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The experiences of 2 modern Air Forces learning together has been very important. AVM Chris Harper, COS Ops summed up the Exercise; “We exercised as opposing and collaborative forces. The idea was also to figure out how to do business in an unsafe world. The characteristics of the Indian fighter pilots, their professionalism, drive and patriotism are first class; a magnificent Air Force that reminds me of our own ethos in the RAF
Hi guys ... no images this time ... but a bit of a debrief on Ex Indradhanush between the Royal and Indian Air Force which ended yesterday in Gwalior (fighters) and Agra (tankers and AWACS).
A couple of points ...
As is now customary, the Indian Air Force was at great pains to explain that the exercises were about training, joint formations and lessons learned and not so much about who scored more hits. This has to do with the attitude of being gracious hosts and not wanting to stir up a controversy. The Royal Air Force, on the other hand, were perfectly candid on the outcome of the exercises. This was refreshing and a sign of their professionalism in handling media.
The fact of the matter was that the RAF's Tornados were overwhelmed in the exercises by the presence of the Su-30 MKI, the Bison and the tactics of the Indian Air Force. To quote Air Commodore Julian Stinton, "The Indian Air Force did very well, thank you very much."
Answering specific questions on the role and performace of the Su-30 MKI in these exercises, the Air Commodore added, "the RAF pilots who flew the Su-30 came back with a silly smile on their faces." When asked about whether the Su-30MKI vs Tornado match up was unfair, the Air Commodore who I interviewed extensively had this to say about the MKI: "This is a third straight or fourth generation fighter behind me ... absolutely wonderful piece of kit ... I would love to fly it ... that (pointing to Tornado) is a maginificent warplane ... its 1980s technology ... If you want to put this in Star Wars terms, that is a Battle Station and this is an X Wing fighter." "In the dog fight arena, there was no comparison."
This isn't to say that the British Tornados didn't have their share of kills. Referring to BVR engagements, the Air Commodore said "In the BVR arena, if there was a trap, then there was a trap."
Now some specifics:
* The two sides used notional missiles which had ranges of 20 miles and 18 miles.
* British Tornados flying mixed formations with Indian jets communicated information which they were picking up on their data links.
* Several systems on the Tornados and the Sukhoi remained classified.
* IAF Su-30 pilots did not reveal the ECM or ECCM characteristics of the radar.
* Air to air refuelling was used in the large force engagement exercises which were conducted in an airspace of 120 km by 60 km and involved 4 vs 4 engagements.
*The British referred to the exercises as an immense success.
* The Tornado pilots were by and large far more experienced than their IAF counterparts. Some of the pilots had flown 4000 hours plus.
Thats all I can remember right now.
Associate Editor (Defence)
A few more points which come to mind ...
1. The E3 flown by the Brits was far more advanced that the E3 flown in by the Americans for Kalaikunda. That E3 went duff and had to be flown back for repairs.
2. Even this E3 had problems tracking the Bison ... and yes, the Bison did score hits against the Tornados ... I am not sure of the formations they were flying in.
3. Please remember, asking questions on self protection jammers ... radar frequencies ... missile ranges etc ... makes any Air Force guy clam up ... particularly when they see me. Also, I CANNOT reveal everything I know ... that would be a breach of trust. And honestly, when it comes to a lot of the very technical stuff ... many of you already know more than I do ...
4. These media trips are day long affairs ... we board a horrid An-32 in the morning ... and return in the evening ... after losing 75 per cent of our hearing. During the time we are in Gwalior or wherever... there is a media briefing and a meal where senior officers do come and talk freely. However, this is when DDM strikes ... so any question I ask about ECCM characteristics of the Kopyo are interrupted by `what is a datalink?' or `Sir, the Tandoori chicken at Kalaikunda last year was very good' or to the British officers `I like your uniform'
In scenarios like this ... I think it best to tag along ... meet my old Air Force contacts ... enjoy a good meal ... learn what I can ... and gaze at fast jets ... and also, while at Gwalior, look out for the Mirage 2000 twin which I flew on ...
Don't get me wrong ... I don't mean to be a snob ... I love my fellow defence beat reporters ... they are the nicest bunch of guys around ... and when it comes to corruption in defence deals ... they are streets ahead of me in discovering and reporting it.
After my F-18 and Harrier sortie this year ... I am the present joke on the beat ... "Have you heard ... Tyagi and Prakash are fighting over Som because they are desperately short of pilots." I sometimes wish they were.