US War Planners Were Rattled At How Well Indian Pilots Performed In 4th Generation Fighters.
A US Air Force publication detailed the “surprising sophistication of Indian fighter aircraft and skill of Indian pilots” during a joint training exercise called Cope India at Gwalior in February this of 2004. In the exercise, the US Air Force was denied the use of E-3 Sentry and Grumman E-2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft. The only advantage we held were new powerful long range radars onboard the F-15s the new AESA (Active Electronic Scanned Array).
“What happened to us was it looks like our red air training might not be as good because the adversaries are better than we thought,” said 3rd Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base Col. Mike Snodgrass, “And in the case of the Indian Air Force both their training and some of their equipment was better than we anticipated.”
The first Bilateral DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat) between the Indian Air Force and the USAF took place in 2004. There outnumbered F-15cs were performing mock computer assessed air combat against Sukhoi 30 series aircraft, French Mirage 2000, and MIG-21 Bisons. The idea was to defend Gwaillor AFB against aggressors.
Without the advantages provided by early warning, the aging IAF bested the USAF all day long. The results shocked many US observers. The advantage was granted to the mock hostile force fielded by India, but the vaunted super Air Force planes and fighters were overcome without the surveillance platforms that generally governs our attacks and defenses.
The Sukhois and MIGs were finding the US targets at the same time the F-15s were picking up theirs. Media reports in the arena said that the MIGs and Sukhois were firing off their Alamo AA-10s faster than we were firing off AMRAAMs. The result was a spectacular defeat in the air training exercise.
A Captain Snowden, a U.S. exercise project officer said that “The U.S. Air Force has never flown with or against the SU-30 Flanker before, so that aspect of this … exercise is completely new for us….The (Indian) pilots are as aggressive as our pilots. They are excellent aviators; they work very hard at mission planning; they try to get as much out of a mission or sortie as possible, just like us,” he said. Col. Greg Neubeck U.S. Air Force commander for the exercise said “From one fighter pilot to another, there’s really not that much difference in how we prepare for a mission and what we want to get out of it.”
This exercise rattled people and even resulted in a sort of folie where the USAF decided to stop talking about it, and just move on. It also renewed calls for the F-22 as the answer to this awful “defeat”. Well, given the way that plane has been developed, the bungled over priced lobbyist laden plane has already proved itself to be unlikely to save the US fighter replacement program.
Keep in mind that the US planes cannot just rely on maneuverability to overcome other aircraft. Our doctrine is to find the enemy at ranges as far away as possible and engage and destroy them before they even know we are in the air. We can dog fight. We don’t care to dogfight if we can win from a far.
Many of the aircraft we were flying were equipped with fifth generation fighter technology like weapons systems that are selected and fired with the use of a helmet that responds to the eye movements of the pilot and spoken commands.
Still, numbers count. And technology is the great equalizer.