From Strength to Strength

IAF exercises in 2018 involved many firsts

Yunus Dar

The Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2018 held crucial multinational exercises with global powers as India continued its efforts to strengthen its ties with other nations. Apart from multinational and bilateral exercises with other countries, the IAF conducted ground-breaking exercise Gagan Shakti to assess its war preparedness, which was unprecedented in scale and scope. Here is an overview of the exercises the IAF carried out in 2018.

Participating IAF pilots with their RAAF counterparts during Ex Pitch Black 2018


Exercise Pitch Black 2018

Exercise Pitch Black, a biennial multinational large force employment warfare exercise, hosted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) from 24 July to 18 August 2018 in Darwin, Australia, was the largest ever this year. This was the first time that the IAF participated with air assets in the Exercise Pitch Black (PB-18); earlier it had participated in the exercise as observers.

The objectives for the exercise were to foster a closer relationship between the participating friendly forces and to promote interoperability through the exchange of knowledge and experience. The aim for participating crew and specialist observers was to expose them to op environment in international scenarios. The exercise comprised two phases, the first being the Force Integration week. During the Force Integration week, the forces flew basic missions with an aim to get to the same working platform.

The IAF undertook simulated air combat exercises in near-realistic environment and exchanged best practices towards enhancing its operational capability. The IAF contingent consisted of 145 air-warriors, including IAF Commandos team, Garuds, four Su-30 MKIs, one C-130 and one C-17 for logistic support for induction and de-induction.

In a variety of day and night time operations undertaken by the IAF during the drill, for the first time, Su-30 MKI carried out air-to-air refuelling with KC-30A of RAAF. The KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport is a modified Airbus A330 airliner used by RAAF to conduct air-to-air refuelling and provide strategic airlift.

The C-130J undertook assault operations of dropping specialist vehicles in Dalmare and participated in Large Force Engagement missions.

With the participation of 16 nations and more than 140 aircraft, the current edition was the largest Pitch Black ever conducted by Australia. The Exercise allows participant nations to exercise deployed units in the tasking, planning and execution of offensive counter-air and offensive air support in one of the largest training airspace areas in the world – Bradshaw Field Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range.


Cope India 2018

Exercise Cope India 2018 was the fourth edition in the series of bilateral joint exercises held between the IAF and the United States Air Force (USAF), which is conducted in India. For the first time, the exercise was held at two air force bases, Air Station Kalaikunda and Air Station Arjan Singh (Panagarh), from 3 to 14 December 2018. The USAF participated with 12 F15C/D Eagle fighters and three C-130s, while the IAF participated with the Su-30 MKI, Jaguar, Mirage 2000, C-130J & AWACS aircraft.

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