By lex, on August 23rd, 2008
Aren’t you the pretty thing **?
American, French and South Korean aircrews are getting a close look at one of the world’s fabled aircraft – the Indian air force’s Su-30MKI strike fighter.
An Indian air force group of 50 pilots and weapon systems officers – flying eight Su-30MKIs, two Il-78 tankers and an Il-76 transport – are just finishing a month-long deployment to the United States with a training cycle at the latest, annual Red Flag aerial combat exercises (sic) based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
The SU-30MKI is the Indian Air Force export version of the SU-30 Flanker-H, with forward canards for high alpha stability and thrust-vectoring engines (each of them grunting out >27,000 pounds of static thrust in full blower) to help get her there. A passive electronically scanned array radar – cheaper to manufacture than the active arrays on the F-22 and F-35 – helps support the AA-12 “AMRAAMski” medium range missile system.
SIGINT exploitation – if any such thing was even considered – may have been limited by the Indians’ use of a training load for the NIIP-BARS radar, while for their own part the IAF complained of the numbers of air superiority missions they were scheduled for – there’s never enough to go around – as well as restrictions on the use of expendables and their fighter-to-fighter datalink.
Red Flag is high-end training: Waves upon waves of fighters, strikers, jammers, SAMS and AAA – as close to real combat as you can get. Every fighter pilot worth his salt wants to be there for the kill, but most of them want to come back with their shield rather than on it. For that purpose, there’s no substitute for rigorous training, flawless execution and superior equipment to raise survival odds.
But with so much metal – real and simulated – flying through the sky at all altitudes, so much information to process and so little time to do it, what with opposing forces closing in upon each other at multiple Mach numbers, being the killer rather than the killee is nothing like certain. It’s a numbers game, and maybe losing an eight-ship of Eagles is considered a fair trade, so long as they took down twenty or thirty bandits with them. Worse comes to worst, everybody gets to look inside his soul and learn something.
Because holding on to the reins on a bucking fighter surrounded by multiple, maneuvering wingmen, each of them toodling along at 1.3 IMN in max grunt in the low 40′s while multiple bandit groups march down the radar screen, everyone racing to share his own slice of situational awareness even as the lead issues terse targeting instructions, the RWR gear chirping and clucking in your headset – all that is pretty damned stimulating. To a degree exceeded only by the electric chair, maybe. Which might explain the less than jubilatory comments of the IAF commander at the end of the exercise:
“It was almost what we expected,” Choudhry says. “Because we couldn’t use our chaff and flares, when we were targeted by SAMs we were shot down. And there was no picture in the cockpit to help our situational awareness so the workload on the [aircrews] was very high.” Nonetheless, “We came a long way. We trained hard. And the degree of difficulty was not unexpected.”
** 08-25-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.