New Delhi: IAF’s premier operational command along the western front has gone on a high alert with a major exercise across all its 18 airbases and other installations from Srinagar to Bikaner, which comes amid heightened tensions with Pakistan in the aftermath of the terror attack on the Army camp in Uri.
The primary objective of “Exercise Talon” involving the crucial Western Air Command (WAC) is to “improve operational preparedness and air defence” in the entire stretch from J&K to Rajasthan, said defence sources on Monday.
Though the four-day war-games are largely defensive in nature, with combat air patrols and PAD-GD (passive air defence and ground defence) operations, it’s significant that WAC had conducted a similar Talon exercise just about a week before the terror attack on the Uri Army camp on September 18.
Repeating the intensive manoeuvres within the same month is highly unusual, said sources, adding that it showed that IAF was leaving nothing to chance at a time when Pakistan’s F-16s and other fighters have been taking to the skies on a regular basis across the border, apart from practising landing on highways.
The Indian Army, of course, has been refining different contingency plans in conjunction with the IAF after the Uri attack to further synergise the integrated air-land fighting machinery, even as the force has also steadily upgraded its “readiness” all along the 778 km line of control with additional troops, “forward movement” of ammunition and fuel dumps and the like.
There have also been a flurry of top-level military meetings over the last one week among the different top commanders as well as detailed presentations+ to PM Narendra Modi, defence minister Manohar Parrikar and national security advisor Ajit Doval in the military operations directorate in South Block.
While WAC chief Air Marshal S B Deo has been visiting the different airbases under his command, chiefs of the Army’s South-Western Command (Jaipur), Western Command (Chandimandir) and Northern Command (Udhampur) too have been reviewing their areas of responsibility.
Western Command chief Lt-General Surinder Singh, for instance, visited the Jammu-Pathankot region over the weekend to direct his commanders to “maintain a high order of operational preparedness and alertness”.
Said a source, “All personnel have been told to be available at short notice.”
As for the Talon exercise underway till September 30, IAF also continues to deploy Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or spy drones to maintain “a constant surveillance” over all airbases ranging from Srinagar, Leh, Thoise, Awantipur to Ambala, Amritsar, Halwara and Nal.
“The exercise also involves camouflaging runways, moving aircraft to their blast pens and deploying decoys to prevent or minimize losses during enemy attacks. IAF’s automated air defence network with a wide variety of radars and date links or the IACCS (integrated air command and control system) is also on a high alert,” said a source.