Exercise Indradhanush: Flankers And Typhoons Battle In British Skies

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The British Royal Air Force (RAF) and Indian Air Force (IAF) have hailed the success of a major exercise which saw the deployment of four Sukhoi Su-30MKI ‘Flankers’ to the U.K. to fly with and fight against the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon.

Exercise Indradhanush IV (Hindi: Rainbow) concluded on July 30 following intensive flying operations with RAF Typhoon squadrons from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. Ten IAF crews including 15 pilots and five weapon systems operators flew twice daily missions, often flying all four Su-30s on air-to-air training missions flying beyond visual range (BVR) and within visual range (WVR) engagements with the Typhoon.

This is the fourth iteration of the exercise, with the British and Indians taking it in turns to visit each other's shores.

The last time the Indians deployed to the U.K. was in 2007.

The Su-30s came from 2 Sqn – the Winged Arrows – based at Tezpur near India’s frontier with China.

The Flanker pilots were also able to use their thrust-vectoring control (TVC) “super-maneuverability” capability activated by flipping a switch in the cockpit. One pilot told Aviation Week that they had used the yaw capability of the TVC to remain inside the tight turn radius of the Typhoon in order to keep the Typhoon in missile launch parameters.

It was not possible to assess which aircraft, if any, had the upper hand in air combat, pilots and commanders remained tight lipped on the results of any dogfighting.

RAF Wg. Cmdr. Chris Moon, commanding officer of 3 (Fighter) Sqn which led the exercise said that participants had adopted a “crawl, walk, run approach” with Indian crews familiarizing themselves with U.K. airspace regulations before taking on the Typhoons in 1vs1, 2vs1 and increasingly complex engagements. The last exercise mission saw all four Flankers working with six Typhoons to escort and support two C-130J Hercules on a paradropping mission. They were opposed by 8-10 red-air Typhoons.

The exercise also saw the use of an Indian C-17 and an Il-78 tanker aircraft. The Il-78 operated alongside an RAF A330 Voyager tanker over the North Sea. While the Su-30s could have refueled from the Voyager, they were not cleared to, as a result fighters refueled from their national assets.

At least two RAF pilots got to fly in the back seat of the Su-30 during exchange sorties on July 30.

All Indian aircraft left the U.K. on July 31.

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