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IAF organises mass casualty air evacuation drill

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

The Indian Air Force (IAF), as part of its ongoing pan- India air-exercise ‘Gaganshakti’, on Friday conducted a mass casualty air evacuation drill in the heart of the city under the aegis of Eastern Air Command (EAC).

The air exercise began from Air Force Station Chabua in Assam to Netaji Subhash International Airport, Kolkata, and further on to Command Hospital (Eastern Command), Alipore, by road.

The Statesman had reported on 26 March that the IAF will carry out a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise as part of the pan-India exercise ‘Gaganshakti’ in the city in coordination with the Kolkata Police.

About 45 ‘bed-ridden’ dummy patients arrived at Kolkata yesterday by two Russian origin Antonov-32 aircraft of the IAF that landed around 12 a.m. in the airport.

With the medical teams already waiting, the patients were offloaded and after preliminary procedures, swiftly transferred to ambulances. Thereafter, the ambulances moved in a convoy to the Command Hospital through a ‘green corridor’ which had been prepared in coordination with the Kolkata Police.

The exercise ended around 2 a.m., said an IAF official. Air Vice Marshal RC Das, the principal medical officer, EAC, said: “This sort of an exercise serves as a practise for the ‘Air Warriors’ to prepare for a realtime war situation or natural calamities like earthquake where the road link is wrecked and transportation by other modes become non-functional.

The air route then remains the sole means of support and evacuation.” It was known that the distance of 25 km from the Kolkata airport to Command Hospital was covered in 40 minutes and the exercise went through as planned.

Various highranking officers of the IAF were involved to ensure flawless conduct of the exercise. According to IAF sources, with this demonstration, the IAF has proven its flexibility and quick response in carrying out mass casualty evacuations.

This capability could also be utilised by the IAF in case of HADR operations near the incident locations by landing on select roads or designated highways.

Meanwhile, Air Force Station Chabua witnessed operations by the Sukhoi- 30 MKI fighters, C-17 Globemaster aircraft and the Mi-17 V5 helicopters which demonstrated loading of rockets.

At Pasighat Advanced Landing Ground (ALG), an assault drill was performed by the IAF’s Garud commandoes who landed earlier by the C-17 Globemaster aircraft.

The North-East operation was witnessed by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who thereafter visited the ‘Air to Ground’ weapons range at Dullong Mukh, where the Sukhoi-30 aircraft performed precise and concentrated delivery of laser guided 1000 lbs bombs along with conventional 1000lbs and 100 kg bombs. The Mi-17 V5 helicopters fired 80 mm rockets on simulated targets.