Joint exercises by air forces of two countries may not exactly be hot air, but one named Indradhanush, between the Indian Air Force and Royal Air Force, in Lincolnshire in July has now descended into a public dogfight over who performed the best.
After the 10-day exercise, group captain Ashu Srivastav is reported to have told Indian television that IAF pilots in Sukhoi jets humiliated RAF pilots in Typhoons by 12 to 0 — a scoreboard now ridiculed by sections of the RAF as ‘comical’.
As British aviation experts pooh-poohed Srivastav’s claims, an RAF spokesperson said: “Our analysis does not match what has been reported. RAF pilots and the Typhoon performed well throughout the exercise with and against the IAF. Both learnt a great deal from the exercise and the RAF look forward to the next opportunity to train alongside the IAF.”
According to Srivastav, the Indian pilots performed exceptionally well on various indicators, including one-to-one, two-to-one, and two-to-two dogfights.
An unnamed RAF source told The Independent that claims made in India were designed for the domestic audience: “There must have been some clouded recollection on the flights back to India as the headlines of the Indian press bear no relation to the results of the tactical scenarios completed on the exercise in any shape or form.”
The source also stressed that the Typhoons had effectively been fighting “with one arm behind their backs” as they did not make full use of their more advanced weapons systems.
IAF spokesperson Wing Commander SS Birdi said in New Delhi that it was unfair to compare the performances as the aim of the exercise was to learn from each other and compare the ways the two forces operate.
“The lessons drawn will naturally be applied by the two air forces factoring in their own scenarios,” he said. He, however, refused to comment on the statement purportedly made by the Indian group captain.
The newspaper also quoted Tony Osborne, an aviation journalist, as saying: “These cricket-style scores claimed by the IAF look impressive but should be treated with caution and certainly not as a realistic gauge of combat capability.”
From the British perspective, the exercise gave the RAF a chance to engage with the Russian-made Sukhoi in the context of recent tensions with Russia and reports of Russian jets entering British airspace in recent months.