Indian Air Force in Red Flag 2016

The Exercise Red Flagbattle‘ has begun in the Joint Pacific Range Complex over Alaska. Some of Indian Air Force’s best fighter pilots are squaring off with pilots from the US Air Force and other top guns from Japan, South Korea and Germany to test their capabilities in a dynamic warfare environment.

Led by Group Captain H Assudani, the IAF contingent comprises of SU-30 MKI, Jaguar,C-17 and IL-78 Flight Refueling Aircraft. The over 150 strong Indian contingent and their machines are stationed at the Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

Red Flag 2016
Su-30 landing during Red Flag 2016

While the ‘Work Up’ phase of the exercise – termed ‘Distant Frontier’- was held in last month, the main simulated war games exercise began on  May 3. During ‘Distant Frontier’ phase, the team adopted a philosophy of ‘Crawl, Walk & Run’ signifying a progressive build up in the effort, pace and complexities of training sorties that were flown through the ‘Work Up’ phase.

The training included understanding the local flying environment, NATO brevity codes and radio terminologies.

Now in the main exercise phase, IAF fighters will operate in the airspace along with the some of the best fighter planes of the USAF like F-22 , F-16 , F-15 and F-18.

And, our men appear to have already impressed hosts with USAF F-16 aggressor squadron appreciating the performance of the Indian Air Force crew in the multiples missions conducted so far.

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Il-78 takes off for a refuling sortie

The air exercise, which will last till May 13, is seen as a complex and advanced Network Centric Operation — the toughest test for flying machines and men.

This is the second time that India is participating in such an exercise after 2008.

Due to high costs, the Indian Air Force had decided to take part in the exercise once every five years. It was scheduled to take part in the 2013 edition but the exercise was cancelled by the US following budget cuts.According to an estimate, it will costs over Rs. 100 Crore to participate in these Exercises

The Red Flag would be the most complex aerial war game involving forces from India and the US that will also see Aerial Early Warning aircraft from NATO forces in action. Once again, India has refrained from taking its Aerial early warning aircraft for the overseas exercise.

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No 2 lands as no 1 flies off

Benefits of Participating in such Exercises

Indian Air Force gains valuable experience by participating in international combat exercises, especially when its fighter jets are pitted against US F-16s and F-18s which are used by Pakistan, government said today.

Without naming Pakistan, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has already  said in Lok Sabha that knowledge of close combat ability of F-16s and F-18s was important for the Western front of India.

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Maintenance of Sukhois after hard day work
He said the experience of flying against the F-16s was important for the IAF which has currently deployed its Sukhoi-30s and Jaguars in the ongoing exercise ‘Red Flag 16-1’ being held at Alaska in the US.

Responding to a supplementary on the benefit of participating in bilateral or multilateral exercises if IAF pilots don’t get to fly F-16s, he said the idea is to pit IAF pilots and its machines against F-16 to understand the adversary.

He said most aircraft are lost in the first 10 clashes in a war as pilots are unable to identify the ‘signature’ of enemy planes. Such exercises help understand other planes better, he added.

To a question on the flaws and shortcomings found following the Alaska exercise, he said when the IAF contingent returns in June, then the work on understanding the achievements and shortfalls will begin.

Red Flag 2016
Il 78 refuels sukhoi while two F-15 cover them (Red Flag 2008)
Pakistan uses the F-16 fighter jets. The US government has made a case to the US Congress to sell eight new F-16s to Pakistan to assist its counter-terror and counter-insurgency operations.

Engagements with an Aircraft your Enemy already has can help IAF maintain Air Supremacy in times of war with Pakistan.