstrikes.