Indian fighter pilots are getting ready to fly their Sukhoi-30 MKI to Britain to match their air combat skills with the Eurofighters and others among the best in the world, against their British Royal Air Force (RAF) counterparts in July this year. The joint India-UK air exercises are known as the “Indradhanush” or “rainbow”.
According to a report in the Times of India newspaper, the Su-30MKI “air dominance” fighters are also likely to be a part of the American ‘Red Flag’ exercises due next year.
The Su-30MKI (named “Flanker-H” by NATO) is a super-manoeverable twinjet air superiority fighter developed by Russia’s Sukhoi and built under licence by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF). A variant of the Su-30, the Su-30MKI is a heavy, all-weather, long-range fighter.
Development of the variant started after India signed a deal with Russia in 2000 to manufacture 140 Su-30 fighter jets. The first Russian-made Su-30MKI variant was taken into the IAF in 2002, while the first indigenously assembled Su-30MKI entered service with the IAF in 2004.
According to estimates from August 2014, the IAF possessed around 200 Su-30MKIs in service then. The jet is expected to form the backbone of the IAF’s fighter fleet to 2020 and beyond.
The aircraft is tailor-made for Indian specifications and integrates Indian systems and avionics as well as French and Israeli sub-systems.
The MKIs are often fielded by the IAF in bilateral and multilateral air exercises. India first exercised its Su-30MKIs against the RAF’s Tornado ADVs in October 2006.
But the real test of their skills will come if they take part in the world famous "Red Flag" exercise to be held in Alaska in the US in April 2016. If the IAF does indeed get all the requisite clearances for the Red Flag exercise, it will be the second time for the force in that exercise.
The IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha is on a four-day visit to the US, during which he is due to receive a detailed briefing on the Red Flag combat manoeuvres at the Nellis US Air Force base in Nevada, among other consultations.
The IAF had earlier (in 2008) participated in Red Flag at the Nellis airbase, which is considered the "mother" of all air combat exercises since it comes closest to realistic air combat without actually going to war. That was the first time that the Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKI fighters had flown over the American mainland.
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