New Delhi :The ongoing training exercise Gagan Shakti of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has demonstrated that it can put out double the number of fighter aircraft in combat compared to the Pakistan Air Force, should the situation arise.
As per the IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, IAF has achieved unprecedented serviceability levels of 80 per cent for its fighter aircraft during the exercise.
In an exclusive conversation with The Indian Express, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said that “full credit goes to our engineers that we have built up the serviceability of fighter aircraft to 80%, compared to a target of 75%, and a dispatch reliability of more than 95% during Gagan Shakti exercise”.
Considering the vintage of its aircraft and problems with availability of spares, IAF has struggled to maintain high serviceability levels, i.e, have a greater number of its fighter aircraft available for operations. Dispatch reliability is the IAF’s ability to make airborne the number of serviceable aircraft, a figure which has been lower during peace time.
Top IAF sources told The Indian Express that these numbers were significant as they demonstrated IAF’s capability to “overwhelm the Pakistan Air Force by bringing double their number of fighter aircraft in combat, and that too with significantly higher throw weight”.
At 70% serviceability for its 371 fighter jets, Pakistan Air Force is estimated to be able to bring approximately 260 aircraft into combat but they have lesser stamina and capability than their IAF counterparts.
As far as China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is concerned, sources said the IAF had shown its ability to observe the PLAAF from dispersed locations, thereby reducing the probability of it being hit by Chinese missile strikes. Sources, however, conceded that PLAAF has an overwhelming superiority in the number of fighter aircraft and its ability to employ them is constrained only by the geography of Tibet.
The IAF currently has 31 fighter squadrons against an authorisation of 42 squadrons. Sources conceded that this shortfall remains a criticality because these high serviceability and dispatch reliability levels have been achieved after eight months of sustained effort. It would be tough for IAF to replicate these numbers, if it is asked to go into combat on very short notice. Most analysts believe that the most likely future military conflict involving India would be a short war at very short notice. To kick off the IAF from peace locations and provide overwhelming superiority in such a scenario, it would need a much larger number of fighter squadrons.
Exercise Gagan Shakti has also shown that the IAF can do long-range sorties where fighter aircraft taking off from bases in southern and western India can reach targets 3,000 km away, say inside Tibet. But sources added a note of caution about the reach of long range trans-theatre flying due to low availability of mid-air refuellers.
Sources said that Exercise Gagan Shakti was not about learning tactical lessons but focused on checking logistics stamina to build up and sustain the high serviceability levels. This physically validates the operating time and effort taken to rotate the fighter aircraft after it has made one sortie, fired all its weapons and turn them out again after loading them fully.
As per Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa, “This has happened due to support of the defence ministry and because of close cooperation with public sector units such as HAL and BEL. I have said it at the recent Defence Expo in Chennai and personally thanked HAL Chairperson Dr T Suvarna Raju for the tremendous support HAL has given for the buildup of this serviceability.”
Threats to US would mean Iran’s end, warns Trump
Washington: US President Donald Trump has asked Iran “never to threaten” the US and warned Tehran that if it wants a fight, it would be “the official end” of the Islamic nation.
“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump tweeted.
His tweets appeared to be a considerable shift in tone from the President’s brief remarks at the White House on May 16, when he responded “I hope not” after being asked whether the US and Iran were headed toward war, The Washington Post reported.
The White House has not officially responded to Trump’s tweets.
Trump issued his threat a few hours after the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said on Sunday that Iran does not fear a war but the US does, reports Efe news.
Salami said in a speech at a military ceremony broadcast on state-run Iranian TV that Tehran was not seeking war but did not fear it either, in contrast to the US, which is afraid of war and does not have the willpower to engage in one.
He also warned that the entire Middle East could become “a powder keg” for Washington.
Last week, the US decided to deploy to the Persian Gulf the amphibious assault ship USS Arlington, Patriot missiles, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and assorted warplanes, including bombers, after claiming that it had detected unspecified “indications” of Iranian plans to attack US forces in the Middle East.
In recent weeks, concern has been increasing that National Security Adviser John Bolton, a long-time hawk on Iran who was instrumental in instigating the invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush, might be working to edge the administration closer to some kind of military action against Tehran.
Last year, prior to bringing Bolton into the administration as one of his top advisers, Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal. More recently, Trump has tightened economic sanctions against the Tehran regime and his administration says it has built up the US military presence in the region.
White House unveils 1st part of Middle East peace plan
Washington: The White House has unveiled the first part of its Middle East peace proposal, which is being deemed as an economic “workshop” to encourage investing capital in the West Bank, Gaza, and the region, a senior administration official told CNN.
The White House announced on Sunday that the workshop will take place in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25 and 26, bringing together finance ministers with global and regional business leaders.
The effort is being headed by Jared Kushner, the senior White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, who have spent years developing the proposal along with the much stickier political component, which officials said would be announced later in the year.
Kushner told CNN that “people are letting their grandfathers’ conflict destroy their children’s futures. This will present an exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward that does not currently exist”.
The senior administration official said that the plan will discuss four major components: infrastructure; industry; empowering and investing in people; and governance reforms “to make the area as investible as possible”.
The economic plan will also include a “combination of grant money, low interest loans and then also private capital”, the official said.
The workshop however, will avoid political issues such as whether the Palestinians will get their own state; the status of Jerusalem; measures Israel takes in the name of security; and what should happen with Palestinians and their descendants who fled or were expelled from Israel around the time of the state’s creation in 1948, he added.
Finance ministers, but not foreign ministers, will be invited along with delegations of business leaders.
However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told CNN that the plan was “futile”.
“Any economic plan without political horizons will lead nowhere… Palestinians will not accept any proposals which do not include a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
The decision on whether or not Palestinians would attend the workshop would be made by the leadership of Abbas, Abu Rudeineh said, adding that when a similar meeting was held in Washington in March 2018 to discuss ways of improving the economic and humanitarian situation facing Gazans, the Palestinians had chosen to stay away.
Tourist bus near Egypt’s Gaza pyramids hit with bomb; injures 17
Cairo: A roadside bomb hit a tourist bus near the Giza Pyramids, wounding at least 17 people including tourists, Egyptian officials said. The officials said the bus was travelling on a road close to the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located adjacent to the Giza Pyramids but is not yet open to tourists.
The bus was carrying at least 25 people mostly from South Africa, officials added. The attack comes as Egypt’s vital tourism industry is showing signs of recovery after years in the doldrums because of the political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Hosni Mubarak.
The officials said security forces cordoned off the site of the explosion and the wounded were taken to a nearby hospital. The explosion damaged a windshield of another car, they said. Footage circulated online shows shattered windows of the bus.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief media. Atif Moftah, general supervisor of the Grand Egyptian Museum, said the explosion did not cause any damage to the museum, in a statement issued by the antiquities ministry.
No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. It is the second to target foreign tourists near the famed pyramids in less than six months.
In December, a bus carrying 15 Vietnamese tourists was hit by a roadside bomb, killing at least three of them.
Egypt has battled Islamic militants for years in the Sinai Peninsula in an insurgency that has occasionally spilled over to the mainland, hitting minority Christians or tourists. The insurgency gained strength after the 2013 military overthrow of the country’s first freely elected president, an Islamist whose brief rule sparked mass protests.
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