Are Indian Fighter Pilots better than US Fighter Pilots?

Discussion in 'Indian Air Force' started by Parthy, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. Parthy

    Parthy Air Warrior Senior Member

    Aug 18, 2010
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    The first bilateral dissimilar air combat (DACT) exercise between the U.S. Air Force and the Indian air force in more than 40 years, Cope India 2004, took place at Gawalior, India in Feb this year. This blog had carried a report on the exercise.

    Reportedly, the exercise found mention in the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee in March when Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper stated that the results of Cope India were "very revealing". He did not elaborate. Earlier, Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) said in a Feb. 26 House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing that U.S. F-15Cs were defeated more than 90 percent of the time in direct combat exercises against the IAF!

    These are startling assertions, to say the least! Are they true? is the question doing the rounds on Internet forums frequented by Fighter Flying enthusiasts.

    I have no intention of attempting to answer that question. Instead, what I will do is attempt to put it in the right perspective. In doing so, my hope is to make the question irrelevant.

    While the Internet is an excellent source of information, it is not always a reliable source of information. It is always a good idea to be skeptical about anything published on the internet that does not originate on an official website or does not refer to a verifiable source. And by that logic, what I say here should also be treated with due skepticism. For the purpose of this article I will assume that the congressional report being cited on internet forums is indeed authentic.
    A Broad Perspective

    E-3 Senty AWACSThe US armed forces are primarily equipped and trained for intervention around the globe, not for homeland security. It is very difficult for anyone to conceive of a situation where US troops will be asked to defend their homeland. As such, US strategic thinkers appreciate that relying on human motivation to win a conflict in a distant part of the globe is not practical. Consequently, the mindset is to always fight a war from a position of overwhelming material advantage so as to minimize casualties. Material losses are a concern for the US armed forces, but only because they temporarily reduce their material advantage, not because they result in a financial squeeze. Indeed, increased consumption of material assets by the armed forces can invigorate the US economy! However, human losses are a huge concern because they can result in rapid weakening of public support for the intervention. Recent history has seen the US concede defeat to puny Vietnam just because its public was not prepared to accept any further loss of US lives.

    The Indian armed forces are primarily equipped and trained for homeland security and engage the enemy only to keep the enemy at bay. Indian strategic thinkers can, therefore, count on high motivation levels of its troops. The public too is more accepting of high casualty rates under these circumstances. The Kargil conflict was a manifestation of what I am saying. The Indian commanders had the option to choose between human or material assets to win the heights back from the enemy. The fact that they chose the former was foolhardy but illustrative. The US will never commit its troops to battle under similar circumstances.

    For India, material losses are the huge concern. This is so because most of the material assets used by our armed forces originate abroad and are purchased using scarce foreign exchange. High material losses result not just in a tactical paucity but can result in a long term degradation of the country’s ability to wage war and a serious weakening of its economy.
    Cope India 2004 Perspective

    In the context of what we discussed above, it should be clear to us that the US pilots are not primed to engage the enemy on a level playing field. If they did so they would not be assured of a victory. They are primed to engage only when they enjoy an overwhelming superiority. For them, only abject desperation will justify an engagement on a level playing field!

    This is not to suggest that the USAF pilots do not train to fight on a level playing field. They do, and that is why they came to Gawalior.

    A USAF pilot relies on the electronics within his aircraft to tilt the odds in his favor. Some of you may wonder, why just the electronics, why not the better maneuverability of its fighters? The answer is simple. While US fighters are without compare when it comes to the combination of electronics and maneuverability, when it comes to maneuverability alone, they are not always the best! In visual combat a Mig 21 Bis and Mirage 2000 could give a tough time to an F-16 or F-15C. A Mig29 will most likely out maneuver them and a Su-30K or Su-30MKI, with its vectored thrust and super maneuverability, will most certainly chew them up.

    For USAF F-15C pilots, like the ones that participated in Cope Thunder, a typical air defense mission would start of as a long-range patrol under control of an AWACS that is looking deep into enemy territory. The AWACS will pick up an enemy attack much before it crossed the border. It would guide the F-15Cs to an intercept feeding them positional data over telemetry. Around a hundred miles or so from the enemy fighters the F-15Cs would switch on their own individual radars, acquire the enemy aircraft and launch their long-range air-to-air missiles.

    In the rare case where enemy aircraft are able to continue with the attack the F-15Cs would continue for a close in engagement provided they enjoyed a clear cut numerical advantage or were opposed by less maneuverable aircraft. If that is not the case, they would head home and allow other air defense assets to take on the attacking aircraft.
    The Playing Field at Gawalior

    During Cope India 2004 the USAF F-15Cs were tasked with the defense of Gawalior AF Base. The Indian Air Forces aircraft were tasked with attacking Gawalior. Miarage 2000s, Su-30Ks, MiG-29 and MiG-21 Bis escorted the Indian strike force consisting of MiG-27s. For some reason, possibly security concerns raised by the Indians, the F-15Cs operated without an AWACS. That one factor probably leveled the playing field for the Americans

    Forced to rely on Indian ground radars and / or their own airborne radars the F-15Cs must have felt crippled. Their misery was probably compounded by the fact that the attack force enjoyed overwhelming numerical superiority. The F-15C pilots would have been easily overwhelmed by multiple targets detected minutes before they came into visual range.

    Yet another factor against them must have been the fact that the cream of the Indian Air Force mans Mirage, MiG-29 and Su-30 squadrons. These squadrons constitute our most valuable and limited assets. On the other hand the F-15C is the workhorse aircraft in the USAF.

    I am inclined to believe that the playing field at Gawalior was tilted against the USAF pilots. If the US pilots did end up with adverse kill ratios it should surprise no one, least of all the USAF generals. However, it would present them with a wonderful opportunity to scare the US Congress into releasing additional funds for the F/A-22 Raptor. Priced at 187 million dollar a piece, the F/A-22 Raptor is a dream machine that, with its super maneuverability, stealth and radar jamming ability would have easily ruled the sky even in the playing field at Gawalior.

    USAF pilots do not usually train to fight enemy pilots. Instead, they train to shoot them down much before the enemy aircraft can come in close enough to fight with them. Given the right circumstances USAF pilots do their jobs very well! So the question whether Indian fighter pilots are better than USAF fighter pilots is moot. They probably are if they get to fight them!. Like they did at Gawalior. But that was an exercise. In actual combat, however, they will probably be taken out long before they get to engage the USAF pilots.

    Even if Indian pilots are better than USAF pilots, the USAF is better than the IAF. Indeed, the USAF could rule the Indian skies any time it chose to.
  3. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

    Aug 25, 2010
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    Not without incurring heavy damage.
  4. Parthy

    Parthy Air Warrior Senior Member

    Aug 18, 2010
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    Rookie pilots still train on aging MiG-21s

    Almost three decades after Indian Air Force (IAF) first mooted the urgent need for advanced jet trainers (AJTs), and six years after the initial contract for 66 British Hawk AJTs was inked, a major chunk of rookie fighter pilots are still forced to train on ageing, unsuitable and highly demanding MiG-21s.

    Defence minister A K Antony admits the huge delay in the delivery of Hawks, with only 34 of the initial 66 Hawks inducted till date, has adversely impacted training of pilots.

    In a written reply to Parliament on Monday, Antony said IAF pilots are still being trained on MiG-21s since the "original training plan" on Hawks for 2010-11 has been "modified".

    The delay in Hawk deliveries by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is "due to receipt of defective components, jigs and fixtures from the foreign manufacturer (BAE Systems), on whom liquidated damages were levied", he said.

    Senior IAF officers, in turn, said plans to "progressively disband" old MiG-21 training establishments in places like Tezpur, Bhuj, Jamnagar and Nalia have been put "on hold" since training programmes have gone haywire.

    This once again underlines India's tortuous defence procurement policies as well as faulty contracts and their tardy execution even after the deals are eventually finalised. It is no wonder that defence deals are often dogged by allegations of kickbacks in India.

    The first contract for 66 Hawks — 24 in 'flyaway condition' from BAE Systems, and the other 42 to be manufactured by HAL under transfer of technology — was finalised in March 2004 in the Rs 8,000-crore project.

    Meant to teach the intricacies of combat fighter jet flying, all the 66 Hawks were to be inducted by 2010-11. However, while the first 24 Hawks came by December 2009, only 10 HAL-manufactured AJTs have been inducted at Bidar airbase.

    Moreover, India inked fresh contracts for another 57 Hawks during British PM David Cameron's visit in July.

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