Over the last decade, IAF has been actively participating in various operational exercises hosted by various countries. Recently, Exercise Red Flag-Alaska was conducted at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. The main phase of the exercise had commenced on 28th April with a mix of combat and support elements participating from IAF, USAF and US Navy. The exercise concluded on this Friday, May 13th.
Here is what happened during the exercise:
- The advanced aerial combat training exercise saw the IAF’s potent SU-30 MKI aircraft participating in Offensive Counter Air Ops in which they provided Escort cover to the strike elements.
- The IAF Jaguars DARIN II undertook integrated strike missions dropping practice bombs over the world renowned JPARC (Air to Ground Range).
- A team of over 170 Indian personnel was part of the exercises.
- The Indian Air Force (IAF) flew 10 aircraft: 4 Su-30MKIs, 4 Jaguars and 2 IL-78 aerial refuelling tankers.
- The exercise was played under the multiple simulated scenarios designed to provide realistic settings with a Red Force, defending their airspace and assets, and a Blue Force acting as the offensive side.
- The Red Force was largely constituted by U.S. F-16 fighters, while the IAF planes, along with other USAF aircraft such as F-15, F-16 and F-22 and the U.S. Navy F-18, constituted the Blue Force.
- A set of Red Flag team also formed the ‘White Force’ which watched the entire exercise in real time on tactical displays in the operations room on ground. Kill removal (removal of the pilots and aircraft assumed shot by the enemy) made the exercise more realistic.
- There were three missions commanded by IAF in the exercise. Mission commanders of both the Jaguars and Su 30s were involved in planning, execution and conduct of debrief.
- The teams had to endure sub-zero temperatures during most of the exercise, which posed a challenge to the maintenance team despite which they managed to maintain 100 percent serviceability of all platforms.
- The IAF fighters have always flown with their radars switched off during exercises with the U.S. so as not to reveal the radar signatures.
- The Red Flag exercise, held periodically at the Nellis Air Force Base since 1975, provides an opportunity to the pilots from the US, NATO and other allied countries to practice and refine their skills for real combat situations.
- Since the exercises are an expensive endeavour, the IAF had decided to participate once in five years. This edition is believed to have cost over ₹100 crore.
The contingent is expected to return to India in the last week of May. The Su-30s will additionally participate in the exercise “Desert Eagle II” with the UAE Air Force on their way back home.