Indicating a clear strengthening of military ties between the two countries, the United States and India have held four joint military exercises since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when Washington decided to engage New Delhi as a strategic partner.
The two countries already have a pilot exchange programme, a US instructor is at the Indian Air Force training academy and their air force surgeons are also working together.
Earlier this month, Indian pilots participated in war games in Alaska hosted by the US Pacific Command. Exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder 04-01 was a multinational Dissimilar Combat Training Exercise that involved air forces from Asia-Pacific and NATO countries - Britain, Canada, Germany, Mongolia, Singapore, Japan and Malaysia among others. Not all the countries deployed fighter aircraft. This was India's first participation in these exercises.
The IAF sent a 200-strong team equipped with six Jaguars, two heavy lift IL-76 transport planes and two IL-78 tankers to Alaska's Eielson Air Force Base.
The exercise was a tough test with multiple mock scenarios of assassinations, unrest, rescue and other emergencies. For 15 days, they mocked the crises that plague the real world. At the height of the battle, up to 70 jets flew in the same airspace at one time.
The IAF was part of the "Blue" forces or the good guys, fighting off the "Reds" or the bad guys. The USAF had teams on both sides. Ground forces were termed as "White" or neutral, doing the umpiring and ensuring everyone's safety.
The result of the first Indo-US combat exercises, Cope India '04, held in Gwalior, was a rude shock for the Washington establishment. Indian pilots bested their US counterparts 90 per cent of the time in mock fights. Later USAF chief Gen John Jumper told a Senate subcommittee that the Cope India '04 was "a wake-up call."
Another US commander said the Americans should review their tendency to routinely underrate the other side while devising training procedures. Now the USAF is aggressively demanding the induction of F/A- 22, the next generation fighter to replace the F-15C which lost to the Indian Su-30s and Mig-21 Bisons.
USAF officers said India's Su-30s had a clear advantage over the F-15C in long-range flights, and even though the US and Indian pilots were "seeing" each other at the same time on their radars, the Indian pilots were able to "fire" first.
This, they said, meant that the Indian radars were more advanced, which came as a real shocker for the USAF. With China set to acquire the Su-30s, the Americans are clearly worried. From India's perspective, a strong showing against the United States would unsettle both Pakistan and China.
But neutral media reports point out that the Americans had deployed ageing aircraft that are part of the USAF frontline but cannot be said to be at the cutting edge, technologically.
As part of an intensive series of international exercises, the IAF also participated in war games with the French in Gwalior last year. That was an eye-opener for the IAF which took a beating in the drill with French Mirages, some flown by pilots who had seen action in the skies over Kosovo. The French had superior avionics with ability to strike Beyond Visual Range.