Alerted IAF holds Massive Combat Exercise TALON



NEW DELHI: IAF‘s western command, mostly facing  Pakistan 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 defense” in the entire stretch from J&K to Rajasthan, said defense sources on Monday.

Though the four-day war-games are largely defensive in nature, with combat air patrols and PAD-GD (passive air defense and ground defense) 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 practicing 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 synergies 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, as was earlier reported by TOI.

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, defense 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.

The combat drills will see different types of fighters – from Sukhoi-30MKIs and Mirage-2000s to Jaguars and MiG-29s as well as force-multipliers like mid-air refuellers and AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) – take to the skies.

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”.”All personnel have been told to be available at short notice.” Said a source