| IAF personnel attach a bomb pod to the bottom of a GR-1 Jaguar in preparation for Exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder 04-01
New Delhi, Aug. 17: Indian Air Force bombers returned to base today after war games hosted by the US in Alaska in which they claimed to have penetrated through US air defence twice, it was disclosed at a “hot debriefing” at their base in Ambala this afternoon.
The IAF had deployed six Jaguar deep-penetration strike aircraft to Alaska for the fortnight-long Exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder 04-01 that ended on July 30. The IAF had also sent two IL-76 heavy-duty transporters, its two new IL-78 refuellers and more than 200 personnel led by Group Captain S. Nanodkar.
Air force sources said the Jaguars had penetrated through defensive cover and scored “direct hits” on ground targets in ranges in Alaska. The war games involved sorties from the Eielson and Elmendorf air force bases. The war games are hosted by the US Pacific Command Air Force.
In February this year, in war games hosted by India named Cope India, IAF MiGs gave the US air force F-15Cs a hard time. It was acknowledged by a US military journal, Inside the Air Force, and by a general of the US Air Combat Command, Hal Hornburg, that the exercise had revealed that the US air force capabilities were not as vastly superior as had been presumed.
Details of war games are slow to emanate because participants do not want to comment before analysing the experience. The team was taken for the “hot debriefing” as a routine in Ambala, the home base of the Jaguars that were deployed, for the IAF top brass to assess the results of the war games.
Exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder 04-01 was a multinational Dissimilar Combat Training Exercise that involved air forces from Asia-Pacific and Nato countries — Canada, the UK, Germany, Mongolia, Singapore, Japan and Malaysia among others. Not all countries deployed fighter aircraft.
The Indian Air Force began an intensive series of international exercises with Exercise Garuda 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.
In the India-US exercise in February this year, the Americans had deployed ageing aircraft that are part of the US air force frontline but cannot be said to be at the cutting edge, technologically.
The Indian Air Force is now preparing contingents for fresh international exercises in September and October. Next month, an IAF contingent comprising four Mirage 2000 multi-role aircraft from their home base in Gwalior will fly to South Africa for another multinational exercise hosted by the South African Air Force called Exercise Golden Eagle.
The contingent, to be led by Group Captain T.S. Ahluwalia, will leave Gwalior on September 11 and include an IL 79 heavy transporter and an IL 78 refueller. Gwalior is the base for two IAF Mirage squadrons and the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment that draws up plans for drills and war games. The contingent will fly to Thiruvananthapuram and is likely to touch down in Mauritius and Madagascar.
The South African Air Force is also known to fly a different variant of Mirage fighters. Also participating in Exercise Golden Eagle will be elements of the US, German and the British air forces.
In October, the IAF will engage six F-16 fighters being brought over by the Singapore Air Force.
The IAF does not have the American F-16s in its inventory but the Pakistan Air Force flies the aircraft. The exercises with the Singapore force will include sorties over Kalaikunda, Gwalior and Pokhran in mid-October.