The evacuation of 121 Indians from Wadi Seidna, north of Khartoum in Sudan, in the middle of the night by an Indian Air Force (IAF) C-130J Super Hercules has been widely praised.
The Sudan rescue mission, Operation Kaveri, is an illustration of why the mentality and training that goes into the special operations of the Indian Air Force personnel should not be diminished.
Points to Ponder:
An Indian Air Force (IAF) C-130J Super Hercules was used to evacuate 121 Indians from Wadi Seidna, north of Khartoum in Sudan.
The IAF’s press release understates the enormous work completed on the night of April 27-28, but it is a subtle congratulations to the personnel involved.
The C-130J is a superb capability enabler that was a foresighted purchase by the IAF and national leadership at the turn of the century, given the nation’s expanding prominence and responsibilities.
The essay discusses the advancement of special operations capacity and what should be kept in mind when it is further enhanced.
The ‘Kandahar’ incident of December 24, 1999, when an Indian Airlines flight IC-814 was hijacked and landed in Afghanistan, resulting in the release of dreaded terrorists, could not have been rescued by India like the famous Israeli rescue at Entebbe, Uganda in July 1976, due to two major impediments: the presence of Pakistan, whose territory could not have been overflown, and the lack of IAF aircraft capable of carrying out a risky mission avoiding
The IAF’s procurement of C-130J and C-17 Globemaster heavy-lift aircraft has provided India with special operations capacity if the political leadership chooses to intervene in such a crucial scenario involving national interests and reputation.
Before the Sudan rescue, two earlier such missions were publicly known: the evacuation of Indian Embassy workers from Herat, Afghanistan, in April 2020, and the evacuation from Kabul on August 20, 2021.
The aircrew selection and specific training, as well as their professionalism and heroism, must be commended.
During the Sudan rescue, intelligence was poor and the runway was rough with no landing aids, but the crew had top-of-the-line onboard aircraft instrumentation such as synthetic runway generation on the head-up display, electro-optical night vision capability, night vision goggles, and, course, great confidence in their ability to pull it off.
Special missions entail far more than stick and throttle manoeuvres, night vision goggles, and nights. Every participant in such a mission carries the weight of a nation’s prestige on his shoulders.
Even enlisted men on the front lines have a strategic impact on a nation’s policies, and institutional training should reflect this.
The botched hostage rescue effort by Americans from Iran in 1980, as well as the image of Gary Powers in USSR prison after his U-2 was shot down in 1960, are memories of the US’s loss of face, but the murder of Osama bin Laden in a special forces mission gave the US honours.
Every operation requires a non-military intangible element that a young officer or corporal far removed from his base must complete.
The leadership must guarantee that the mindset and training of the IAF’s special operations crew are not compromised by the temptation of using the flexible C-130s for regular jobs and VIP transport.