India need not lose sleep even if Pakistan manages to acquire more F-16 fighters from the US. After plastering American combat pilots in an exercise earlier this year, IAF top guns now have another reason to be gung ho: their top-notch mean machines have proved more than a match for F-16s, the much-vaunted 'fighting falcons'.
Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKI jets are apparently outgunning American F-16s on "several aspects" at the ongoing Indo-Singapore air combat exercise in Gwalior.
This is the first-ever face-off between these two sophisticated war machines originating from the two former Cold War adversaries.
"Our Sukhois are doing very well against the F-16Cs (of Singapore Air Force) in terms of manoeuvrability, sophistication of avionics and weapon systems. Similarly, our MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s are also matching up to the F-16s," say IAF sources.
IAF is pitting even its MiG-21s, which constitute over 45% of India's combat fleet, against F-16s during the 'Sindex-Ankush' exercise in Gwalior.
"Ever since the Pakistanis acquired F-16s from the US in the mid-1980s, we wanted to size them up. So, we are matching almost all our planes with F-16s of the Singapore Air Force, which are more advanced than the F-16s of Pakistan," said sources.
The IAF has also tasked its elite combat school to develop manoeuvres for MiG-21s to elude the radar cones of F-16s.
IAF spokesperson Squadron Leader Mahesh Upasani only said, "Results of the exercise will be assessed only after the debrief. It's premature to comment at this stage."
Instead of F-16s, the US had fielded the F-15C Eagles during the Cope India-04 exercise in February. So, the decks were promptly cleared when Singapore came knocking for training facilities with its F-16s.