THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The IAF’s Southern Air Command (SAC) has mobilised its aircraft and personnel in full strength as part of Gagan Shakthi-2018 which is now underway. Gagan Shakti is the biggest nation-wide air exercise undertaken by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in recent times. The SAC, which has jurisdiction over the western and eastern seaboards, is trying out its maritime warfighting concepts under the exercise. After the initial phase which focused on targets in the western seaboard, the focus is now shifting to the east right up to the Malacca Straits, SAC officials said here on Thursday.
“Air dominance, over the entire extended area of the Indian Ocean region in support of the navy is being demonstrated by employment of combat enablers like the FRA (Flight Refuelling Aircraft) in conjunction with our maritime fighter forces of the Su-30 and Jaguar class carrying potent long-distance anti-shipping weaponry,” a defence spokesperson said on Thursday.
The exercise, which began on April 8, is on till April 24. The SAC has flown missions in the initial phase to address both near and in-depth targets over the western seaboard utilising Su-30 and Jaguar fighter aircraft equipped with the Brahmos and Harpoon anti-ship missiles respectively. The Su-30 aircraft has also showcased its strategic reach by operating from the easternmost air bases on the peninsula and engaging maritime targets well out into the western seaboard with the support of air-to-air refuelling.
With the focus shifting to the eastern seaboard, the full complement of maritime assets would now operate from bases in the southern peninsula and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. “Extensive missions would be flown by the Su-30 and Jaguar in conjunction with the Indian Navy P-8i MR aircraft using long-range weapons to refine and practice offensive and defensive tactics against maritime targets,” the spokesperson said.