IAF moves tanks, carriers in display of its airlift prowess

Source: Hindustan Times.

Early last Friday when C-17 Globemasters — the strategic heavy-lift transport aircraft — of the Indian Air Force dipped down mountain peaks and came into land in Leh Airport as a part of Exercise Bahubali, they had a secret load inside their belly – tanks and armoured personnel carriers for rapid troop movements.

Ability to move men and material at a short notice to reinforce Ladakh that shares a long and disputed boundary with China would be a game changer. At another level, Exercise Bahubali also demonstrates India’s ability to rapidly moving troops and equipment over long distances to respond to sudden developments in the Indo-Pacific region. Queries of the Hindustan Times to the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army went unanswered.

The IAF generally moves about 3,000 tonne a month, however, during Exercise Bahubali, the IAF moved nearly 540 tonne in just six hours, a senior defence ministry official not authorised to speak to media said to explain the significance of the exercise.

“In a span of six hours, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army moved enough number of tanks, men and spares deep inside Ladakh that can help change the shape of the battlefield,” said a senior defence ministry who is not authorised to speak to the media.

“Rapid air mobility is a key component of modern warfare. This assumes greater significance in short and intense wars,” Air Marshall NJS Dhillon, senior air staff officer of Western Air Command was quoted saying in a press note issued by IAF later.

The IAF deployed eight US C-17 Globe Masters, around four Russian made IL-76 – both heavy lift aircraft – and another four Russian made medium-lift aircraft: AN-32. The strategic heavy lift aircraft, which are under the command of the Air Headquarters, were deployed with the Western Air Command.

The ability to swing resources, for instance, heavy lift assets or fighter jets and deploy them from one sector to another is a reason cited by IAF against theatre command. “We are not against more integration, integration has to happen at the national level,” Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanao said in Jodhpur, where IAF and Russian Air Force are exercising jointly.

“The fighters you see flying here can be refuelled and deployed in Siachen Glacier or along the northern borders, “but if you tie them down” to a certain geography or a theatre it will hamper our operational edge.”

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