Air Force steel birds to set United States sky on fire

Mighty manoeuvre
Last Updated 27 March 2013, 19:26 IST

After a gap of five years, Indian Air Force fighters will once again set the US sky on fire.

Come July and IAF front line fighters and special operation planes will be flying to the Nevada desert in the USA to participate in Red Flag, one of the world’s top-most air exercises that gives pilots the best possible air combat experience.

It is scheduled to take place at Nellis base of US Air Force between July 15 and 26.
The IAF contingent would include Su-30 MKI fighters and C-130J Super Hercules troop carriers used in special operations besides IL-78 mid-air refuellers and Il-76 heavy lift carrier in a support role, sources told Deccan Herald. Moreover, there will be close to 250 men comprising pilots and maintenance crew.

The invite to participate in the Red Flag, which had earlier been restricted to close US allies, was extended to India after bilateral relations between New Delhi and Washington improved in the last decade. Conceived by the USAF just after Vietnam war, the Red Flag exercise began in 1975 with the purpose of ensuring that pilots are trained well enough to survive in air combat and win air battles.

The IAF took part for the first time in 2008. Subsequently, it decided to participate in this multi-lateral war game only once in five years because of the high cost involved, a large portion of which went into the payment for aviation fuel. The 2008 event cost IAF almost Rs 100 crore for which the defence ministry took approval from the Union Cabinet.

While the air headquarters is yet to announce the exact number of platforms and people participating in Red Flag, 2013, five years back IAF sent eight Su-30 MKI fighters, two IL-78 mid air refuller and one Il-76 heavy lift carrier.

This time IAF’s latest acquisition C-130J will be an addition suggesting a special operation component in the exercise. As many as 91 officers and 156 airmen were sent for the 2008 exercise, in which the IAF contingent was pitted against USAF, French and South Korean air forces. The IAF team made 356 sorties and earned kudos from the USAF professionals.  
The 2008 edition also gave the USAF an opportunity to exercise with Russian origin Su-30 MKI aircraft for the first time.  The two recent domestic exercises – Iron Fist and Live Wire – helped IAF gear up for the big one in the USA.

(Published 27 March 2013, 19:26 IST)

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