IAF, RAF chiefs to lock horns in mock battle

IAF chief P V Naik will engage his RAF counterpart Stephen Dalton at the end of an Indo-UK air exercise that begins at Kalaikunda base in West Bengal on October 18. Typically, fighter pilots in the services do not fly after mid-forties. Naik is 61 and Dalton 60.

Naik will fly the IAF’s advanced Su-30 MKI. Dalton will face him in the RAF’s Typhoon on November 2, a day before the Indo-UK exercise “Indradhanush” comes to a close. One of the most important tasks for Naik is to select a new fighter for the service for which six fighters are in competition and Typhoon is one of the candidates in the race for the Rs 42,000-crore 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft deal. The IAF has submitted its evaluation on these planes to the defence ministry, which is expected to a take a decision within the next couple of months.

This would be for the first time when RAF Typhoons would be seen in a joint operational scenario in India. Incidentally, Dalton was the director for a programme to introduce Eurofighter Typhoon in the RAF replacing the old Tornadoes. The IAF will be participating with its Su-30 MKI, Mirage 2000s, MiG-27 and its latest acquisition, the Israeli Phalcon Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft.

One of the key objectives of the exercise is to fine-tune air defence strategies for high- value assets like AWACS and mid-air refuellers. The exercise will also enhance mutual understanding and refine procedures for future joint exercise between the two air forces.

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