The Tejas was used during the exercise to check its efficiency in operations such as ground attack and other strike missions

NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force’s pan-India exercise Gagan Shakti-2018, for practising war-time drills witnessed the IAF pushing the limits of its every fighter aircraft, including the Tejas, which entailed conducting six sorties per day on all of them, totalling to about 9,000 sorties. For the Tejas, this is a good development as the IAF usually sticks to around three sorties per day on every Tejas.

However, the Tejas was not without problems and had developed snags during the exercise, top IAF officials said on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the IAF has expressed happiness with the performance of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and is looking towards faster production of them, explained the officials. This is significant as according to the reports, IAF has been critical of the operational capability of the Tejas, which also has several significant shortfalls.

A senior IAF official dealing with Gagan Shakti, which was conducted between April 8 and 22, explained that fighter aircraft, including the Tejas, Sukhoi-30 and MiG-29, undertook ‘surge operations’. These operations mean generating maximum number of sorties in a 24-hours cycle. “We have carried out our trials and we will be able to generate six sorties per Tejas per day for all the eight Tejas,” said the official, adding that these number of sorties were conducted on every Tejas during the exercise. The six sorties per day for the fighters was done on days when it didn’t have missions such as long distance.

The Tejas was used during the exercise to check its efficiency in operations such as ground attack and other strike missions. “We are happy with the performance of the Tejas and are looking forward to the faster production of them,” said another senior official.

The Tejas, however, also faced different types of snags during the exercise. “These were routine snags. But we were able to recover from the snags we encountered. They didn’t affect the operation of the Tejas,” said an official adding that the snags were not a nagging problem. The exercise was a major employment of the Tejas by the IAF, which conducted more than 11,000 sorties on over 1100 aircraft, including combat, transport and helicopters. Out of this, 9,000 sorties were conducted by fighter aircraft. “This was a peacetime exercise and we generated large number of sorties. During war, we will generate higher number of sorties than what we did during the exercise,” said an official.

This is the state despite the IAF having only 31 fighter squadrons when it needs 42 to tackle the collusive threat of Pakistan and China. It conducted offensive and defensive operations along both the western and eastern fronts. “We tried to maximise what we can do with our current capability,” said an official, adding that with more number of fighters the IAF’s capabilities will rise.

The IAF, earlier this month, had issued a Request for Information, stating its intent to procure 110 new fighters. Officials added that the high serviceability (80%) of the aircraft was possible during the exercise due to a dedicated maintenance team. “The Air Headquarters was also monitoring the situation and we had people checking from where spares can be made available. So we ensured that the aircraft serviceability didn’t go down,” explained an official. “The logistics stamina of the IAF and the ability to sustain continuous operations through day and night was put through a rigorous assessment,” said another official.