The second Indo-US air exercise in which F-16 Fighting Falcons and E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning System and Control Aircraft of the US Air Force took part for the first time concluded at the Indian Air Force's Kalaikunda airbase in West Bengal today.
The aim of the exercise codenamed 'Cope India 06' was to interact professionally and culturally with the USAF positioned as the largest and most technologically advanced air force in the world, Air Officer Commanding in Chief (AOC-IN-C) Air Marshal F H Major said here.
"The home-grown ingenuity and skills of the IAF pilots earn respect from different nations across the globe," he said.
The joint exercise, which commenced on November seven, saw flying exercise for eight days with three days' holidays thrown in between, IAF sources said here.
Twelve F-16s, C-5 transport aircraft from the USAF besides frontline IAF fighters Sukhoi-30, MIG 29, MIG 27, Mirage 2000, MIG 21 bison, and also AN 32 and GCI radars participated.
The AOC-in-C said over the last few years the IAF had carried out bilateral and multilateral air exercises with a number of foreign countries within and outside India.
"Such exercises not only help in promoting mutual understanding and learning from each others' experience but also enhance interoperability and help refine joint operational procedures," Air Mashal Major said.
The first such air exercise was held at Gwalior on February one, last year.
"Our pilots were exposed to flying in an AWACS environment which will help us when we induct our AWACS," Air Marshal FH Major Air Officer Commanding in Chief Eastern Air Command, who was also present, said. On their flying experience in tandem with the AWACS, Indian pilots said it gave them an eye deep into rival territory. "We could pick up incoming targets whether aircraft or missiles almost 400 kms away. It gives a grand battle coordination in the air", they said.
Indian flight controllers were allowed by the USAF personnel to handle the AWACS system during the exercises, senior IAF officers said.
Though both Air Force officials painstakingly shied away from giving any figures of "kills" or "hits", US Air Force pilots said they had been impressed by the flying skills of the Indian pilots.
Gen David Deptula as well as Air Marshal Major stressed that in almost two week long exercises, the pilots flew in mixed groups simulating dissimilar Air Combat Missions, Basic Fighter Manoeuvres and largescale engagements in which no indiviual scores were kept.
"US Air Force is the largest and most technologically advanced Air Force in the world with rich operational experience. At the same time, the home grown ingenuity and skill of the IAF pilots has earned them respect from different nations of the world", Marshal Major said.
Outlining the objective of the exercises, Major said it was to familiarise fighter and weapon controllers with each others procedures and terminologies and train together with AWACS. Besides, the lone Boeing 707 mounted E3C AWACS, the US Air Force deployed a full squadron of the Block 50 F-16 fighter aircraft, the type the makers Lockheed-Martin are offering to sell to India.
On the Indian side, the fighters which took part in the exercises included six SU-30's, four Mig-29, four Mig-27, six Mirage 2000 and six upgraded MIG-21 Bisons.
"The Exercises met all their missions and objectives", Major and Deptula told newsmen, with the Pacific force commander saying that military-to-military cooperation between the two countries was now entering into highly advanced stage.
Air Marshal Major said the base which has recently been rennovated at a huge expense could become a home to all IAF exercises with foreign forces. The Singapore Air Force, sources said, would be coming here in January next year to conduct live exercises at the nearby Air to Ground range.