As part of its defence preparedness, India and the United States are gearing up for yet another war game in November this year with their fighter aircrafts involving early warning systems.
This will be the second edition of the Indo-US fighter aircraft war games, named Cope India ’05, for which one of India’s north eastern airbases is being upgraded with sophisticated technology and state of the art weapon systems.
According to a report in daily The Asian Age on Wednesday, the Kalaikunda airbase in West Bengal will become the permanent centre where the foreign air forces can practice with the Indian fighters. This airbase where “the grand show” will be staged, at the moment operates a MiG-27 squadron, the report said.
Quoting defence ministry, the newspaper said the upgradation is being carried out “keeping in mind that the future battle tactics to be practised with the US forces will be in the backdrop of the airborne early warning systems.”
During the Indo-US exercises at Gwalior in February 2004, according to the newspaper, the need to inculcate the assistance from the early warning systems in the air defence plans was felt by the Indian fighter pilots who realised US technological superiority over them.
It is also said that since India is in the process of getting its three Phalcon spy planes, it needed to practice for the new system -the AWACS which is capable of providing continuous, comprehensive and long-range air defence cover against low-level attacks. It is considered a major force multiplier.
The Indian daily also said, “The US Air Force’s internal report had talked about the beating F-16s got at the hand of the Indian Air Force. But the report is being taken with scepticism in the Air Headquarters here as it was perceived to be a pressure tactics by the USAF to get more advanced jets in place of F-16s.”
“The senior officials had pointed out that the USAF might be pressing its government to invest money in advanced fighters like F-22 Raptors or F-35 aircraft,” it further said.
For Cope India ’05, the report said that it was not yet clear which type of aircraft would be brought by the US Air Force. “But Indian side has almost decided to pitch in all the types of its aircraft including the Su-30s,” it said.
AFP adds: India on Wednesday expressed concern over sales of arms to Pakistan by the United States and said it could impact the ongoing peace process between the nuclear-armed rivals.
“India’s strong concern regarding repercussions of arms sales to Pakistan by the United States — including on the ongoing India-Pakistan dialogue — has been conveyed at high levels to the US government,” junior foreign minister Edappakath Ahamed told parliament, according to the Press Trust of India.
Last year Pakistan earned the status of a major US non-NATO ally, a designation, which is supposed to ease the sale of US military hardware.
Since the 2001 attacks, Islamabad has looked to Washington to rectify what it calls an imbalance of power with its much larger neighbour India.
Pakistani officials have indicated they want to buy 25 F-16 fighter jets — worth around 25 million dollars each — by mid-2005 to add another squadron of aircraft to its existing fleet. India strongly opposes the potential sale.
The US Senate in January approved a budget which included military aid to Pakistan and Afghanistan, but has so far stalled on the F-16 issue.
The January allocation was designed to bolster the capabilities of Pakistan’s armed forces which are hunting suspected Al-Qaeda fugitives along the rugged border with Afghanistan.
It followed an earlier notification by US defense officials of a possible 1.3-billion-dollar arms package for Pakistan. This would include eight P-3C Orion planes to strengthen surveillance of Pakistan’s coastal and border regions in a bid to stop the movement of terrorists and drugs, US defense officials have said.
In February, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman said Islamabad had conveyed its concern to Washington over New Delhi’s interest in buying US-made Patriot missiles.
Briefing parliament about the ongoing India-Pakistan peace dialogue, Ahamed said the visit of Foreign Minister Natwar Singh to Islamabad last month had taken the process “significantly forward.
During Singh’s visit — the first by an Indian foreign minister in 15 years — the two sides announced the launch of an inter-Kashmir bus service between the divided zones of the Himalayan state from April 7.