Exercise Vayu Shakti 2024 to Showcase IAF’s Combat, Fire, Operational Capabilities

Indian Air Force

New Delhi: Indian Air Force’s biggest combat exercise Vayu Shakti 2024 will be held in Pokhran, Rajasthan later this month on February 17, 2024. Making its debut, Rafale fighter jet will showcase its power while firing MICA missiles in the Indian sky during the exercise. The exercise Vayu Shakti is the biggest fire power demo exercise of the IAF which has been going on since 1954. The last edition of exercise Vayu Shakti was held on February 16, 2019.

“All frontline aircraft, including the Rafale fighter jets and Prachand attack choppers, would be taking part in Exercise Vayu Shakti. We would also be airlifting Army guns in the exercise,” Vice Chief Air Marshal AP Singh, IAF said. Briefing the media persons ahead of the drill, he said that more than 100 aircraft are taking part in the air power exercise held once in three years. These include a total of 77 fighter jets including Rafale, Tejas, Sukhoi, MiG-29, Mirage 200 and Jaguar and 41 helicopters, three types of surface-to-air missiles, 12 UAVs, air-to-ground missiles, etc.

During Exercise Vayu Shakti-2024, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will display its full spectrum of combat and fire capabilities in a “near-realistic scenario” at the Pokhran firing range in Rajasthan on February 17, Vice Chief Air Marshal AP Singh said.

The theme of air power exercise Vayu Shakti 2024 is Thunderbolt Strike from the Sky (Nabhas Vajra Prahar) in which UAVs will also be in support roles.

Speaking to media, Air Marshal Singh said, “We plan to conduct Exercise Vayu Shakti to showcase the full spectrum of operations that Indian aerospace power can take on. In two hours, we would be dropping around 40-50 tonnes of ordnance in a one to two-kilometre radius.” The exercise will be for 2 hours and 15 minutes during the day, at dusk and night, he said. The exercise will also showcase joint operations with the Indian Army, officials said. Precision and non-precision missiles, air-to-air guided missiles and surface-to-air guided missiles will also be displayed. Also five military transport aircraft will participate in the exercise.

According to the IAF, during the exercise the indigenous LCA Tejas fighter jet will fire air-to-air missile R-73. Apart from this, indigenous Akash and Samar missile systems will also show their strength. For the first time, Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, Apache attack helicopters from the US based Boeing Company and indigenous Rudra helicopters of the Army will also be seen firing. IAF’s integrated air command and control system (IACCS) will be the backbone of the exercise. During the exercise, the army’s M777 ultra-light howitzers will be seen. Chinook helicopters can carry these 155 mm/39-caliber howitzers, which have a range of up to 30 km, as underslung loads for swift deployment.

“Exercise Vayu Shakti will be a demonstration of the IAF’s capability to deliver weapons with long range, precision capability as well as conventional weapon accurately, on time and with devastating effect, while operating from multiple air bases,” the IAF said. Special operations by the IAF transport and helicopter fleets, involving the Garuds and Indian Army elements will also be on display, it added.

Air Bases like Jodhpur, Phalodi, Nal, Jaisalmer, Hindon and Agra will remain fully active during Vayu Shakti exercise. During this period, 500-600 air warriors will be present in Pokhran. Apart from the Air Force Chief, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be present during this show of power by the IAF. And most likely Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also be there.