India-US air exercise resuming after 9 years

India-US air exercise resuming after 9 years

Su-30 MKI

The air forces of India and the US on Monday will resume a bilateral war-game after nine years, marking a new milestone in the military relation between the two allies.

The Exercise Cope India-2018 is the fourth edition in the series of joint air exercises held between the IAF and the USAF. The war game began in 2004 in Gwalior, but was abandoned after the last edition in Agra in October 2009.

The 12-day-long drill will take place at the IAF stations in Kalaikunda and Panagarh, now renamed as Arjan Singh after the Marshal of the Air Force, in West Bengal from Monday.

The USAF has landed with 12 F15 fighter jets and three C-130 transporter for the drill, whereas the IAF will field its frontline combat aircraft Su-30 MKI, Jaguar and Mirage-2000, transport aircraft C-130J and Phalcon air-borne radar (AWACS) units.

“The aim of the exercise is to provide operational exposure and undertake mutual exchange of best practices towards enhancing operational capability,” IAF said in a statement.

“Approximately, 200 US airmen with F-15 aircraft from the 18th Wing Kadena Air Base, Japan, and 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard will participate in C-119 (US code name for the drill) alongside their IAF counterparts,” said a statement issued by the US embassy.

While the IAF spokesperson didn't answer why the bilateral war-game was shelved after 2009, sources told DH that a combination of factors ranging from availability of resources to the previous government's political stand led to the decision.

The military relationship between the world's biggest and oldest democracies underwent a sea change in the last few years with India signing two foundation agreements with USA — Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) — leading to better terms of engagement between the armed forces from the two sides.

The US has also emerged as a major supplier of arms and ammunition to India as its import share to the Indian defence market jacked by a whopping 557% between 2008-12 and 2013-17, according to a March 2018 study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute that tracks arms trade around the world.

Nirmala visit to US

The mock drill will commence within hours of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman touching down on the US soil in her first visit as the defence minister. She will be holding talks with her US counterpart Jim Mattis in Washington on Monday.

The two sides will review the progress in Defence Cooperation and are expected to discuss issues related to sanction waiver while purchasing arms from Russia.

During her six-day stay, Sitharaman is expected to visit US Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii and Mountain View headquarters of Pentagon’s US Defence Innovation Unit to take forward joint development projects.

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