From the evacuation of Indians stuck in the epicenter at Wuhan to distributing essential medical supplies, within the country, the IAF has displayed immense resilience and commitment in an environment that has changed quickly from an unknown lethality abroad to an invisible enemy at home.
By Group Captain Sameer Pradhan
From the evacuation of Indians stuck in the epicenter at Wuhan to distributing essential medical supplies, within the country, the IAF has displayed immense resilience and commitment in an environment that has changed quickly from an unknown lethality abroad to an invisible enemy at home. Though it took a few weeks for the world to appreciate the scale of mortality, the potency of the contagion was known from the very beginning, making any proximity to the ‘hot beds’ an ‘operation in the harm’s way’. The crew of a Sqn, in the Western Command of the IAF, were not only the first to enter this ‘harm’s way’ in the call of duty by flying the C-17 Globemaster but also among the first to experience Quarantine after this relief/rescue mission. This was followed by another aircraft of the same Sqn that flew to Iran on a similar mission.
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As the crisis began to unfold in the country, the IAF put all its ‘air mobility’ assets at the disposal of the nation’s critical need. Western Air Command, which is not only the largest but also the most equipped, was tasked with majority of these ‘air lifts’ in addition to the ongoing effort to assist the civil Govts of Kashmir and Ladakh. With the national ‘lock down’ implemented, the civil flights came to a grinding halt crippling the intra-country movements of all kind. Military aircraft like the An-32 based at Chandigarh, swung into action to deliver the critical med equipment consisting of spray machines, masks, gloves, personal protection equipment, and tons of sanitiser across the country. The versatility of this seasoned ‘work horse’ was also exploited to deliver essential medical supplies across treacherous terrain to far flung regions like Kargil, which like other affected areas was also gearing up to face the emerging danger of the contagious disease.
The need for increased testing was felt as much in the high reaches of Ladakh as elsewhere in the country and therefore ‘Test samples’ have been delivered every morning through the IL-76 aircraft to Chandigarh from where they have been quickly transferred to the smaller Dornier which swiftly delivers them to Delhi on every occasion without fail. This mobility has ensured enhanced testing of the civil populace in Ladakh for early quarantine/treatment. The ‘Heavy lift’ IL-76 is conducting this vital task ‘dove tailed’ with the daily supply of rations, medicines and critical eqpt for which they are airborne at the crack of dawn braving rough weather and an ‘unforgiving terrain’. The Dornier, too, is airborne at the same hour, from its base at Delhi, to be in time to meet the returning IL-76 and, thereafter, execute its communication duty with absolute reliability.
The versatility of the IAF aircrew also rose to the occasion when the Special Ops C-130 J ‘Super Hercules’ swung into action to deliver essential medical supplies to regions across the country. Ventilators and critical medicines have been delivered to Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and North Bengal by these aircraft from regions that could spare these supplies to help the NER also gear up for the worst. The aircraft’s ability to handle large volumes has also been exploited by shifting mobile hospitals to destinations that perceive a threat.
In this war, the ‘air warriors’ along with the valiant healthcare professionals are at the forefront extending continuous support to the nation immaterial of the dangers they face themselves from this pandemic.