The Indian Air Force (IAF) airlifted a record 463 tonnes of material using 16 fixed-wing aircraft from Chandigarh and dropped at airfields and drop zones in Ladakh region on Tuesday. Termed as Exercise Bahubali, the 'Rapid Airlift Capability' of the Indian Air Force was evaluated. The operation was conducted by the Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force. The 16 aircraft included seven C-17 Globemaster transport planes, while the rest were Ilyushin-76 Gajraj and AN-32 aircraft. The entire operation was completed in less than 6 hours. The exercise to airlift approximately 500 tonnes of cargo in a single wave was undertaken to assess the capability of the force towards rapid and heavy airlift.
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, reported the Hindustan Times. The IAF generally moves about 3,000 tonnes a month, however, during Exercise Bahubali, the IAF moved nearly 540 tonnes in just six hours, a senior defence ministry official not authorised to speak to media said to explain the significance of the exercise.
The exercise involved 16 fixed-wing transport aircraft comprising C-17 Globemaster, the Ilyushin-76 Gajraj and the medium-lift tactical aircraft, Antonov-32. All aircraft were loaded and took off from Chandigarh airbase early in the morning. The entire wave (all aircraft taking flight in one go) was accomplished in little less than six hours. The heavy aircraft, including the 7 Globemasters, landed at the Leh Air Force Station in Ladakh, which is located at 10,700 feet from the sea level. The smaller AN-32 planes were used for drops in the forward areas of the region.
Air Marshall NJS Dhillon, SASO of Western Air Command, said, "Rapid air mobility is a key component of modern warfare. This assumes greater significance in short and intense wars. This is very true in India's context, especially when related to air mobility to airfields in the Ladakh region." The operation was conducted under the command of Dhillon.
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.