May 22, 2014

Rafale, Su-30MKI Face-off in Indian Exercise

The Indian Air Force’s Su-30MKIs and the French Rafale fighters will come together for a ten-day air exercise called the 'Garuda-5', aimed at training the pilots and crew of Indian and French fighters in air superiority operation in Rajasthan's Jodhpur airbase from June 3.

The French composition for the Garuda- 5 will include four Rafale multi-role fighter aircraft and one air-refueler aircraft with more than 100 personnel. During the exercises the French aircraft may face the IAF’s Su-30 MKI, MiG -27 and MiG -21 as both sides showcase air superiority, defense and attack on high-value targets dogfights or nearby.

Objective of the exercise include exposing IAF pilots to French fighter tactics and French pilots to Indian fighter tactics, to engage in air-to-air refueling, cross-servicing of a common type between ground crews and Understanding basic concepts of each countries fighter operations.

The performance of the Rafales at the exercise could create incentive to boost the long-delayed MMRCA program and also show how it stacks up against the IAF’s most potent asset, the Su-30MKI.
The Garuda-5 exercise is scheduled to be held 10 years after the Cope India 04 exercise between the US and India in 2004. During the Cope exercise, India’s Su-30MKs emerged victorious with IAF pilots winning more than 90 percent of the mock air engagements conducted against U.S. Air Force F-15C jets from 3rd Wing based at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

According to the Pentagon, several limitations reduced the chances of victory of the Eagle drivers against the Indian fighters. Including the lack of an advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar on their F-15s and that the air engagements typically involved six Eagles against up to eighteen IAF aircraft with no chance to simulate any beyond visual range (BVR) missile shot (due to the Indian request of not using the AMRAAM).

The 9:1 kill ratio achieved by Indians pilots against USAF fighters during the Cope India 04 can be attributed to their skills, according to USAF Colonel Greg Newbech quoted in various media, “What we’ve seen in the last two weeks is the IAF can stand toe-to-toe with the best air force in the world.
I pity the pilot who has to face the IAF and chances the day to underestimate him; because he won’t be going home”.

Despite the Cope victory, the IAF’s Su-30MKIs didn’t fare so well against the Royal Air Force’s Typhoon fighters at the International Air Tattoo military air show in 2011. "Nothing that India has got is anything anywhere near this (the Typhoon). I would say that absolutely. This airplane is phenomenally different in both performance and technology in anything they (IAF) got right now," an RAF official was quoted as saying then.


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