The Exercise Red Flag ‘battle‘ 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.
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.
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.
Benefits of Participating in such Exercises
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.
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.
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.