India, United States sharpen joint military operations

Objective is to deal with natural calamities, terror strikes

IAF personnel come out af a US C130J aircraft after a training session with their US counterparts at Cope India 09, in Agra on Monday. PTICodenamed Cope India 2009, the air exercise—the sixth one between the Indian Air Force and US Air Force since 2003 —is taking place at the IAF’s biggest transport aircraft base at Agra. 

Besides simulating relief and medical operations in the wake of a natural disaster, the joint air exercise also aims at perfecting operational strategies to para-drop commandos in anti-terror and anti-piracy operations.

The air exercise coincides with a bilateral army exercise at Babina near Jhansi that centres on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism manoeuvres.

The army exercise, to be continued till October end and   named Yudh Abhyas, is witnessing the largest deployment of US army’s trademark heavy-duty combat vehicle Strykers outside Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Navies from both nations will participate in 2010 in the next round of Malabar exercise. The last US participation in Malabar in 2007 evoked angry responses from China which objected to the entry of US naval ships in the Bay of Bengal.

“The US armed forces have developed robust relationship with Indian counterparts. We welcome the increased scope, complexity and tempo of our programmes with Indian military,” said Timothy J Roemer, US Ambassador to India, who was present when the exercise kicked off.

While fighter operations were at the centre of previous rounds of Cope-India exercises, this time the focus is on transport planes, which form the backbone of military aviation.

On the one hand, they ferry troops and land commandos at targeted spots and, on the other, extend their essential services in relief and rescue operations. Since the IAF heavy lift transport planes like IL-76 carry route maps for all sector, one of them was able to land in Nicobar within hours of the 2004 tsunami instead of coming back to its base for further instructions.

“Since the 2004 tsunami, the Indian Ocean region was stuck by many natural disasters. Our cooperation is intended for building partnership to deal with future humanitarian crisis,” said Raymond Le Merche, exercise director from the USAF.
The USAF has come with three 20 tonne class C-130H, one C-130J (Hercules) and the very heavy lift C-17 Globemaster. The IAF is being represented by its workhorse AN-32 and IL-76 besides the helicopters.

Incidentally, India already purchased Lockheed Martin’s C-130J —the first aircraft is expected to be delivered in 2011—and considering buying Boeing’s C-17 through the foreign military sales route. Both are workhorses in the USAF.

Assuring India of after-sales support on both aircraft, Roemer said the United States would do everything to assist India expand its strategic lift capability.

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