IAF’s contingent to depart for US-led military exercises


New Delhi : Not giving in to the pressure from the Left parties, an Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent will Monday depart to participate for the first time in the multi-national Red Flag exercise at the Nellis Air Force base in the US.

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Though India has participated in many US-led war games, this is the first time at the Red Flag, considered one of the toughest military exercises.

“The IAF will be participating in the early edition of the multinational Air Exercise Red Flag 08 scheduled from Aug 9-23. The contingent will be led by Group Captain D. Chaudhury,” said IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Mahesh Upasini.

The contingent, comprising 91 officers including 10 members of IAF’s special force team Garud, will fly for the US Monday from Pune and will reach the US base July 17.

The IAF will be sending its eight multi-role aircraft Sukhoi-30 MKI, two IL-78 mid-air refuellers and one IL-76 transport aircraft.

The Left parties, especially the Communist Party of India-Marxists, have been opposing the exercise saying that the India-US military-to-military ties are part of a package with the civilian nuclear deal.

Apart from IAF and US Air Force, South Korean Air Force with F-15K and the French Air Force with their latest Rafale aircraft will also be participating in the war game that is held thrice a year.

Red Flag was originally conceived in 1975 by the US Air Force for advanced aerial combat training to ensure that the pilots are trained well enough to survive in air combat and win air battles.

“Prior to the main exercise, the IAF’s contingent would be working up at Mountain Home Air Base in Idaho from July 17 to Aug 7,” Upasini added.

At Mountain Home, the IAF contingent would be flying with the US’ F-16 and F-17 fighter aircrafts.

“The purpose of the work up phase is to streamline the procedures and have a clear understanding of the new flying environment,” Upasini said.

The Red Flag exercises are spread over an area of nearly 21,000 square km in Nevada with participating air forces simulating real combat situations.

India and the US have held around 50 such war games in the last seven years to build “interoperability”. By contrast, the combined figure for India’s military exercises with Russia, France and the Britain is not even one-third of that.