By Prashant Sood, Halwara (Punjab), Sep 20 IANS | 12 months ago

The placid, green grasslands at an Indian Air Force (IAF) firing range here, about 140 km from the Pakistan border, reverberated with the sound of explosions Friday as supersonic fighters staged bombing runs to practice for penetrative action into "enemy territory."


Fighters, including the Su-30 MKI, MIG 21 Bison and Jaguar conducted targeted sorties at the Suddhwan Khas range near Halwara in Punjab's Ludhiana district as part of the "Eklavaya" exercise of the IAF's Western Air Command.

"This is the way you are going to do it tomorrow. That's what we are trying to inculcate," Group Captain Ajhoy Koul, the chief umpire of the two-week exercise that concluded Friday, told IANS.

The effort was to "improve the marksmanship of the pilots", he added.

Though another officer said the exercise was an annual affair, the current edition was held amid tensions across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir due to increasing ceasefire violations by Pakistan.

"This shows we are always prepared and ready," the officer, who did not want to be quoted, said.

He said the exercise was geared towards maintaining operational preparedness.

"Such exercises are done to check the art of weapon delivery in an operational environment, whether it is in high altitude of Ladakh, semi-urban areas like Ludhiana or the desert conditions of Jaisalmer," the officer said.

Apart from keeping an eye on the target, the pilots had to be alert against an adversary's aircraft and missiles.

Flares were shot in the direction of an approaching aircraft to test if its pilot was able to detect them. A range safety officer kept an eye on the accuracy of the pilots.

"The idea is to increase the degree of difficulty and seek more tactical actions from pilots," the officer said.

Piltos deputed for the exercise were given marks according to their level of dexterity in hitting their targets.

Around 100 fighter jets from various squadrons under Western Air Command took part in the exercise, which had team and individual events.

Halwara was one pf the main launch bases for offensive action against Pakistan during the 1965 war. It also saw action during the 1971 war. The airfield was initially built as a small forward airstrip by the Royal Air Force in 1942.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at prashant.s@ians.in)

(Posted on 20-09-2013)