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Gagan Shakti 2018: Indian Air Force exercises put Sukhoi Su-30 fighters from east coast in operations over Arabian Sea

It will now focus on working with the Indian Navy on dominance drills over the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

Gagan Shakti 2018: Indian Air Force exercises put Sukhoi Su-30 fighters from east coast in operations over Arabian Sea
IAF Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fifth generation fighter aircraft (pictured representationally) were used on the opposite seaboard from where they were based. (Picture: IAF)

NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force has said it has successfully carried out a whole range of operations that confirm its ability to hold air dominance over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The operations had been part of Gagan Shakti 2018, the biennial full-preparedness drill of the Air Force.

Gagan Shakti 2018 is being held nationwide by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The exercise began on April 8, and will end on April 22. Even as the IAF affirmed to itself its ability to exert aerial dominance, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa visited the northern and western sectors to take stock of progress in these regions. 

The marine operations saw the IAF's Sukhoi Su-30 MKI and Sepecat Jaguar take part in missions that showed off the capability of using fighter jets of the Air Force from either coast for maritime operations on the opposite side. In the first phase of testing out the Air Force's ability to work together with the Indian Navy (IN) to ensure dominance of both the airspace and surface over the seas, operations were carried out over the western seaboard.

"Missions have been flown in the initial phase to address both near and in depth targets over the Western Sea Board utilising Su-30 and Jaguar fighter aircraft equipped with the potent Brahmos and Harpoon Anti-Ship missiles respectively," read a post by the IAF on the operations.

The Air Force also said it had underscored its wide range of options by using Su-30 fighters from air bases closer to the eastern coast for operations over the Arabian Sea. "The Su-30 ac (aircraft) has also showcased its strategic reach by operating from the eastern most air bases on the peninsula and engaging maritime targets well out into the western seaboard with support of AAR (air-to-air refuelling)," read a post by the IAF.

The maritime component of the Gagan Shakti 2018 exercises will now shift to the second phase, where the IAF will conduct operations with the Navy over the Bay of Bengal. "… the focus has now shifted in Phase-II to addressing targets over the Eastern Sea Board right up to the Malacca Straits. The full compliment (sic) of Maritime Assets would now operate from bases in the Southern peninsula and Andaman & Nicobar islands," the post said on what is to come.

The IAF Su-30s and Jaguars will also fly operations with the Navy's Poseidon P8I, which is an anti-submarine warfare and maritime early warning surveillance specialist.

"Such demonstrations of extended reach utilizing potent standoff weapons in Joint coordinated Operations with the IN has adequately show cased the IAF ability to support the IN in order to dominate the IOR and effectively address any misadventure by an adversary in our area of interest," IAF said.

Gagan Shakti is a set of exercises held once every two years to test out the operating procedures and doctrines of the IAF, and also to as a training scenario for a multi-front war.