IAF fighter pilots will showcase skills

NEW DELHI: India on Monday joined a multinational air exercise in the U.S. — a major event in the cold war era — with a complement of Sukhoi-30 frontline fighter aircraft and mid-air refuellers.

Originally a cold war ‘war game’ in which the U.S. Air Force (USAF) defended its territory against an ‘hostile enemy’ comprising its military allies, the ambit of ‘Red Flag’ was widened to include Washington’s recent partners in the ‘war against terrorism.’

The Red Flag exercise has several versions including a full blown one in which the Indian Air Force (IAF) was recently included as an observer. This particular version has US’ allies from two different theatres joining India.

The IAF had applied last year to the government for permission to participate in the Red Flag version, where it will be the aggressor against a USAF strike force comprising of F-15 and F-16 fighters. Besides the IAF complement, the ‘blue’ forces, or the defenders in the war gaming exercise, would include two other invitees France and South Korea — and an element of the USAF.

The Defence Ministry said it the “tough and prestigious exercise” began late on Sunday night and IAF official suggested it was a watermark for the IAF. “Watched by top air powers, IAF fighter pilots will showcase their skills at the ‘Red Flag’ war games over the Nevada desert in the U.S. marking India’s debut in the world’s most advanced and coveted air combat exercise,” said the PTI.

It quoted the contingent commander as asking his crew members to “show [the world] what we are made up of” and “show case our professionalism.”‘Realistic war situation’

“IAF’s largest-ever overseas deployment gets into action,” said an official news release. During the exercise the blue force (including IAF) is frequently made to change its plan while the exercise is watched in real time by monitors at an USAF base and “kill removal [removal of aircraft assumed shot by the enemy] makes the exercise more realistic.”

The war gaming assumes a “realistic war situation” in which the Blue Force pilots will have “all possible odds thrown at them.

” IAF’s Sukhoi-30 fighters would try to wade through the ‘enemy’s’ defences while simulated air-to-air missiles as well as missiles from the ground would try to thwart them