Even as India continue to explore various options, including military, to avenge the Pulwama terror attack which was carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group, Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a mega exercise close to the international border.
Two days after the terror attack, IAF showcased its firepower at Pokhran, Rajasthan in the presence of Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa and batting great Sachin Tendulkar.
Named Vayu Shakti 2019, the day and night exercise conducted on Saturday involved around 140 fighter jets and attack helicopters.
Tendulkar, who is an honorary group captain, admired the prowess of the IAF. Defence attaches of several countries and top officials of defence ministry also witnessed the exercise.
Proud feeling to witness the might of our Air Force. It is an honour to be present among the bravehearts who lay their lives on the line to defend India and protect us from our enemies! #VayuShakti2019 https://t.co/BLlYLhKTqG— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) February 16, 2019
On Thursday, in one of the worst-ever terrorist attacks in India, a JeM suicide bomber blew up an explosive-laden vehicle near a CRPF convoy on Thursday, killing at least 40 personnel.
More than 2,500 CRPF personnel, many of them returning from leave to rejoin duty in the Valley, were traveling in the convoy of 78 vehicles when they were ambushed in the Srinagar-Jammu highway around 3.15 pm.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said security forces have been given full freedom to retaliate against the attack. India has also said it will ensure "complete isolation" of Pakistan internationally for its support to terror groups.
Top IAF sources said though the Vayu Shakti was planned in advance, the drill was a demonstration of the force's capability to hit targets with "pinpoint accuracy" and carry out missions at short notice.
"While wars are fought few and far between, we have an ever-present sub-conventional threat as the enemy knows it cannot defeat us in a conventional conflict," the IAF chief said, in a clear reference to Pakistan.
"So, today we showcase our ability to punish, our ability to insert and extricate troops from hostile territories," Dhanoa added.
In the Vayu Shakti exercise, the IAF showcased firepower capability of indigenously-developed platforms like Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and efficacy of Akash surface-to-air missile and Astra air-to-air missile.
The IAF also deployed the upgraded MiG-29 fighter jet in an air-to-ground role during the exercise. A total of 137 aircraft including Su-30s, Mirage 2000s, Jaguars, Mig-21 Bison, Mig-27, Mig-29, IL78, Hercules, AN-32 aircraft participated.
(With Agency inputs)