70 aircraft to feature at air force’s firepower demonstration Sunday

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) It’s an exercise that has been rarely attempted anywhere in the world but come Sunday, some 70 aircraft will be seen in action as the Indian Air Force (IAF) conducts a massive firepower demonstration (FPD) in three parts – during the day, at dusk and at night.

‘As far as I know, such an exercise has rarely been attempted anywhere in the world but we are doing it to prove not only our robustness as a strategic air power but also to live up to our motto of ‘Touching the sky with glory’,’ IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Naik, told reporters about ‘Vayu Shakti-2010’ being conducted at the sprawling Pokhran ranges in Rajasthan.

‘The FPD will also demonstrate that we can operate in any environment and unlike in the past, darkness is not an impediment,’ he said, of the event where President Pratibha Patil, the supreme commander of the armed forces, will be the chief guest.

The FPD, Naik said, ‘is a collective display of skills and accuracy in weapons delivery at the end of their training year. The exercise also aids commanders and planners to get better insights into the potential and deployment capabilities of aerial weapons’.

‘Some 70 aircraft will feature during the demonstration while another 30 will be on standby,’ Naik said. Among those on view will be frontline combat jets like the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, the Mirage-2000, the Jaguar and the MiG-29, as also the Mig-21, the Embraer, Il-76 and AN-32 transports and the Mi-35 and Mi-17 1V attack helicopters.

‘There is an increasing role for helicopters in sub-conventional warfare and we will demonstrate what we are capable of,’ the IAF chief said, hastening to add that he wasn’t suggesting the deployment of airpower in the ongoing operations against the Maoists in different parts of the country.

For the first time, the IAF’s newly-acquired airborne warning and control system (AWACS) will be used to monitor the mammoth exercise, while an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will stream live video images of targets being destroyed.

Radar sites, tanks, rail marshalling yards, terrorist camps, runways, infantry combat vehicles, and convoys will be some of the targets that IAF pilots will seek to destroy.

‘And, because we believe in jointmanship, the army’s Special Forces, the navy’s MARCOS (marine commandos) and our own Garuds (commandos) will be para-dropped together,’ Naik pointed out.

Defence attaches of over 100 countries – including Pakistan – posted in New Delhi have been invited for the event, which will also be attended by Defence Minister A.K. Antony and the three service chiefs, besides senior officers of the armed forces.

Interspersed between the FPD will be performances by the Suryakiran aerobatic team, the Sarang helicopter aerobatic team and the Akash Ganga team of paratroopers.

The IAF will also be generating a live feed of the FDP, shot from four strategically positioned cameras to whichever Indian or foreign TV channel that wishes to air it.

‘We want to get into Indian homes to tell our citizens what we are capable of,’ Naik pointed out.

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