Pokhran: Pokhran, in Rajasthan, witnessed the Indian Air Force’s combat and fire prowess when ‘Iron Fist’, one of the biggest exercises conducted by the IAF, was conducted on Friday. (Aldrich)
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister AK Antony and other dignitaries watched the awesome manoeuvers of the IAF’s multiple platforms involving fighters, trainers, choppers and transport aircraft.
In his opening address, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne said, “Today’s exercise with over 200 aircraft will give you an insight into IAFs operational strength.” The air chief said that the IAF has progressed closed to execute seamless network-centric operation.
Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne’s son, squadron leader Omar Browne, also performed a series of complicated manoeuvres at the show.
The exercise however wasn’t flawless. India’s frontline fighter, the Russian-made Su-30 MKI, failed on two occasions to hit the target. Last Tuesday, a Su-30 MKI had crashed at Phokran when preparing for the exercise. Both pilots had bailed out and are being treated now.
While it is normal practice to ground all aircrafts after a crash till the reasons leading to the crash are established and rectified. The IAF didn’t ground the Su-30 MKI, reportedly because the PM and President were to attend the show.
Around 230 frontline fighter aircraft including Sukhoi-30, Mirage 2000, Jaguar, MiG-27, MiG-21, MiG-29, attack helicopters, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and high-tech AWACS displayed their potential in the show. The prestigious indigenous project – Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’ – also made an appearance for the first time.
The Indian Air Force showed off its firepower in the shadow of a raging defence purchase scandal over procurement of UK-made AgustaWestland choppers. AgustaWestland is a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica; its Chairman and CEO Giuseppe Orsi was arrested earlier this month.
With the chopper deal under the CBI scanner and a former air chief facing accusation of kickbacks, the force badly needed an image booster and the Air Force ensured it put its best foot forward at the show.