Royal Air Force and Indian Air Force fighter pilots participating in Exercise Indradanush are full of admiration for each other’s capabilities and aircraft.
The two week exercise has seen four Su-30MKI Flanker fighters from 2 Squadron IAF deploy from Northeast India to RAF Coningsby to train with Typhoon FGR4 equipped 3(Fighter) Squadron. The exercise provides a rare opportunity for RAF pilots to test themselves against the fourth generation Russian built fighter.Over the course of two weeks the complexity of the training sorties is increasing, starting from 1 v 1 dogfight to sorties involving up to 20 fighters.
Wing Commander Chris Moon is Officer Commanding 3(F) Squadron. He said:
“First impressions of the Flanker are very positive. It is a superb aeroplane and it’s a privilege to operate our Typhoon alongside it.
“The RAF and IAF both pride ourselves on operating some of the leading edge technical equipment in the world. However without the people to support that we are nothing so that’s where our real strength lies.”His views were echoed by Squadron Leader Avi Arya, a Qualified Weapons Instructor responsible for training pilots on the radar and weapons systems of the Su-30. He said:
“Both are fourth generation aircraft and so are matched evenly, so the learning value comes from the person to person contact, it’s the man behind the machine which matters. All fighter pilots speak the same language, that’s the common thing we have and it’s very comfortable to learn from each other.”
Speaking shortly after his first encounter with the thrust vector equipped Su-30, Typhoon pilot Flight Lieutenant Mike Highmoor had no doubt about the values of the bilateral exercise:
“This is fantastic. It’s the first time I’ve flown against a Flanker this morning and it’s fascinating to see another air force do its thing in a different aeroplane. Flying against an aircraft which is equally comparable to the Typhoon isn’t something we get to fight against on a regular basis in the UK. It’s very exciting.“It’s an incredibly impressive fighter but the Typhoon is a good match for it.”
Opposing Flt Lt Highmoor on that first sortie was Squadron Leader Amit Gehani who trained with the RAF in the UK. He said:
“It’s going well. We’re flying a lot of missions that are proving our air combat missions. We brief on the ground, we go up there, set up the fights and thereafter it’s a free for all.“The Typhoon is a good aircraft, a very powerful aircraft. The RAF pilots here are really amazing and flying with the Typhoon we’re learning a lot of new lessons from the RAF which we will take back to India. Of course we’re also giving some good points to the Typhoon pilots.”
On training sorties the fighters are being refuelled in mid-air by tanker aircraft from their respective countries operating from RAF Brize Norton. C-130J Hercules aircraft are undertaking joint parachute drops of RAF Regiment and IAF Garud troops while RAF and IAF C-17 crews are also training together. The exercise concludes 31 July.