IAF practices a long range Special Forces deployment to Andamans - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 20 December 2011

IAF practices a long range Special Forces deployment to Andamans

The IAF's C-130J Hercules aircraft. The IAF will have 12 such aircraft, kitted for Special Forces operations.

Pasted below is the official PRO Defence account of the practice mission. It must be noted that this mission did not actually carry any Special Forces soldiers... it was more a test of mobilisation, preparation, navigation and tactical flight procedures. It is noteworthy that the 12-hour flight required no en-route refuelling!


New Delhi – December 20th , 2011

On Monday, 12 December 2011, IAF simulated a piracy contingency at Campbell Bay in Nicobar Islands (the furthermost Island territory of India) based on an intelligence input that an Indian merchant ship had been hijacked with hostages. The mission simulated launching of a Para Special Forces team into the objective area using C-130J as airborne platform.

Planning revealed that the objective was about 3500 Nautical Miles away. The route was via Kolkata and Port Blair to the simulated Drop Zone over Campbell Bay in Great Nicobar Islands. The round trip would require a staggering 12 hours of flying time.

The ground crew prepared the aircraft in the early hours of the Monday morning while the air crew finished pre flight briefing procedures. After the walk around at 0430 hours, the four mighty engines roared to life. The aircraft took off at 0500 hrs and the crew commenced the 3500 Nautical Miles trip. Despite encountering inclement weather over the Bay of Bengal, the crew flew C-130J to Campbell Bay in Great Nicobar Islands and achieved the planned objective. The aircraft returned to Air Force Station Hindon after a non-stop mission of 12 hours 03 minutes without refueling enroute. The simulated launch of long range special operation mission was successfully accomplished.


  1. Col. Shukla-

    Unfortunately PR's rather bombastic language now gets to me. "The four mighty engines roared to life". I mean, this is a plane that PAF has had for years.... We will never stop talking like this. Because we are like this wonly.

  2. Quite hard to believe they did it without a top-up from an IL-78MKI over Agra (still too much of a stretch) or Kalaikunda (possible).

    The open source listed range of the C-130J is ~ 2,900 nmi. Add 10% to that and still you fall short. This is not accounting for headwinds and reserve fuel.

    The DefPRO was as usual over-exuberant. I think he has turned a 'no landing enroute' to 'no refuelling'.

  3. The C-130 is not capable of a 12 hr flight without refueling. Please double check with your sources.

  4. @Heberian,
    All PRs do that be they be ours,the yanks,brits french or anyone else.

    Hear out Pak PRs and you may wonder whether you are listening to a report or verses from a holy text exhorting a religious war.

    PAF has C130B and Es.

    We have C130js,with new engines,flight controls ,avionics; a new generation air-craft.

    BTW did you know that PAF is prob the only air-force that lost 2 hercs without even getting them to the air!!!
    During engine tests one herc jumped th echicks and took out another herc parked nearby!!!


  5. Heberian, look at the mission profile and not the language. Picking on semantics as you are doing, and missing the point is typically indian...because we are like this wonly.

  6. I see c-130 twice from last couple of month over nagpur air base.

  7. Was there any payload? If there was, then this is great stuff

  8. Dear anons @ 22:48 & 22:52 -

    I am quite familiar with the PAF and missions profiles et al, without the need for Wikipedia.

    As for my observation being mere semantics, I disagree. If you pay close heed to a lot of stuff our PRO's from PSU's or the forces say, its usually bombastic and inflated and as if its something thats done for the first time. Do you remember the "India Shining" campaign from a few years back? What exactly is shining? Or, look at the our "namma metro" or the Sea Link in Bombay.. What are we thumping our chests about when even tiny countries like Malaysia just quitely go about setting up superior infrastructure as a matter of normal national development.. Lets not even look at how China matter of factly goes about developing infra... without chest thumping for every little bit of progress.

    As for other PRO's, none beats ours (perhaps except the Pakistanis and Iranians and the North Koreans and maybe some other tin-pot dictatorships) for sheer overstatement and over-embellishment. Look at the announcements abotu world beater products that DRDO keeps talking about... but where are they?

    So what if we have updated airframes and the latest engines... but "four mighty engines roared to life" is a wee bit too bombastic. Whats so special about the mission profile? Do you think at other airforces dont do long haul flights? Sweet lord. Why are you so touchy? Its just a normal long haul flight. In cockpits way more comfortable than even the Gajrajs. It might have been somewhat cool if there was an actual SF deployment excercise.

    Pride and nationalism is excellent, especially if you have actually served. Otherwise, its just hot air. Like we have been doing since independance with our NAM and bhai-bhai and such that no country gave a fart about.

    Pragmatism and doing more than talking is what we all should be doing...

  9. @All:

    Even after 5K+ hrs of military flying, I still feel that engines roar to life. Anything wrong about that?

    The ac did fly 12:03 on that route.I could show you the logbook, but then I'd have to kill you. :-)

  10. Dear Ajay Sir,
    Why didn't the planners include Mid Air Refueling by the Agra based Il-78 Midas. The operation time could have been brought down significantly.
    By the way Cheers to guys!! Practice Practice Practice.. reach perfection for best use of this platform for which the nation has invested.

  11. @Heberian 21 Dec, 09:01,

    The US forces have an entire media wing whose job is to facilitate the production of military related features, Hollywood movies, programs like 'future weapons' on discovery channel etc.

    There is a subtle and not so subtle element of propaganda at all times in these features.
    Just watch fox news!!The ways and methods differ,but PR, propaganda or whatever is carried out all the time by all forces and nations.

    Remember the saga of Jessica Lynch,how a simple handover by Iraqis was turned into some great rescue by US forces.

    Wiki is nice thing,look up James Richard Wilkinson.

    In fact we do not publicize where we can! There are lot of programs on Great campaigns of Seals or SAS in Afghanistan,Iraq and elsewhere or of great Armour battles.

    But,rarely if ever any Indian campaign is mentioned.All you hear is Israel,US,British.
    Some of the toughest missions have been performed by our forces in Siachen which make any conditions in say Afghanistan a picnic in comparison.We have had outstanding classic Armour battles between India and Pak,where superior weapons were defeated on the basis of sheer tactics by our forces.Yet, we never hear of them elsewhere.

    There are reams said on how brilliant Gulf war 1 and 2 were and how western forces cleverly bypassed Iraqi strong points to concentrate on Baghdad and Saddam stronghold to win a brilliant victory.

    Rarely is it acknowledged that this was perfected in modern times by the the Nazis in their Blitzkreigs and even rarer is an Indian example quoted.

    The 1971 war!
    We did exactly the same thing,used air power,cultivated locals,by-passed local strongholds and dashed straight to Dacca.
    End result,campaign ended in 14 days with total victory.

    Ultimately the PR guy is not bothered by what other do or not do,their job is to address their target citizens.

    It may sound wierd ,but in the India -Pak scenario it matters.
    In 1965 the Pak army actually believed that 1 pak soldier equaled 10 Indian soldiers.

    Its time we also build up a 'bad ass' ethos.No harm there!

  12. @ Viper -

    Yes, you are right. How much ever you fly, the feel of jet engines, especially combat a/c coming to life is something else. Absolutely. However, that feeling a pilot has when accelerating down the runway is not what I meant....

    What I mean was the PRO's statement that almost sounded like great pride in the C130s starting up.. as if if it was an indigenous a/c. I would have understood and supported a Tejas "roaring to life" and performing something spectacular leading to a quick IOC.. but not "pride" in the "roaring to life" of an a/c that anyone the US will sell to, can buy.

    Ah, good sir, the flight logs for a regular long haul flight that would have easily been tracked for a long time from the Cocos is not worth killing me for :) I am just an old, desktop warrior out for a few laughs over a nice stiff drink...

    To Anon @ 14:36 -

    At no point did I question the need for propaganda and effective portrayal of "bad-assness". In fact, my strong feeling and that of many serving and retired officers/ covert service folks is that we do not have proper and effective psy-ops and propaganda department. Most of the photos of our jawans end up looking like we are some ineffective force... whilst even the Pakistanis manage to portray that their forces actually look bad-ass most of the time.

    You may want to research about little video games available in our large neighbor to the east, where the good guys are awesome bad-ass Shaolin type PLA soldiers, and the bad ones are ethnic Tibetans/ Uighurs.. Yes, there are a lot of countries that spend a lot of time and effort in propaganda and instilling nationalism etc..

    As for Guderian's campaigns and the gulf wars.. I think one must distinguish things carefully while looking at the two together. The Gulf wars ( excluding the Iran-Iraq one) was something else, using a doctrine that is very different from ours.

    The lack of cool publicity (and the position of our Service Chiefs when compared to the IAS/ IPS Senior ranks) has mostly to do with our bureaucrats deep rooted and misdirected fear of a popular military.

    As for watching Fox News... well all I can say is, you should really think well about talking about it as if it were a serious news channel. Enough said about it.

    Coming to Wikipedia, well, :) not many would use Wikipedia as a trusted reference.. but then, each to his/ her own. Richard Wilkinson notwithstanding :) Very clever indeed.

    As for Pakistani's belief to the effectiveness ratio of their fighting men to ours... well it still holds amongst their ranks. Do try to get hold of a book called "India: A study in Profile" by Col. Javed Hassan (later a Lt. Gen) back in '90s. This wonderful and highly imaginative and really funny book is still required reading at Kakul.. you really have to read it to believe what they are taught.

    I do not agree that we need such unadulterated bull crap in our system.

    We need excellent PR/ propaganda/ psy-ops for sure.... not chest thumping about an a/c we PURCHASED and that can be PURCHASED by any country the USA will sell to. It is not something we can proudly talk cock about as if it were an indigenous (to whatever extent) product.

    Thats all I really meant.

    Peace, people, peace...before Col. Shukla chastises me for loong posts :) :)


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