- Apr 21, 2014
The IAF have taken the unusual step of publicly proclaiming their win
Friday 07 August 2015
India’s top guns have claimed they humiliated the cream of the RAF during a two-week exercise which offered British pilots a rare chance to go up against some of the latest Russian-designed fighter jets.
Operation Indradhanush saw the Indian Air Force (IAF) bring four of its fleet of Russian-designed SU-30MKI Flanker fighter aircraft to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to face off against the RAF’s Typhoon FGR4 fighter.
The exercise was relished by British pilots as an opportunity to train alongside Russian-designed aircraft, amid increasing tensions in the Baltic – where the RAF has deployed fighters following the conflict in Ukraine – and more frequent interceptions of Russian bombers off the British coastline.
However, to the dismay of RAF officers, their Indian counterparts have reportedly taken the unusual step of publicly claiming to have come away from the exercise with a resounding 12-0 victory against their UK opponents.
In an interview with Indian television, IAF Group Captain Ashu Srivastav claimed victory over the British aircraft during close-range dogfights – prompting an RAF source to label his claim “comical”.
Group Captain Srivastav said the performance of his pilots was “exceptional”, while other reports in the Indian media said that IAF aircraft were able to defeat the more advanced RAF Typhoon aircraft not only in one-on-one combat, but also in situations where one IAF pilot was pitted against two Typhoons.
Responding to the Indian claims, the RAF source they were clearly designed for the “domestic audience”. He told The Independent: “There must have been some clouded recollection on the flights back to India, as the headlines of the Indian press bear no relation to the results of the tactical scenarios completed on the exercise in any shape or form.”
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The RAF source also stressed that the Typhoons had effectively been fighting “with one arm behind their backs” as they did not make full use of their more advanced weapons systems.
Tony Osborne, the London bureau chief of Aviation Week, also suggested caution when dealing with the Indian claims. “These cricket-style scores claimed by the IAF look impressive but should be treated with caution and certainly not as a realistic gauge of combat capability,” he said.
“We have to view these scores through the haze of pilot bravado, national pride and also some political correctness. Nonetheless, the Su-30MKI is one of the aircraft that the Typhoon was designed to tackle and defeat, and no doubt in the right hands would present a potent challenge. Today [though] the aim would be to engage aircraft like the Su-30MKI from long-range before the two could come together in a dogfight.”
Even the Indian pilot admitted the SU-30s were “less successful” in the longer-range combat exercises.
Aviation experts also pointed to an exercise in 2011 when RAF fighters decimated the ranks of the visiting IAF pilots, prompting the then Air Chief Marshal of the RAF, Stephen Dalton, to comment: “Well, they lost.”
A spokesperson for the RAF said of this summer’s exercises: “Our analysis does not match what has been reported, RAF pilots and the Typhoon performed well throughout the exercise with and against the Indian Air Force. Both [forces] learnt a great deal from the exercise and the RAF look forward to the next opportunity to train alongside the IAF.”
The RAF has seven frontline Typhoon squadrons equipped but it has recently been reported that the RAF’s fast jet fleet, which is set to shrink to its smallest size in history by the end of the decade, is stretched to the limit while carrying out operations in the Middle East and the Baltic.
This week, Ministry of Defence officials granted another reprieve to ageing Tornado strike jets because of a shortage of aircraft needed to bomb Isis targets.
Typhoon FGR4: Britain’s best
Armament rating 8.0/10
Max Rate of Climb 65k ft/min
Service Ceiling 65k ft
Max Speed 2.35 Mach
Fuel Economy 0.68 km/l
Unit Cost $125m
Probability of winning cannon dogfight 66%
Sukhoi su-30Mk1: Russia's best
Armament rating 8.5/10
Max Rate of Climb 60k ft/min
Service Ceiling 56k ft
Max Speed 1.90 Mach
Fuel Economy 0.58 km/l
Unit Cost $47m
Probability of winning cannon dogfight 34%