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Indian Air Force shows off heavy deployment capability in Ladakh with Operation Hercules

Indian Army T-90 tank. (cell105/WikiCommons)
November 23, 2021

The so-called Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the Himalayan border region between India and China continues to see military buildup from both sides. In the latest escalation, the Indian Armed Forces carried out a large-scale military drill to demonstrate India’s ability to deploy large numbers of troops to the wintery mountainous region.

India’s Financial Express reported the drill, codenamed “Operation Hercules,” saw Indian troops deploy near the LAC. The drill began on November 15 and is the second consecutive annual wintertime deployment, following a previous troop deployment in 2020.

After carrying out airborne combat maneuvers in Ladakh to showcase its rapid response capabilities, India further showcased its ability to provide logistical support to troops deployed in the remote area, in the midst of the ongoing border standoff with China, officials familiar with the deployment said.

The Indian Ministry of Defence said Operation Hercules was a drill organized by the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army. The drill came after two weeks of airborne drills carried out in eastern Ladakh, which was intended to showcase India’s capability to carry out rapid inter-theatre mobilizations of battalions to speedily capture targets and to deploy large weapons platforms such as artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) to key areas.

In this drill, the IAF sent their strategic airlift fleet consisting of Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft, Antonov An-32s tactical planes and C-130J Super Hercules. Many contingents of air force personnel were also involved in the exercise.

Operation Hercules was a showcase of real-time massive-scale deployment of the Indian Air Force’s heavy-lift capability aircraft and demonstrated the wartime ability to conduct operations at their peak potential,

India’s Defense Ministry said Operation Hercules showed the Indian Air Force can play an integral role in “ensuring the ability to quickly respond to any contingency” during any conflict scenario.

Indian Army paratroop regiments also serve as a cornerstone of recent Indian military exercises in Ladakh. Indian paratroop regiments conducted high-altitude combat maneuvers conducted in Ladakh, as well as high-altitude low-opening (HALO) and high-altitude high-opening (HAHO) parachute drops in treacherous Himalayan mountain conditions, demonstrating their capabilities in high altitude warfare.

During the exercise, a large number of soldiers were deployed into a drop zone at an altitude of more than 14,000 feet, with specialist high altitude operational vehicles with missile operative detachments. These assets were transported to the drill zone with help of C-130J special operations aircraft and Soviet-origin An-32 medium transport planes from five different mounting bases.