A very significant and contemporary concept of ‘Flexi Airspace’ was the foundation of this exercise. The IAF and the Airport Authority of India (AAI) jointly shared the airspace by means of close coordination so that a smooth flow of traffic was maintained without causing disruption to scheduled flights. This was the first time that coordination of civil-military traffic for simultaneous air activity took place at such large scale.
During the exercise, state of the art aircraft such as Mirage-2000 that took off from Thiruvananthapuram and Dundigal, Su-30s from some forward bases in Gujarat and Northwestern Rajasthan and Jaguars from Arakkonam, simulated friendly and hostile forces over long aerial ranges covering the length and breadth of the country using Air to Air Refuelling facilities and off-base operations. Operational tactics were formulated to cater to contemporary threat scenario involving Beyond Visual Range (BVR) weaponry, state of the art avionics laden combat aircraft and far reaching Air Defence Weapons. Other aircraft that took part in the associated logistical support were the mammoth IL-76, the workhorse AN-32 and ubiquitous Mi-8 helicopters. Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) were also used in the exercise.
An important aspect of integration during this exercise was the role of Indian Navy and Coast Guard in pooling in its resources and infrastructure at various places like Vizag, Goa, Mangalore, Arakkonam and Kochi to smoothen the process of ‘Inter-operability’ that led to better conduct of joint operations. Navy and Coast Guard provided search and rescue ships right up to Lakshadweep & Minicoy area. Airfields and support services were thrown open to use by the Airport Authority of India that regulated the incessant airline traffic across the southern skies. Indian Army facilitated communication networking and troops for exercise apart from utilising Air Defence Artillery guarding a high value target against air raids. Air Force troops also took part in this action with their MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defence Systems).
In addition to this, a satellite was manoeuvred to cover the specified targets on ground and send high resolution imagery for analysis before and after the attack. It was supplemented by the UAV that took photographs and sent it to SAC Ops Room.
DAKSHIN PRAHAR thus proved to be the trail blazer as an ‘Integrated Civil-Military’ operational exercise that has now operationalised the so far militarily dormant southern peninsular airspace. The synergetic effort of tri-service cooperation with integration of AAI vindicated the theory of achieving grand success of pursuing a common objective through teamwork and combined effort. With the success of DAKSHIN PRAHAR, a new chapter of joint civil-military sharing of airspace, airfields, radars and professional expertise has begun.