President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister AK Antony and other dignitaries watched the awesome manoeuvers of the IAF's multiple platforms involving fighters, trainers, choppers and transport aircraft.
In his opening address, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne said, "Today's exercise with over 200 aircraft will give you an insight into IAFs operational strength." The air chief said that the IAF has progressed closed to execute seamless network-centric operation.
Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne's son, squadron leader Omar Browne, also performed a series of complicated manoeuvres at the show.
The exercise however wasn't flawless. India's frontline fighter, the Russian-made Su-30 MKI, failed on two occasions to hit the target. Last Tuesday, a Su-30 MKI had crashed at Phokran when preparing for the exercise. Both pilots had bailed out and are being treated now.
While it is normal practice to ground all aircraft after a crash till the reasons leading to the crash are established and rectified. The IAF didn't ground the Su-30 MKI, reportedly because the PM and President were to attend the show.
In what could be an keen indication of things to come, the indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft Tejas made its first appearance at a fire power demonstration yesterday. The Indigenously built light combat attack helicopter was also put on show. However, it wasn't part of the fire power demonstration.
The Indian Air Force showed off its firepower in the shadow of a raging defence purchase scandal over procurement of UK-made AgustaWestland choppers. AgustaWestland is a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica; its Chairman and CEO Giuseppe Orsi was arrested earlier this month.
With purchases like that of VVIP helicopters from Finmeccanica under a cloud with allegations of bribery and suspected involvement of a former Chief of Air Staff, the government is looking at drastically reducing weapons purchases from abroad and looking at indigenously built products. It is also considering withdrawing the existing privileges from the Defence Public Sector units and instead allowing the Indian private sector to step in. In such a situation, weapon systems like the Tejas and Indian made attack helicopters are likely to see much more of use by the Indian military.
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