The air force is getting ready to test its war-waging machinery in a large-scale exercise, which will combine the synergy of its cutting-edge fighter platforms and force multipliers such as airborne warning and control system (AWACS) and mid-air refuelers.
The Western Air Command, responsible for launching offensive and defensive operations, will coordinate the maneouvres codenamed Gauntlet.
In a shift from the traditional architecture of exercises, fighter pilots will fly missions under AWACS control producing superior air prowess, air force sources said.
The Israel-supplied Phalcon AWACS inducted last year will perform missions such as fighter control, navigational assistance, weather surveillance and early warning of enemy actions.
India has forked out more than R5,000 crore for three AWACS. It is one of the newest platforms in the force saddled with 50 per cent obsolete equipment. WAC chief Air Marshal N.A.K. Browne refused to share details but said the maneouvres will be far more complex than previous exercises.
Gauntlet, which gets underway soon, will see the IAF building on experiences drawn from the Abhyas exercises conducted over the last two years.
Air Force vice chief Air Marshal P.K. Barbora said Gauntlet will feature the most potent platforms and systems drawn from various major bases.
The exercises assume significance against the backdrop of Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s comments about India’s neighbours building military capabilities at a feverish pace and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik describing the security situation in the neighbourhood as volcanic. However, the IAF insists that Gauntlet is intended for building capabilities and is not adversary-specific.