India’s air force will begin its biggest-ever combat exercise on Sunday as it weighs up potential threats from nuclear rivals Pakistan and China.
The biennial two-week exercise, known as Exercise Gagan Shakti (“gagan” is Hindi for skies and “shakti” is power), will include joint operations with the country’s army and navy.
“The entire machinery of the Indian Air Force will be activated to validate its plans and assess its war-waging capability,” the air force announced in a statement.
The exercise will involve “real-time deployment and employment of air power assets in a simulated, short and intense battle scenario.”
Day and night exercises will be carried out in two phases — the first in the west of the country, along India’s border with Pakistan. The second phase in the north will include high- altitude landings, said to be aimed at Chinese defenses on the Tibet border.
“With two nuclear-armed neighbors that are allied with each other and are potential military adversaries for India, it’s logical that New Delhi needs to test its military capabilities in a two-front conflict scenario,” said Sharad Joshi, assistant professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California.
“In a war with either China or Pakistan, India would have to be on guard against the other party in an alliance,” he said.
China recently sold Pakistan a highly sophisticated, large-scale optical tracking and measurement system, making it the first country in the Indian subcontinent to acquire a missile capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and one that can overwhelm a missile defense system.
The Chinese team spent about three months in Pakistan to assemble the system and train Pakistani officers.
News of the sale came on the heels of India testing its Agni-V inter-continental ballistic missile, which is capable of striking targets in almost all of China.
Experts said that the “leak” of the tracking equipment’s sale was China’s message to India that it could counter the Agni-V.
India’s air force will move 15,000 personnel, including 300 officers, from its bases as part of the exercise, according to media reports. More than 1,100 aircraft will take part, including locally made Tejas LCA fighter jets.
The air force has been operating for several years at levels below those required for a two-front scenario, making the exercise all the more significant, Joshi said.
To tackle the shortfall, the air force will practice “surge operations” in which it carries out more sorties with the same number of aircraft by improving maintenance.
By: Arab News
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