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IAF’s Iron Fist exercise put off amidst tensions with China in eastern Ladakh

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New Delhi, Mar 28: A crucial exercise, Iron Fist will not be held this year in the backdrop of the Indian Air Force's operations in the Ladakh sector owing to the heightened tensions with China.

 IAF’s Iron Fist exercise put off amidst tensions with China in eastern Ladakh

The exercise that is held every three years was supposed to be held at Rajasthan's Pokhrantest facility this month. However it has been removed from the training schedule for the current year, a HT report said.

The decision was taken to conserve flying hours and equipment owing to the continuous deployment of the IAF in eastern Ladakh. The Iron Fist is an important exercise to showcase the IAF's might and what it is capable of.

The Centre had earlier this week informed Parliament that number of pilots in the Indian Air Force at present is 3,834 as against the sanctioned strength of 4,239.

The Indian Air Force has a shortage of 405 pilots against the authorised strength, the government told Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik said the number of pilots in the Indian Air Force at present is 3,834 as against the sanctioned strength of 4,239.

"There is a shortage of 405 pilots (as on March 1) in the IAF," he said, replying to a question.

He said 260 aircraft are being used for training pilots in the force.

The trainer aircraft in the IAF included Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II, Kiran MkI/IA and Hawk Mk-132 advanced jet trainer.

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To a separate question on whether India can counter China effectively with hypersonic vehicles, the minister declined to answer saying the information sought is highly sensitive and classified.

"The information sought is highly sensitive and classified and cannot be divulged on the floor of the House," he said in his written reply.

Replying to another question, Naik said 1,98,881 dwelling units were planned for construction through the Married Accommodation Project route and 57,875 units were already built under phase one of the project.

He said 69,904 units were planned to be built under phase two of the project out of which construction of 58,062 units was completed.

Naik said there was a plan to construct 71,102 units under phase three of the project but an in-principle decision has been taken to construct further married accommodation through the Annual Major Works Programme route.

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