Saturday, November 19, 2005

Did The USAF Get Beat Up By India Again?

Here's a quick bit of defense-wonkishness, which I simply couldn't resist. No-one's saying so officially, but after the shock of having their F-15s kicked around the sky last year by the Indian Air Force in Russian jets, the USAF must have been hoping to even the score in this year's US/India air exercises.

The thing is, the only reports so far (and admittedly they are Indian reports) suggest they got another shock.

This year the USAF took F-16s - the very jet the US is hoping to sell to both Pakistan and India- while yet again they were flying with and against Indian Air Force Migs and Mirages.

One report says:

For the second year running, the Indian Air Force came out with flying colours in their brush with the world's most technological advanced airpower -- the United States of America.

Like fish taking to water, Indian fighter pilots took their maiden introduction to Airborne Early Warning and Control System technology, which flew over the country's skies for the first time. Fresh from having proved their mettle in manoeuvres with their United States Air Force counterparts in exercises last year on F-15 Tomcats, IAF pilots held their own, when they came up against the Fighting Falcons -- F-16's, billed as the most superior fighter in the world during the almost two week long joint exercises.

Another is even more jubilant:

As the Cope India 2005 Indo-US air force exercises wound down today after two weeks of feverish action in the eastern skies, the US Air Force were left with a stark, double-edged realisation.

One — that it is no longer the unchallenged leader in the skies, and two—for all future joint operations in South Asia, the IAF would, without doubt, be its natural partner.

...During the last Cope India exercise in February 2004, American F-15 pilots had admitted finding it bizarre that their Indian counterparts had routed them in many manoeuvres. This time round, the buzzword was a studied ‘jointness’, though pilots told this newspaper off the record that the IAF had maintained its "one-up"

I await the official USAF version with interest.

Update 20th Nov.

The Stars and Stripes is being pretty circumspect, only quoting the USAF's F-16 squadron commander as saying -

“We’re trying to not talk about the scoring stuff,” he added. “I think both sides got a lot of bad press last year and everyone missed the emphasis. More importantly, both sides are doing well and we’re accomplishing the objective that we set out here to obtain.”

However, this discussion forum by Indian defense-wonks, including IAF pilots and defense journalists has plenty more detail - and they seem very pleased with the Indian Air Force's performance, especially the newly aquired and highly advanced Sukoi-30 MKI and the surprises that India's ageing but refurbished Mig 21s inflicted on the F-16 crews.

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