posted on Jan, 31 2005 @ 04:15 AM
Exercise Cope India 04 was an Air Force level exercise between the USAF and the Indian Air Force (IAF) and marked a beginning of a new chapter in
Indo-US bilateral relations. This was the first opportunity since 1963, for USAF fighters to operate from Indian soil
The exercise brought together leading fighter combat aircraft and aircrew and ground crew of both air forces. The USAF flew in F-15Cs, while the IAF
was represented by Mirage 2000, Su-30K, MiG-27s and MiG-21 (upgraded). The meeting ground provided a strong foundation and deep understanding towards
developing a new relationship between the IAF and USAF for the future. Not only was the exercise a gathering of hi-tech, state of the art aircraft and
systems of both air forces, but also proved to be an excellent meeting ground for the personnel of the two air forces to understand each other.
Despite such a vast difference in culture and traditions, there was complete synergy and understanding of minds, and of concepts in the air and on the
ground. The mutual respect and bonhomie that developed between members of the two sides have cemented a firm foundation for moving ahead towards
Planning for the exercise commenced during the IPC (Initial Planning Conference) at the Air HQ at New Delhi in the last week of Sep 2003. Various
modalities for the smooth conduct of the exercise were chalked out during the IPC. Col Greg Neubeck, a senior F-15 pilot with flying experience of
over 3000 hrs, led the USAF delegation. Sgt Mike Boden in-charge of administration helped to work out modalities concerning security and admin
aspects. Once the IPC was conducted, a broad outline for planning was set into motion.
All aspects relating to operations, maintenance and administration were finalised and put in place during the discussions which took place
subsequently between the two teams. Exchange visits by the participants of the two air forces took place. A team of Indian pilots, fighter
controllers, ATCOs and AFSOs visited the US Air Force Base in Alaska. Likewise, a USAF team visited India to familiarise and acquaint themselves with
the procedures followed by IAF
AF Stn Gwalior, the host IAF airbase began preparations for the exercise in true earnest, almost three months prior to the Exercise. The Chief of Air
Staff made a visit during the first week of February 2004, to check the arrangements for the Exercise. The operating complex of 7 Sqn “THE BATTLE
AXES”, which was the host Sqn, was further built up to accommodate USAF personnel and reflected itself as a model Indian Air Force Sqn.
By the first week of Feb 04, Gwalior Air Force Base was all geared up for the exercise. The first transport support aircraft of USAF, a C-5 Galaxy,
arrived in the evening hours of 12th Feb 04. This was followed by a few more trips and the entire ground support facilities were in place by 14 Feb
04. The first two F-15 fighters, from the 19th Fighter Sqn “GAMECOCKS”, arrived at Gwalior on 14 Feb. The next four F-15 were delayed due to
technical reasons and arrived in the afternoon of 19 Feb 04.
The exercise began on 16 Feb, with the USAF pilots being familiarized with the airfield and local procedures and also of the diversionary airfields.
USAF pilots got a chance to see the Taj Mahal at Agra and the mighty Himalayas from the air and they were visibly impressed by both.
Flying activity picked up pace in the next few days and missions went through as planned. The Americans soon became familiar with the famous Indian
culture, hospitality and especially spicy Indian food, which was well appreciated. The growing friendship between the two teams was clearly visible by
the fact that the airmen of both air forces were soon playing volleyball and football matches together during their spare time. The Americans showed a
lot of interest in learning cricket and likewise the Indians in learning baseball!!
Flying activity continued at a brisk pace during the second week with large package missions being flown, which required lengthy briefing and even
more exhaustive debriefs. Many thought provoking ideas and lessons emerged from these missions.
Besides flying activity, there was considerable social interaction during the fortnight. Welcome Cocktails at both Officers Mess and SNCOs Mess was
organised on 16th Feb, so as to break the ice. This was followed by a “Roll - Call” on Friday evening, the 20th of Feb. This “Roll -Call”
requires a special mention, as this was an interaction which set the grounds for strong bonds of friendship between members of both teams.
Interaction with the media was planned on the 25th Feb. The press were impressed on seeing the launch and recovery of a large number of combat
aircraft participating in the exercises. A static display of all participating aircraft was planned during the day. Commanding Officers’ of all the
units and a few participants exchanged their views with the media.
On 26th Feb, various presentations and lectures on a wide variety of aviation-related topics took place. The team exchanged their past experiences on
various operational, admin and maintenance aspects of both air forces.
A farewell dinner was organised on the evening of 26 February, with the Americans getting a short glimpse of Indian tradition and culture during a
brief cultural programme put up by a local group from Gwalior city. Mementos and pleasantries were exchanged during the dinner.
The USAF fighters ferried back on 27th morning at 1100 hrs. The transport support followed soon after and the IAF bid farewell to all USAF
The exercise provided a stepping-stone to a new beginning in Indo-US military and bi-lateral ties. It provided a firm foundation for enhancing mutual
operational understanding, and set the basis for future co-operation between the two air forces. Although this was the first meeting ground between
the two air forces in a truly operational air combat environment, all initial hesitations vanished from Day One. The relationships which developed
were indeed, excellent. A healthy professional respect was noticed on both sides in the air and on the ground.
When questioned on the capabilities of IAF pilots, Col Greg Newbech, USAF Team Leader made the following remarks: -
- What we’ve seen in the last two weeks is, the IAF can stand toe-to-toe with best AF in the world.
- I pity the pilot who has to face the IAF and chances the day to underestimate him; because he won’t be going home.
- Indian hospitality from everyone has been truly overwhelming.
- The greatest compliment we heard from an IAF pilot – You American pilots are just like us, simply down to earth people.
- We depart India with great respect for the Indian Air Force. Your pilots, maint and support crew are exceptional professionals.
/24/2004 - GWALIOR AIR FORCE STATION, India (AFPN) -- Residents who live in the nearby city of Gwalior are accustomed to the sounds of fighter-jet
operations -- the noise of takeoff, landings and sonic booms. But the roar of U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle aircraft in the sky above this north central
Indian air force station is something completely new.
The Eagles and about 130 U.S. airmen are in India supporting Cope India ‘04 through Feb. 25, the first bilateral dissimilar air combat training
exercise held between U.S. and Indian air forces in more than 40 years.
Following two days of familiarization flights, the F-15s joined the Indian SU-30K Flanker, Mirage 2000, MIG-29 Fulcrum, MIG-27 Flogger and MIG-21
Bison aircraft in a series of offensive counter-air and defensive counter-air engagements.
Each engagement series lasts about 30 minutes over the nearby training range, and two series are scheduled each flying day, said Capt. Mark Snowden,
U.S. exercise project officer. During nearly all these simulated combat sorties, the F-15s protect ground targets against advancing Indian aircraft --
the two will swap roles during one series.
Combined pre- and post-flight briefings set the stage and evaluate the scoring for each engagement. “The U.S. Air Force has never flown with or
against the SU-30 Flanker before, so that aspect of this … exercise is completely new for us. All the U.S. aircrew members are excited about the
opportunity,” Captain Snowden said. “In the past, many of these aircraft were considered ‘enemies,’ so it’s very encouraging and positive to
fly with them as partners.” More than anyone here, Captain Snowden has interacted the most with the Indian airmen during Cope India. The planning
began in September 2003 and continued for several months.
“They are very curious, as we are, about this chance to fly together,” he said. “We’ve found that by and large their procedures are similar to
ours, but the names and exact details may be a bit different.” One challenge for U.S. airmen interacting with the Russain-made Mikoyan-Gurevich and
Sukhoi aircraft is that those aircraft use metric measurements. But careful exercise planning and the first set of familiarization flights led to safe
aircraft maneuvering during the engagement series.
Another challenge for U.S. crewmembers is the subtle language differences. Although all the Indian airmen participating in the exercise speak fluent
English, their speech is quicker, and the musical quality of their voices is something American ears here must quickly adjust to, officials said.
“We’ve agreed to use U.S. communication terms during radio calls throughout the air engagements since the Indian air force will be participating
in Cooperative Cope Thunder exercise later this year,” Captain Snowden said. The Indian airmen plan to take fighter, tanker and airlift aircraft
plus a man-portable air-defense team and ground controllers to the annual multilateral exercise in Alaska run by Pacific Air Forces.
Gwalior AFS is the hub of the Indian air force’s operational training and testing and often plays host to national-level exercises. The station
includes the only Indian air force electronic warfare range, which is being used for Cope India sorties. Station Commander Air Commodore SP Rajguru
said he is pleased at the first week’s flying operations. “The exchanges are very, very frank, both on the work side and otherwise,” he said.
“The United States Air Force is a very modern air force and has global experience of flying and exercising with many countries in the world. So
obviously any fighter pilot would like to interact closely to understand their operating philosophy.” Col. Greg Neubeck, U.S. Air Force commander
for the exercise, was quick to return the compliment.
“The (Indian) pilots are as aggressive as our pilots. They are excellent aviators; they work very hard at mission planning; they try to get as much
out of a mission or sortie as possible, just like us,” he said. “From one fighter pilot to another, there’s really not that much difference in
how we prepare for a mission and what we want to get out of it.” While the U.S. airmen are very curious about the Indian aircraft, the same goes for
the local interest in the F-15. Between sorties, U.S. airmen give operations and maintenance tours of the aircraft and answer questions from their