India-made Tejas Impresses all at IAF’s biggest combat exercise
The biggest ever Indian Air Force (IAF) combat exercise Gagan Shakti was kick-started from Wednesday (April 11) along the Pakistan and China borders, and it saw the participation of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas for the first time.
Over 11 aircraft have been deployed for this exercise at different operational locations. This exercise is unique as the India-made LCA Tejas is being deployed at forward bases.
During the first phase of the exercise on Wednesday, all the deployed LCA aircraft had participated.
“The operational efficiency and mission worthiness of these platforms would be put to test in a real-time intense exercise environment” read an official IAF release.
The release also mentioned that “A milestone towards ‘Make in India’, LCA will employ Close Combat and Beyond Visual Range Air to Air missiles in a simulated scenario apart from Air to Ground weapons.”
Indian Air Force fielded all 8 LCA-Tejas MK1 fighter jets in the largest military exercise in three decades. 14 day Air Exercise is IAF’s high-intensity combat exercise which will mimic actual war for a small period of 14 days. For LCA-Tejas MK1 Squadron this was first time aircraft actively carried out operations with other aircraft fleets of the IAF .
Each Tejas Aircraft is carrying out minimum 3 sorties per day and it also carrying out multi-mission operations with other aircraft. As per reliable sources, IAF pilots from other Squadrons were seen very much interested in checking out locally developed LCA-Tejas fighter jets.
Pilots of first Tejas Squadron largely coming from Mig-21 and Mirage-2000 background always had high praise for the smallest combat jet in the world and as the squadron expands with new aircraft deliveries, more pilots will be joining them soon.
Former Mirage-2000 Pilots have called Tejas much easier to land than Mirage and have also complemented its handling capabilities when flying in close formations. Next batch of Pilots joining in will be from Sukhoi-30MKI Squadrons which will allow free flow of ideas and tactics which can be used to make a formidable combination of LCA-Tejas and Sukhoi-30MKIs in various Air Interceptions Missions.
IAF is also exploring ways to make Sukhoi-30MKI aircrafts Mini tanker and Mini-AWACS for LCA-Tejas in their operations. With Buddy refueling pods, HAL and DRDO engineers are confident that air-to-air refueling between two aircraft is possible and will be demonstrated when LCA-Tejas is cleared for in-flight refueling.
During the exercise, 1100 aircraft will be flying three-four sorties in a day with the cumulative sorties reaching to the count of 3300 to 4400 in a day.
One of the highlights of the exercise, sources said, was the high serviceability levels of the aircraft during the period.
They said that the number of aircraft available during the exercise will be much higher than the stipulated targets, which has been made possible by support from DPSUs such as HAL, Bengaluru. HAL will depute 300 of its best technicians for the exercise.
The pan India synergised exercise will showcase the multi-spectrum capabilities, both offensive and defensive. The IAF will conduct all terrain operations- desert, high altitude, maritime scenarios and special operations- in the real time.