In 2009, a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had approved the armed forces’ postulation of a possible simultaneous two-front conventional war with China and Pakistan. Four years later, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has become the first of the three armed forces to validate the two-front warfare doctrine.
All possible air battle scenarios in the event of a two-front war were visualised, simulated and acted upon, both in terms of offensive and defensive operations that not only took out strategic and tactical assets inside the enemy territory, but also defended India’s own critical assets, top IAF sources said. “Live Wire”, the massive exercise that took place over a fortnight between mid-March and early April, was the largest the IAF has ever undertaken, in terms of the number of aircraft, size and extent of operations and their significance with regard to the simultaneous threat posed by India’s neighbours on the West and North.
The key aspect of this new doctrine, according to the sources, was the use of “swing assets” of high-tech combat planes, transport aircraft, helicopters, apart from airborne radars and midair refuellers. There were 400 fighter planes, from the top- end Sukhois to the low-end MiG-21s, apart from over 250 transport planes and helicopters such as the newly inducted C-130J special operations planes, airborne AWACS radars, IL-78 air-to-air refuellers and the medium lift Mi-17V5s.
“Since the last major exercise ‘Gagan Shakti’ played out in 2006, the IAF has made a large number of inductions of modern planes, technologies and communication systems, including ones that facilitate hi-tech network centric operations,” sources said. “All operational bases of the IAF were activated in seven of its operational, training and maintenance commands covering the entire country.”