Garuda II, IAF’s Expeditionary Aspirations

By Sayan Majumdar


New Delhi, 04 July 2005

In his analysis of the recent IAF Exercises Garuda II, just concluded in France, Sayan Majumdar has given us an excellent review of where the Indian Armed Forces are in the the world ladder of achievements abroad.

Currently the Army Chief is in Oman and then will visit the UK. The Navy Chief with an armada led by INS Viraat is soon to visit Malaysia and the East. The Army will take part in Special Forces exercises in Russia in September according to General Alexander Kolmakov. The US Air Force F-15s from Kadena in Japan, will be in Kaliakunda later this year led by Brig Gen Jan Marc Juas. Big-ticket happenings but the Army lost some 20 Jawans recently in Kashmir and Manipur.

While we salute the Armed Forces we would also like to caution them to attend to house keeping. The list is long and cases of corruption even at high levels need watching.

The Indian Government it appears is awash with money having garnered huge taxes with more to come, while unfortunately the Senior Citizens and the soldiers of the past who built up the very Armed Forces with sacrifices are themselves being sacrificed and forgotten. The Harvard educated Finance Minister Chidmbaram has cut the senior citizens’ tax benefits by Rs 50,000 and got away with it by some smooth talking. Gujrat is in floods and the Armed Forces are out in strength.

We learn that the Communist party are baiting the Finance Minister and the Foreign Minister Natwar Singh as, according to the CPM, they are both exceeding their brief on the Common Minimum Programme and other policies. The BHEL disinvestment is the ruse and India cannot afford any political destabilisation at this stage. 

The Armed Forces are the beneficiaries of the overflowing coffers. But the 'One Rank, One Pension' promise made to the senior citizens, appears buried and the Top Brass are not reviving it. We wish to convey that all is not rosy and even the recent US India framework for defence will not be easy to implement with our umbilical cord and reliance with Russia.

The message is that while we must attend to India's Expeditionary Aspirations, our internal house needs cleaning up too and that is the more difficult task!

Garuda II, IAF’s Expeditionary Aspirations

By Sayan Majumdar

The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the French Armee de l’Air (Adl’A) recently conducted their second bi-lateral air exercise ‘Garuda II', a two-week long exercise, at Istres Air Force Base, near Marseille, southern France between June 16 and 30. Incidentally 'Garuda-I' held at Gwalior, India, in February 2003 was the first-ever joint multi-national air-combat exercise participated by IAF thus terminating a long period of isolation from the French.

The IAF proved immensely flexible in integrating the new schedule and to opportunities and experiences, offered by the multi-national air exercises. The previous year 2004 was a saturated one for the IAF as far as multi-national exercises were concerned. After convincingly defeating United States Air Force (USAF) F-15 pilots in Exercise Cope India at Gwalior, the IAF took six Jaguar strike-fighters to Alaska during July 2004 to operate with the USAF in Exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder. In other exercises the IAF took part in operations with the services of Singapore (Exercise Ankush) and South Africa (Exercise Golden Eagle) last autumn.

Garuda II reportedly focused on Beyond Visual Range (BVR) combat and In-Flight Refueling (IFR) procedures with IAF Sukhoi-30Ks competing against the Adl’A Mirage 2000-5, which incidentally is one of the four multi-role fighter aircraft the IAF is considering buying and is regarded to be the “unofficial frontrunner” due to IAF’s personal fascination for the type. The IAF was keen to learn and absorb French Air Force's ''experience and employment philosophy,'' as during Garuda-I, the French Adl’A utilised their Mirage-2000 in a somewhat different and more effective way and getting optimum results, especially in the BVR arena. The Adl’A possessed the elaborate BVR experience on the skies over Kosovo and Iraq and consequently refined their tactics. The IAF was surely pleased to “receive” the knowledge albeit losing the BVR engagements initially. However, in Within Visual Range (WVR) combat the IAF overwhelmed the French convincingly throughout sharing an “awesome experience” in the words of French pilots.

For participation in Exercise Garuda II six Sukhoi-30K drawn out from the No. 24 Squadron 'Hunting Hawks', along with an Illyushin-78MKI IFR tanker and an Illyushin-76 transport aircraft, was flagged off from Bareilly Air Force Station (AFS) by Vice-Chief Air Marshal S K Malik on June 9. The aircraft initially moved to Jamnagar, and left on June 12 for Istres via Jyanklis located near Alexandria, Egypt. The IAF contingent was led by Group Captain Shreesh Mohan and comprised 120 personnel. The flying component was led by Commanding Officer of the 'Hunting Hawks' squadron, Wing Commander KV Raju. The IAF staff of the Agra-based Illyushin-78 ‘Battle Cry’ Mid-Air Refuelling Squadron (MARS) may be considered as the “lucky guys” as one posted to join this particular squadron can in true sense “see the world”. IAF is optimally using its MARS assets and a strong possibility exists of its growth.

The Garuda II exercises were held on the air base 125 "Charles Monier" of Istres and marked the first deployment of Sukhoi-30s in Europe. The French Adl’A deployed some 12 Mirage 2000-5 and Mirage 2000C variants of the squadrons of 2/5 "Island-of-France", 1/2 "Storks" and 3/4 "the Limousin" as combat types plus a KC-135 IFR tanker. A single Mirage 2000N nuclear strike variant was also reportedly involved. The missions carried on and perfected were flights in mixed patrols including missions of interceptions and close combat under the control of a Boeing E-3F ‘Sentry’ Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) platform. The BVR armoury of both sides included active-radar homing and infrared “fire & forget” Beyond Visual Range Air-to Air Missiles (BVRAAMS). While the IAF Sukhoi-30s carried the Russian RVV-AE (AA-12 Adder), the Adl’A Mirage 2000s carried the MICA. Interestingly, on June 20, Chief of Staff of the IAF, Air Chief Marshall S P Tyagi on invitation of his French counterpart Richard Wolsztynski witnessed the air exercises minutely on board the Adl’A E-3F ‘Sentry’ AWACS platform. No wonder the IAF is eagerly awaiting induction of its own PHALCON AWACS platform plus a few indigenous developments.

Group Captain Shreesh Mohan declined to give the maximum range of the Sukhoi-30s, in addition of IFR from the Illyushin-78. Yet the French contingent is well aware of the fact that Russian Sukhoi-27/30 variants have attended their highly prestigious Paris Air Show “without prior notice” flying non-stop from Zhukovsky air field, near Moscow on internal fuel only. Designer-General of the "OKB Sukhoi" Mikhail Simonov loves to spring surprises often! Nevertheless, the Flanker variants were on those transits flown in medium to high altitudes and it will be interesting to know the lo-lo-lo penetration range of the IAF Sukhoi-30MKI variant as the aircraft type was initially reported to be developed as a perfect counterpart of USAF F-15E ‘Strike Eagle’. Hints were made of some improvisations made in airframe and engines which in initial Flanker variants were tailor-made for operations in medium to high altitudes.

A lot has been said and written on IAF Sukhoi-30s yet its low altitude performance is seldom discussed. The IAF officials for good reasons have declined to share this information. In IAF service the colour schemes of Sukhoi-30 range from “shades of Blue” to “Ghost Grey” associated with primarily air defence types. It appears that the IAF Top Brass is unwilling to expose such an invaluable asset to enemy ground fire unnecessarily and even in strike missions in extreme circumstances the “terminal leg” will be covered by stand-off guided missiles like the Israeli Popeye series or Indo-Russian PJ-10 BrahMos. The reported presence of Mirage 2000N in Garuda II may necessitate fair amount of “low level action” and the details are eagerly awaited.

Another set of very important procedures during the Garuda II exercises included cross-refueling exercises with Sukhoi-30s receiving fuel from the French KC-135 tanker. In turn a French Mirage 2000 received fuel from the IAF Illyushin-78 IFR tanker. The cross-refueling exercises meant that if France or India sent combat jets to alternate locations it could ask for refueling support from “Allied forces”. Both the IAF Illyushin-78MKI and Adl’A KC-135 IFR tankers use the flexible and versatile drogue-and-hose refueling system, while the C-135 is also equipped with the rigid boom used by the USAF although a miniature “hose unit” can be attached to the rigid boom if felt necessary. The cross-refueling exercises do point out the possible IAF desire to gear itself up to operate as a part of multi-national coalition forces. The emergence of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters in the IAF inventory in conjunction with projected weapon systems like R-172 ultra-long range BVRAAM and BrahMos multi-purpose strike ordnance ensures IAF’s place prominently in critical aspects of possible overall operations carried out by Allied coalition forces.

After all, with a permanent Indian seat in the United Nations Security Council, the Indian Armed Forces may well be frequently summoned to fulfil such global obligations!

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