Need for More Joint Exercises

Inter-service training in war-like scenario helps in better coordination and preparation

Smruti Deshpande

In order to ensure preparedness and interoperability, Indian forces undertake joint exercises regularly, undergoing military training at home and abroad. While participation with friendly foreign forces has a diplomatic hue, it also helps the forces learn simple and complex manoeuvres as well as exchange tactics. The army, navy and the air force also undertake domestic joint exercises among themselves in order to reach precision while carrying out tough operations while gaining a degree of trust and confidence.

Domestic inter-service exercises are of utmost importance for a country’s armed forces to put forward a robust front in case of a war or conflict scenario. This demands minute coordination and knowledge of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In today’s day and age, where technology takes precedence, building interoperability when it comes to military platforms is a must.

In Kargil in 1999 during Op Safed Sagar, the air force played an important role that gave the army an edge while operating from the ground. The IAF not only undertook reconnaissance missions of enemy posts by sending Canberra aircraft to the Batalik sector, it later mounted attacks on the infiltrators without crossing the line of control. While there was considerable pressure from outside the IAF to operate only attack helicopters, the then Chief of Air Staff Anil Yashwant Tipnis convinced the government that to create a suitable environment for helicopters, fighter action was required. This was the first time air power was employed in such terrain and environment where the aircraft were required to fly at an altitude higher than 6,000 metres.


Gagan Strike

The Army’s Kharga Corps and the air force conducted a joint exercise, Gagan Strike, in Punjab in September this year. The exercise, conducted over four days, comprised the deployment of attack helicopters as the aerial arm in support of ground forces, which were practicing annihilation of enemy defences and deep penetration. The exercise showcased precision firepower of attack helicopters in coordination with mechanised columns on the ground.

It validated the Apache 64E and Advanced Light Helicopter WSI as potent weapons delivery platforms. “The force multiplier effect of combining these machines with ground operations has enhanced the forces’ combat superiority,” the army had said. The exercise was spearheaded by Kharga Corps GOC Lt Gen. Pratik Sharma with General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, Lt Gen. Nav K Khanduri witnessing the exercise.


Exercise Prasthan

Prasthan, an offshore security exercise, was conducted in the Offshore Development Area (ODA) off Mumbai in March 2022. Conducted every six months, this exercise is an important element to ensure offshore security and aims to integrate the efforts of all maritime stakeholders involved in offshore defence.

The one-of-a-kind exercise led by the Navy, it saw participation from the IAF, Coast Guard, ONGC, Mumbai Port Trust, Jawahar Lal Nehru Port Trust, Customs, state fisheries department, Mercantile Marine Department and the Marine Police.

The day-long exercise resulted in refining standard operating procedures and response actions to several contingencies in the ODA off Mumbai. Contingencies such as terrorist intrusion, bomb explosion, casualty evacuation, search and rescue, man overboard, major fire, oil spill and mass evacuation were exercised.


Bull Strike

The armed forces in November 2020 conducted a joint tri-service exercise, Bull Strike, at Teressa Island in the Nicobar group of islands located close to the strategic Strait of Malacca. The exercise was conducted by the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) from November 3 to 5 involving the three service components of the ANC, elements of the Army’s Parachute Brigade, Navy commandos MARCOS and special forces.

The exercise was carried out to validate and rehearse operational plans and contingencies in a realistic tactical setting under the overall command and control of the ANC. The major training activities comprised combat free fall and para drop from strategic lift aircraft C-130 by a company of para commandos from the mainland, action by MARCOS and special heliborne operations by the Army Ghatak Platoons, the Army said. Troops were mobilised for amphibious landing, in close coordination with the para drop of special forces, it said.


Exercise HimVijay

Exercise HimVijay was conducted in two phases in October 2019 to validate the operational capabilities of combat formations. The Indian Army conducted a massive, rare exercise involving all its arms and services, including tanks, artillery and helicopters in Eastern Ladakh bordering China, for testing and improving its war-fighting capabilities. Integrated Battle Groups (IBG) involving 15,000 troops participated in this exercise. These IBGs were backed by tanks and artillery for operations in the mountains. Each IBG consisted of about 5,000 troops. The IAF airlifted troops to areas located over 10,000 feet.


Exercise Shatrujeet

The Indian Army conducted an airborne exercise to validate a brigade’s rapid response capability in Rajasthan’s desert sector. The exercise saw joint planning and integration of the army and the air force. The exercise involved dropping of paratroopers and combat heavy loads, including vehicle-mounted anti-tank and air defence missile detachments over a designated target area from C-130J and AN-32 aircraft. It was 72-hours of intense integrated battle drills involving mechanised forces demonstrating clockwise precision and seamless integration between the two forces.

The Indian Army held Chakravyuh-II in 2016 to validate battle readiness and operational effectiveness of the pivot formation and rapid division in Suratgarh. The exercise involved rapid mobilisation and execution of battle plans in conjunction with the air force. The exercise aimed at validating the battle readiness and operational effectiveness of the pivot formation and rapid division of the army along with all its affiliated components.


Exercise Chang Thang

Exercise Chang Thang was conducted at a high-altitude area in the region in 2019. The Indian Army conducted a massive, rare exercise involving all its arms and services, including tanks, artillery and helicopters in eastern Ladakh bordering China, for testing and improving its war-fighting capabilities. It involved the use of infantry, mechanised forces, T-72 tanks, with force multipliers such as artillery guns and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The army’s aviation assets were used. Para jumping of troops also took place. The air force was also a part of this exercise.


Exercise Gandiv Vijay

The Indian Army carried out Exercise Gandiv Vijay in Mahajan field firing ranges near Suratgarh in Rajasthan in 2018. The Chetak Corps of the South Western Command of the army carried out the exercise with the aim to train commanders and soldiers in their offensive tasks. Thousands of troops from the corps took part in the exercise along with a huge array of weapons and equipment. The exercise was based on the central role of carrying out offensive operations through joint air-land battles in a network-centric environment employing modern intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance concepts and equipment. Mechanised forces, infantry, artillery, engineers, and elements of special forces (SF) and the air force participated in the exercise.



A large-scale tri-service joint amphibious exercise AMPHEX–21 was conducted in the Andaman & Nicobar group of islands in January 2021. The exercise involved the participation of naval ships, amphibious troops of the army and different types of aircraft of the air force.

The exercise was aimed at validating India’s capabilities to safeguard the territorial integrity of its island territories. It also sought to enhance operational synergy and joint warfighting capabilities among the three services. The exercise involved multi-faceted maritime operations by synergised employment of amphibious assault ships, surveillance platforms, execution of maritime air strikes and complex manoeuvres at sea. Airborne insertion of marine commandos of the navy and special forces of the army, naval gunfire support, the amphibious landing of forces and follow-on operations also formed part of the exercise.

Exercise Kavach for the defence of Andaman & Nicobar Islands formed a part of AMPHEX-21. A joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance exercise was also run concurrently to achieve maritime domain awareness by the employment of a multitude of sensors.


Exercise Paschim Lehar

Another joint maritime exercise, Paschim Lehar (XPL-2022), was conducted by the Indian Navy off the west coast in January 2022. The exercise was conducted over a duration of 20 days to validate operational plans of the Western Naval Command and enhance inter-service synergy among the Indian Navy, IAF, the Indian Army and the Coast Guard.

The IAF deployed SU-30 MKI and Jaguar maritime strike aircraft, Flight Refuelling Aircraft and AWACs, alongside the Indian Navy’s maritime reconnaissance aircraft P8i, Dorniers, IL 38 SD, unmanned aerial systems and MiG 29K strike aircraft. Various elements of the Indian Army, including air defence batteries, were also mobilised for the exercise. After a long gap, many OPVs, FPVs and Air Cushion Vessels of the Coast Guard also participated in exercise Paschim Lehar. The intra-theatre exercise included mobilisation and participation of over 40 ships and submarines of the Indian Navy.

A variety of weapon firings in a realistic tactical scenario, besides validation of operational missions and tasks under varying settings, were undertaken during the exercise. The exercise provided all participating forces an opportunity to operate together under realistic conditions in responding to contemporary maritime challenges, across the areas of the western command’s responsibility.


Helicopter Exercise

In December 2021, a tri-service was carried out in Kashmir. The Army’s Srinagar-based Chinar Corps conducted this exercise that included training and validation exercises in the higher, snow-bound reaches of the Valley. Heli-drop exercise included full transportation, armed helicopters from the army and air force at over 9,000 feet. The exercise was planned to validate the joint capability to insert a task force tactically behind enemy lines in an intense air defence and electronic warfare operating environment. The heli-dropped task force operated in snow-clad regions at heights over 9,000 feet. It included troops from the infantry, special forces and the MARCOS from the Navy. This tri-service exercise aimed to insert a task force tactically behind enemy lines in an intense air-defence and electronic warfare operating environment.



Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (TROPEX-21), albeit a naval exercise, saw participation from both the army and the air force at unit levels in January and February 2021. The Navy’s largest war game, with the participation of all its operational units as well as those of the army, air force and the Coast Guard, included the weapon work-up phase and the tactical scenario phase.

The Navy in a statement said the weapon work-up phase of TROPEX, which witnessed multiple on-target ordnance deliveries, including missiles, torpedoes and rockets from front-line warships, aircraft and submarines, demonstrated the lethal firepower of the navy and reaffirmed its capability to carry out long-range maritime strikes in the Indian Ocean Region, a capability that is central to meeting the operational challenges and ensuring safe seas and secure coasts.

Combat free fall and para drop from strategic lift aircraft C-130 by a company of para commandos from the mainland, action by MARCOS and special heliborne operations by Army Ghatak platoons was carried out. Troops were mobilised for amphibious landing in close coordination with the para drop of special forces. The exercise was conducted over a vast geographical expanse in the Indian Ocean Region, including its adjunct waters.

Apart from the joint exercises, the army and air force have undertaken exercises at an individual level as well. Drad Sankalp and Megh Prahar among others have been some exercises undertaken by the army in recent years. The air force performed exercises such as the Vayu Shakti and Gagan Shakti, both on massive levels a few years back. The new edition of Vayu Shakti, a triennial exercise, which was to happen early this year was postponed.



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