Exercise Iron Fist 2016
IAF successfully conducted Exercise Iron Fist 2016 combat drills on March 18.Twitter/SpokespersonMoD

The Indian Air Force's (IAF) long-awaited Exercise Iron Fist 2016 was successfully conducted at the Air Force Firing Range, Pokhran, in Rajasthan's Thar desert March 18.

The event was witnessed by the country's commander-in-chief, President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other dignitaries.

The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, noted how the force was gaining an upperhand in network-centric warfare (NCW) power after several new aircraft were inducted into its fold.

Raha also told the distinguished audience that the modernisation process will give "unprecedented operational advantage" in the future and predicted that the future conflicts will see all the three wings of the armed forces working in tandem, Mathrubhumi reported. He also hoped that there will be more joint training between the armed forces.

The massive exercise that included both a day and night components saw over 180 aircraft from the IAF inventory, which included fighters, transport and helicopters, in action and some firing missiles as well. 

The event witnessed some stellar show of acrobatics from India's frontline air-superiority fighter, Su-30 MKI, as well as the Astra firing beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAMs) — the first time the public saw it live.

The LCA Tejas, the indigenous multi-role fighter aircraft, was seen firing R-73, a short-range air-to-air missile, and Griffin missiles. Another first was the showcasing of the Akash missile system's firing capabilities.

The event comprised six packages, according to the press release from the ministry of defence, which are:

Fly Past: This package saw yesteryear's IAF aircraft and its latest acquisitions flying wing to wing. A MiG-27 aircraft was seen flying with the Exercise "Iron Fist" banner, then followed by MiG-29 aircraft. The flypast also saw Tigermoth vintage aircraft, MiG-21 Bison, MiG-27 Upgrade, MiG-29 and the Su-30.

Net Enabled Operations: This segment saw indigenously-developed Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C), colloquially known as DRDO AEW&CS and Phalcon AWACS flying past. This was followed by synchronised multiple aircraft weapon delivery demonstration of precision based bombing by Mirage-2000, Su-30, MiG-27 Upgrade aircraft and the Jaguar.

[READ: Watch Exercise Iron Fist 2016 live: See IAF's Su-30 MKI, LCA Tejas and 180-odd aircraft fire missiles and weapons]

Air Defence Operations: IAF showcased its multi-layered Air Defence Operations, starting with a flypast by the Flight Refuelling aircraft (IL-78 FRA) with two Su-30 aircraft and LCA Tejas.

The LCA Tejas showcased its swing role attack capability as it delivered a Laser Guided Bomb (LGB) and fired an air-to-air missile.

This package also included soldiers firing an IGLA shoulder-fired missile system, and the OSA-AK missiles successfully taking down airborne targets.

The audience also witnessed simulation of a Combat Search and Rescue operation from Mi-35, Mi-25 and Mi-17V5 helicopters.

Combat Support Operations: This component showed how the ground forces also play an important role in the successful completion of an operation. The IAF also displayed the C-130 J aircraft's assault landing capability as well as Mi-17V5 helicopter's fighting capability.

Flying Displays: This segment saw aerobatic displays by the Sarangs, the Suryakirans and the Su-30.

All Weather Operations: The second segment of the exercise comprised the night operations of the IAF. The IAF soldiers were seen performing "Search light," Slithering Operations and Combat Free-Fall. Combat Free-Fall showcased how when required, the IAF can insert its troops in enemy territory without detection.

The segment also saw firing of Akash Missile system to neutralise any enemy air threat. The C-130J and an An-32 aircraft were seen dispensing their flares to tackle incoming heat seeking missiles. Also, an upgraded MiG-27 was seen showcasing its firepower.

The event also saw over 22 types of platforms and Weapons systems being showcased, which included Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), HAL LCH, An-32, Embraer, IL-76, IL-78, attack helicopters(Mi-25, Mi-35).

Exercise Iron First 2016 was broadcast live on DD National.