Gaganshakti 2018: Indian Air Force carried out its largest ever all-encompassing combat-ready exercise Gaganshakti 2018 between April 8th to 22nd. It flew over 11,000 sorties during the exercise to test the war-fighting capabilities of the air force in both western and eastern sectors. It also carried out simulations where the scenario was under CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) attack.
An Indian Air Force Official told the media that out of the 11,000 sorties that were carried out during the Gaganshakti exercise, 9,000 were of fighter jets like Sukhoi-30 MKIs, Jaguars, MiG-29s, Mirage-2000s, MiG-21s, Hawk and even indigenously developed Tejas. The home built Tejas took part for the first time in such an exercise.
Tejas LCA which is a supersonic, single seat, single engine, a multirole light fighter jet has been under development since 1983 by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. During Gaganshakti 2018, Tejas did develop some snag in the initial stages, it was able to get past the issues and participate intensely in the exercise. The Indian Air Force carried out six Tejas sorties on one day and was also engaged in air defence and ground attack exercises.
The officials from the Indian Air Force said that Tejas was able to match other fighter jets in its operations. It was also reported that during the first phase of Gaganshakti 2018, the Indian Air Force carried out around 5,000 sorties using fighter jets. The Indian Air Force also took mere 48 hours, to shift their resources from western sector to the eastern sector.
The fundamental agenda of the exercise was to verify and validate the IAF’s war preparedness and strength for a two-front war with China and Pakistan. The exercise was successfully carried by synergising combat exercises and also coordinating with the other services like the army and the navy. The IAF carried out Gaganshakti 2018 with real-time coordination, deployment and employment of air power in a short and intense battle scenario.
The IAF refused to comment directly on the two front war situation with Pakistan and China, but it did say that it tried to maximise its resources and war-fighting capabilities. During, Gaganshakti 2018, the Indian Air Force mobilised a total of around 15,000 Air Force personnel, which included 300 officers.