Red Flag - The Indian side of the Story




here's something for people to chew on; released at the following of course

The IAF at Red Flag 2008: The True Story

Hi ... for all of you who are out there in the internet world and who have an interest in the performance of the Indian Air Force at Red Flag 2008 .. I have a few remarks. As the only Indian journalist who spent a lengthy period of time at Nellis after being granted permission by both the Indian Air Force and the US Air Force, I was granted access to impeccable sources in both forces. Whats more, I was able to independently corroborate this information with reliable, alternative sources.

Several of the points I present here in the form of this post on the Bharat Rakshak forum will be compiled into an article which I will post on my company website For those of you not familiar with the Indian media ... New Delhi Television (NDTV) is India's largest 24 hour news network and our website is one of the most viewed among news websites in the country. For the moment, I have decided not to do a television news report on this since I believe the contents of this post are too technical for a larger audience.

For starters ... and this cannot be stressed enough ... the Red Flag exercises were a brilliant learning experience for all the participants, not least of all the Indian Air Force which, over a period of time, has earned the reputation of being one of the world's finest operational air forces.

This was a reputation which was reinforced at Red Flag 2008, the world's most advanced air combat exercises where the Indian Air Force fielded a number of state of the art Sukhoi 30 MKI jets in addition to IL-76 transports and IL-78 mid air refuellers.

For other participants at the Red Flag exercises ... namely the South Korean Air Force, French and US Air Force ... the opportunity to train with a platform such as the Sukhoi 30 MKI was an opportunity which just couldn't be missed. This has a lot to do not just with the jet but also with the air force operating the fighter, a force which has made a mark as an innovative operator of fast jets.

The US Air Force … the host of these exercises … was singularly gracious in its appreciation for the Indian Air Force contingent which came into Red Flag having trained extensively for the exercises not only back home but also at the Mountain Home Air Force base in the US.

Contrary to unsolicited remarks by certain serving US personnel not directly linked to day to day operations at the exercises … the Indian Air Force and its Su-30s more than made a mark during their stint in the United States.

For starters … not a single Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter was `shot down’ in close air combat missions at the Mountain Home air base. In fact, none of the Sukhois were even close to being shot down in the 10 odd one on one sorties which were planned for the first two days of the exercises at Mountain Home. These one on one engagements featured USAF jets such as the F-15 and F-16 in close air engagements against the Su-30 MKI. The majority of the kills claimed in these engagements were granted to the Indian Air Force with the remainder of these being no-results. Indian Air Force Sukhois did use their famed thrust vectoring in these one on one engagements. Contrary to what may have been reported elsewhere … the Su-30 has a rate of turn of more than 35 degrees when operating in the thrust vector mode. In certain circumstances, this goes up substantially.

By the time the exercises at Mountain Home had matured … the Indian Air Force had graduated to large formation exercises which featured dozens of jets in the sky. In one of these exercises … the blue forces, of which the Indian Air Force was a part … shot down more than 21 of the enemy jets. Most of these `kills’ have been credited to the Indian Air Force.

By the time the Indian Air Force was ready for Red Flag, the contingent had successfully worked up using the crawl, walk, run principle. At Red Flag though, they found themselves at a substantial disadvantage vis a vis the other participants since they were not networked with AWACS and other platforms in the same manner in which USAF or other participating jets were. In fact, Indian Air Force Sukhois were not even linked to one another using their Russian built data links since American authorities had asked for specifics of the system before it was cleared to operate in US airspace. The IAF, quite naturally, felt that this would compromise a classified system onboard and decided to go on with the missions without the use of data links between the Sukhois.

Neither was the Indian Air Force allowed to use chaff or flares, essential decoys to escape incoming missiles which had been fired by enemy jets. This was because the US FAA had visibility and pollution related concerns in the event that these were used in what is dense, busy air space in the Las Vegas region.

The Red Flag exercises themselves were based on large force engagements and did not see the Indian Air Force deploy thrust vectoring at all on any of the Sukhoi 30 jets not that this was required since the engagements were at long ranges.

Though it is true that there were 4-5 incidents of fratricides involving the Indian Air Force at Red Flag … it is important to point out the following:

In the debriefs that followed the exercises … responsibility for the fratricides were always put on the fighter controllers not the pilots. Its also important to point that unlike in Mountain Home, none of the Indian Air Force’s own fighter controllers were allowed to participate since there was classified equipment at Nellis used for monitoring the exercises. The lack of adequate controlling and the fact that Nellis fighter controllers often had problems understanding Indian accents (they had problems understanding French accents as well) resulted in a lack of adequate controlling in situations. Whats more … given the fact that the availability of AWACS was often low … the bulk of fratricides took place on days when the AWACS jet was not deployed. Whats important to remember though is that US participants in these exercises had a similar number of fratricides despite being fully linked in with data links and the latest IFF systems.

So was the Indian Air Force invincible at Red Flag. In a word … no. So yes, there were certainly days in which several Sukhoi jets were shot down. And there were others when they shot down many opposing jets. Ultimately though … the success of the Indian Air Force at Red Flag lay in the fact that they could meet their mission objectives as well, if not better, than any other participant. Despite the hot weather conditions, the IAF had a 95 per cent mission launch ratio, far better than some of the participants.

And no one went into the exercises thinking the score line would be a perfect one in favour of the IAF. In fact … the IAF went into these exercises with an open mind and with full admiration of the world beating range at Nellis with an unmatched system of calibrating engagement results.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of these exercises comes from the fact that the Indian Air Force’s young pilots … learnt from their mistakes, analysed, appreciated and came back strong. Mistakes were not repeated. In fact … the missions where the IAF did not fare well turned out to be immense learning experiences.

At the end of the exercises … its more than clear that the IAF’s Su-30s were more than a match for the variants of the jets participating at the Red Flag exercises. Considering the fact that the central sensor of the Sukhoi, its radar … held up just fine in training mode …despite the barrage of electronic jamming augurs well for the Indian Air Force.

As for its young pilots … these are skills and experiences that they will take back to their squadrons … experiences which will be passed on to a whole new set of pilots who will come into the next set of exercises that much wiser.

Vishnu Som
Associate Editor and Senior Anchor

And another reference, although there's a lot more "noise" on this one:

the noise was greatest from the "red flag pilot" who doesn't know a saturn from a tumansky. Yes of course I am sure some great know it alls will come out saying defence personnel don't know OPFOR stuff blah blah and do some selective reading . Just like the incredibly selective and not so secretive briefing that

the Pilot did at an order of Daedalian meet.
I did not know the IAF had been invited to Red Flag this year. One of the guys over on whatifmodelers that lives out West snapped a couple of tiny photos of what he thought were Flankers around that time. The jets in his photos were teeny, and no one could confirm their presence at the time. It's nice to know he was right.
ı have downloaded the first page of the Indian forum and there are remarks about the unkil . Is it the uncle of Uncle Sam or does it denote intelligence services and operatives ?
This is very insidish video. awesome information. You don't read stuff like that in Air Force Montly. I bet somebody got fired for posting that. I also feels it will result in some international chandals.

Interesting facts were the sustained turn rates:
F-22: 28 deg/s (i though that was classified)
SU-30MKI: 22 deg/s
F-15/F-16: 16 deg/s

Also, it appears the israelis make the best jamming equipment in the world.

SU-30MKI vectors its trust in V-Shape direction which can be used for some super useless maneuvers.

The Guy's hand 3D representation of the maneuvers is invaluable and has to be seen.

SU-30MKI need 1 minute between lauches to avoid FOD.

Indians send their engines to Russia for repairs. OMG!

Still, it the guy gave a lot of credit to the Indian pilots for their profesionalism.
An Interesting follow up (I knew this was coming):
NEW DELHI: After a US Air Force (USAF) pilot was shown in a YouTube clip trashing India’s frontline fighter jet Su-30 MKI saying it failed to impress during the recently held Red Flag war games, the organisers of the exercise have apologised to the Indian Air Force (IAF) for the remarks.
In a letter to Air Headquarters, an official of the Red Flag said it was the personal view of the USAF pilot talking in the clip and not of those involved in the exercise.
The organisers are looking forward for the participation of the IAF in the future editions of Red Flag, said the letter.
The appearance of the clip in the cyber space had embarrassed the IAF even as it was immediately rubbished. The clip shows a pilot apparently giving a presentation but there are no audience shown in the video.
The person, in uniform, talks about how the Su-30 MKIs were dominated by USAF’s F-15s and F-22 Raptors.
The person said in the clip how the aircraft lost out during dogfights and singled out problems with its thrust vectoring and the fact that it took up to a minute to arrange its take-off while the rest of the aircraft took only seconds.
The official, however, praised IAF’s MiG- 21 Bison which has been modified with Israeli radar, active radar missiles and electronic jammers. He claimed MiG-21s were nearly invisible to the F-15 and F-16s, a fact which was demonstrated when the USAF fighters had taken part in joint exercises in India. After the clip surfaced, the IAF took up the issue with defence attaché in the US embassy and efforts were made to get it removed.
The officials said some of the technical claims made in the clip were incorrect and it was a pathetic attempt to prove a point.
Aviation expert Pushpender Singh told to this website’s newspaper that it was unfortunate that the most powerful air force in the world was resorting to such tactics. He said the video was full of inaccuracies. For example, the person in the video claimed that the MiG-21 Bisons were equipped with the Israeli radar.
“It is wrong. The aircraft has a Russian radar,” said Singh.

full storyand some interesting comments here

So, was the video made up or were the remarks of the USAF colonel sincere?

I think its one on those cases where we had a glimpse of an unfiltered post exercise debrief, and it had some pretty strait facts and arguments for and against the IAF.
Well, I'd be very cautious about remarks of a pilot that tells you of Su-30MKI using 'Tumanski' engines.
Sustained turn radius figures, I believe, is classified - and will hardly believe for 22 deg/sec for -MKI.
A well I hardly would believe in FOD restrictions for aircraft with FOD-secured intakes mecha implanted on the drawing board.

V-shape vectoring on MKIs, as Sukhoi states, radically improves lateral controllability at low speeds.
I think its one on those cases where we had a glimpse of an unfiltered post exercise debrief, and it had some pretty strait facts and arguments for and against the IAF.


This was just a presentation in front of some geriatric daedalians and not a "debrief". The manner and content of presentation was pretty much how you would speak to a bunch of school kids when telling them about the thunderbirds at a colorado springs airshow.
The manner and content of presentation was pretty much how you would speak to a bunch of school kids when telling them about the thunderbirds at a colorado springs airshow.

I would argue that your school-kids were in fact some fighter pilots that perhaps did not participate in the exercise. I see this as just a kind of presentation you give to some pilots that needed to know USAF has the best pilots, training and aircraft in the world.

The guys might have had some if his facts mixed up but it was deliberate. All basic statements carried logic and did paint a good picture of the situation.
Well, I'm reposting scandal videos transcripts - it's easier to understand written than spoken


Discussion on the Su-30MKI. These were version five airplanes, they had vectored thrust, canards, all the advanced weapons the Russians build, including the AMRAAMSKI, and there (Archer?) there IR missile, which has a 30 mile range on it. Nothing classified, all can be found in Janes... etc...

The Sukhoi engines (i believe he called them Tumansky? ) are very vulnerable to FOD. The Indians asked for a 1 minute spacing between take offs - with nearly 50-60 aircraft supposed to take of, if you have one person who will wait one minute between each take off to launch these six aircraft... yeah.... right, they can go find some other place to fly. So we trained with them, worked with them, and got them to shorten that down to 45 seconds, still not acceptable. But what we did was launch their aircraft ahead, since they had enough gas fuel, they would go and wait orbit ahead and the rest would join up. They were very concerned about fod and how Russian engines are not nearly as reliable as Americans. One of the things the Indians were very disapointed in, if an engine breaks down, they make them send the engine back to Russia, then you'll send you back a new one.

There's a great video on youtube, where somebody shows the F-22 flying its demo, and the Su-30MKI, side by side, and he does the exact same domonstration, as the F-22. And an airshow, then can do the same demonstration. The reality is, that's about as close as the airplanes ever get. When you compare it with out airplanes, the F-16 and F-15, it's a tad bit better than we are. And that's pretty impressive, it has better radar, more thrust, vectored thrust, longer ranged weapons, so it's pretty impressive. The Sukhoi is a tad bit better (holds arm at chest level, and the other arm signifying the Sukhoi a wee bit higher). But now compare with the F-22 Raptor, the raptor is here. (holds palm way above his head - signifying that the aircraft is much better). OK, next.

Now coming to the aircombat. You know the story of Cope India and how our F-15s went there for the exercise at the Indian Nellis. Our aircraft were a regular unit while they had the most experienced pilots on the Sukhoi-30s there. Ours were a mix of 80-20 - 80 percent with low experience, less than 500 hours on the F-15, the remaining 20 were fairly experienced but they came back from a staff appointment so they really hadn't had a lot of time flying. Anyway at Cope India, we held our own, but the Indians went to town thumping their chests - they said we (IAF) shot them down more times than they shot us down - which was true.

Now here at Mountain Home, the Sukhoi unit that they sent was a regular operational unit - had a mix of 50-50 (experienced and inexperienced). They had come off MiG-21s.. Well what happened was after the first two to three days of operations, you know exchanging patches and all, we went up in 1 vs 1 combat. The Indian pilots came from MiG-21 Bison units. the MiG-21 bison, as you know is based on the Mig from the Vietnam war era, but upgraded with an Israeli radar, Israeli jammer, active homing missile etc. the small RCS of the MiG-21 with the Israeli jammer would make them invisible to radar... mean they could close in on our legacy fighters (F-15 and F-16) and engage in aircombat. Remember back in 4477th... Mig-21 had ability to get into the fight, 110 knots, 60 degrees nose high, 10,000 feet to 20,000 feet, very maneuverable airplane, but it didn't have any good weapons. Now it has high off bore sight, helmet, jammer, good radar, and the archer, so that's the plane the SU-30 experianced pilots came out of.

So we get them to Mountain Home... amazingly, we dominated. Not with a clean F-15, we dominated with an F-15 in wartime configuration, I mean, 4 missile onboard, wingtanks, and they're sitting there in there Su-30s with ACMI pods. Floored to the point after the first 3 days, they didn't want any more 1 vs 1 stuff. Funny 'cause in India, they only wanted 1 vs 1 - cause they were winning.

The Sukhoi has TVC in a V (OFF AXIS 2D TVC... SEMI 3D TVC) . The TVC would kick in and push the aircraft the direction when the pilot engages the switch on the stick. All this is formidable on paper but what you would know is that with the TVC kicking in, its a huge aircraft, and thrusting such a huge aircraft in that direction creates a lot of drag. It's a biiig airplane. A huge airplane. We had enough experience with the F-22. which has up/down TVC nozzles.

What would happen is that the in a merge with the F-22... From our experience, that's the only way you would get the F-22. and the only way - this happens only if there is an inexperienced pilot because the experienced ones never make the mistake. You would be pulling in scissor fight hoping you would get the F-22 in your sights (laughs ). The F22 can sustain a turn rate of 28 deg per second at 20,000 feet while the F-15 can get an instantaneous rate of 21 and a sustained rate of 15-16. So you are pulling and hoping. Post stall, maneuver, the ass end drops and instead of going up, it just drops in mid air. This is where the F-15 pilot would pull up vertical, switch to guns, then come down and take a shot at the F-22. Of course you have to first get in close to do this, most probably the F-22 will kill you before that.

The Su-30? No problem. Big aircraft. Big cross section. Jamming to get to the merge, so you have to fight close... he has 22 - 23 degrees per second sustained turn rate. We've been fighting the Raptor, so we've been going oh dude, this is easy. So as we're fighting him, all of a sudden you'd see the ass end kick down, going post stall - but now he starts falling from the sky. The F-15 wouldn't even have to pull up. slight pull up on the stick, engage guns, come down and drill his brains out.
The Indians were astonished. We were amazed. After three to four days of `1vs1, they said, okay we had enough of this lets get back to the regular operations. While at Cope India , all the Indians wanted to do was just 1 vs 1

Part 2

While on paper, he has vectored thrust, all these great weapons and everything, he looks the same as a Raptor, he's no where near the same. So that was a really good thing for us to find out, that we really didn't know until this last excercise. Now, what I'm scared of, is congress is going to hear that and go 'great we don't need to buy any more airplanes... no no no, we used to be way ahead of them, now they're right up close to us and just a little bit higher. I say that they're just alittle bit better than us, is because when there pilots learn how to fly, they'll be abled to beat the F-16 and F-15, on a regular basis. Right now, they use TVC and just go into post stall.... so it's only a matter of time before they learn.

The french usually came with Mirage 2000 dash 5, one of there older airplanes, but the moment they knew the Indians were getting the Sukhois they decided to send the Rafales. their latest, advanced jet. 90% of the time, they followed the Indians in, but they never really came into the merge. Like in Iraq and Afghanastan, they would do local flights and say we participated, but what they were really doing is just sniffing electronically and finding out how our radars work. And that's really all they did out here.

One thing about the IAF - they were a professional lot and they were very strict about the rules of the flying area. During their stay they made zero mistakes -/ errors about the flying area and that was incredible. We had other expectations but they were quite good. And they're learning... The IAF was also very serious about another thing.

They killed a lot of friendlies. You know what was happening is that they didn't have the datalink with the Awacs. Big internet data links. Russian made data links no computer link - the Koreans, the French and us could see the complete picture on the HUD, but the IAF had to ask the AWACS. they would ask about a target ahead, "Contact on my nose 22 miles, friendly or hostile?" Awacs would say "No hostile within 40 miles of you" then "Fox2." (laughs/audience laughs) The first two days they got hit bad, they were getting shot down while waiting for answers so they decided to kill the other guy fast without knowing.. better you die than me. But they took the fratricides very seriously. They did not have combat I.D capability.

The Koreans bought in their brand new F-15Ks. beautiful aircraft, with AESA radar and all like on the F-22. Had Isreali targetting and jamming pods on them. Incredible airplanes. Very professional also. But they had less than 50 hours on it and none on the airplane, they were still learning the aircraft. so it did not have any significant impact.

So while Nellis is about training with people who we will go to war with, Red Flag Alaska (PACOM??): This is different from Red Flag Nellis. This where we exercise for friendship building. Most countries that fly there are in a conflict with each other. The Indians really wanted to participate in Red Flag Nellis, so they could mix right in and be a part of the coalition, and they learned, in a big way, that, that, wouldn't happen.


Was the AESA radar in the Indian...? Well the Indian is PESA which is not active but passive, as apposed to AESA. Huge diferance, the AESA pings more, and sees more, and is more accurate, than just a passively scanned radar. PESA is good but ends up having more technical problems descriminating, and finding the right guy.

Some guy said F-15 was last dogfighting airplane, he discounted the fact the F-22 was really good...? I think the Raptor is the next great dogfighter we have. Reason is, electronic jamming, and not only electronic jamming, but we don't carry enough missiles. We're going to have to go in with guns. Gonna happen and thank god the Raptor still has a gun on it. It's fast, maneuverable, .... and the Block 50 (and 52 EHRM P&W FTW), is pretty good also, so these aircraft, the F-15, Block 50 F-16, and the Raptor, are still very capable aircraft, because when the Bison that gets in unseen with the small RCS and jammer.... going to need maneuverability.

What about the F-35? Let's save that for another discussion. We do too much work on it at this moment, but we'll save that for another time.
Now, let's go for Su-27 bible, Andrey Fomin's 'Su-27: A Story Of A Fighter'

Su-27SK (Seriyny, Kommerchesky = Serial, Commercial (i.e. export version)
sustained turn rate - 21 deg/s
instantaneous turn rate - 27 deg/s

No numbers for -30MKI were published so far. Would limited thrust vectoring and 'integrated triplane' aerodynamics improve Indian birds maneuverability at this area? Who damn knows. There were probably, some reasons, that forced India to invest money in AL-31FP and foreplanes?

If we still have classified F-22 max speed and supercruise speed classified, why one can come and reveal such a intimate figure for a fighter as sustained turn speed? If I'd been SECOP officer for this guy regiment, he and operator would be in jail already. It can be truth, it can also be planned leak or desinformation.

Again, why did he compares Su-30MKI to Raptor? May be, he would add comparing costs and quantities?

I want to stop a meaningless discussion, that would go just alike many others on the subject, BECAUSE WE JUST DON'T HAVE reliable figures. We only have what this guy said. It's your own decision to believe him, or not. Before one will see Su-30MKI and F-22 flight manuals, all discussions can be considered useless air tremor.
avatar said:

here's something for people to chew on; released at the following of course

The IAF at Red Flag 2008: The True Story

Hi ... for all of you who are out there in the internet world and who have an interest in the performance of the Indian Air Force at Red Flag 2008 .. I have a few remarks. As the only Indian journalist who spent a lengthy period of time at Nellis after being granted permission by both the Indian Air Force and the US Air Force, I was granted access to impeccable sources in both forces. Whats more, I was able to independently corroborate this information with reliable, alternative sources.
Vishnu Som
Associate Editor and Senior Anchor

Thanks for posting the story Avatar... after reading it I would like to ask if anyone knows when will be the next time the IAF will host another Red Flag?
now it is better ; ı am much better at reading than listening comprehension .

ı haven't read the whole page and ı will just comment on the French connection , that ı was aware of before . Hard to believe but ı can be also pro-French . The fact that a Jaguar pilot returned with AK-47 holes on his plane and one graze on his helmet on the first day of the Desert Storm or the fact that their anti-Americanism increased in 1995 when the missile picked up the lonely Mirage in a bunch of USAF planes might be some ideas that would contend the idea they are lack enthusiasim . Wrong spelling ı know , but the idea is correct in my view . Now that they have missed the bus and the market is being squeezed out by the Americans and the Russians , the last thing the French need is a gun camera tape of Rafales being gunned down . It is just like when ı read in AFM that in the first deployment USN would avoid F-18 duels with the Rafale . It is just an approximation of war and it is easy to get or give wrong impressions . ı remember , at the same magazine , reading about the Belgians versus VF-103 Tomcats , where the F-16s easily dominated . The impression would be either Tomcats or USN was a walkover so after 4th of July break , the Navy came back ; first by the honourable air combat winning method of cheating by getting a second plane into the fight while the AWACS was reporting another to the F-16 pilots . The fighting got stiffened but without a conclusive end as the final 8 vs 8 fight was cancelled , which might have tilted the overall results . ı have long wondered if VF-103 was reinforced ? It would be wrong to give to much credit to such exercises but then a pilot , even when he is in the USAF , is a better examiner of things than me .
The Su-30 can do a sustained 35 degree per second turn rate? Or is that the instantaneous rate?

Jesus Christ that's fast

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