Vayu Shakti: IAF showcases firepower in backdrop of Pulwama attack
Days after the Pulwama attack rocked Kashmir, the Indian Air Force (IAF), on Sunday, carried out a mega exercise at the Pokhran firing range near the Pakistan border to demonstrate its control over the skies. The exercise, Vayu Shakti, involved over 140 fighter jets and attack helicopters, and demonstrated the IAF's ability to strike hard and fast at short notice. Here are the details.
The explosive exercise saw participation from Sukhoi-30MKIs, Mirage-2000s, Jaguars, MiG-21s, MiG-27s, MiG-29s, and Tejas fighters, among others, flying in from eight air bases. The IAF also demonstrated, for the first time, the capabilities of the indigenously-developed Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), as well as the Akash surface-to-air missile system. These fighter jets and helicopters demonstrated their firepower and ability to hit targets accurately during day, dusk, and night.
"...Today we showcase our ability to punish, our ability to insert and extricate troops from hostile territories...our ability to hit hard, hit fast and hit with precision, hit during day, hit during night and hit under adverse weather conditions," Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said.
The Vayu Shakti exercise is held by the IAF every three years. While this year's one had been planned months in advance, it took on special significance following the Pulwama attack, which was the worst that Indian forces have suffered in Kashmir in three decades. The attack, which left 40 jawans dead, was claimed by Pakistan-based terror outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), thereby severely straining Indo-Pak ties.
"While wars are fought few and far between, we have an ever-present sub-conventional threat as the enemy knows he can't defeat us in a conventional conflict," said Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa, referring to terrorist attacks.
As it stands, India is currently weighing its options as it seeks to avenge the attack. If the government indeed chooses military action despite the risk of escalation, the IAF's ability to hit terror camps is one of the options on the table. Other options include 'shallow' ground-based attacks, military occupation of some heights along the Line of Control (LoC), and the use of supersonic BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.