The bigger picture
Bill Rice has one of the best analyses of last year’s joint air exercises between India and the United States (via Winds of Change).
The United States had never flown against the high tech, Russian built SU-30. This presented the USAF with a treasure trove of intel on its capability over a long exercise. Why wouldn’t the IAF and USAF want an equal balance of attack and defend scenarios instead of the constant IAF attack versus American defense? Since Pakistan is a primary threat to India, one would think they would be interested in the defense, unless the IAF wanted to convey the message to Pakistan that if it can overwhelm the American F-15C, it can surely overwhelm the Pakistani Air Force. Sometimes the best deterrence is a good offense. India also would have conveyed a similar message to China.
The USAF has been far more on the attacking side of the equation over the past, say, 60 years with aircraft, so why the focus on defense? It all comes down to defending Taiwan against a Chinese attack. The ability for the US to train and fly against the SU-30, a massive and sophisticated Russian attack aircraft, for the first time was too good to pass up. The Indians were reluctant to utilize the aircraft in the scenarios but ultimately decided on it. The benefits the IAF received were worth giving up valuable intel on a plane that is in India’s adversary China’s arsenal.[By Dawn’s Early Light]
4 thoughts on “Did Indian pilots really ace the Americans? (redux)”
That is indeed a pretty well-research and well-written article. I had read the facts on the “handicap” (or “cuffs” as Bill Rice calls them) on the USAF, in the reports on the exercise. I could not fathom why it was allowed, so assumed that the “bragging rights” were something the media conjured up. From Bill’s analysis the reasons were:
1. India gets to “scare” Pak
2. The US gets to “scare” Congress
3. The US also gets valuable intel on a weapon in the Chinese arsenal they might have to face sometime in the future.
On a side note, the US seems to be engaging us as a partner against China. Given a choice would we prefer US help against China or US help against Pak? If the answer is obvious, maybe we should stop cribbing about US largesse in Pak.
My first impression when I read about USAF losing to IAF is that the USAF wanted to push through some arms through Congress (I didn’t know about the F-22 at all). I just couldn’t believe that the IAF is so good to “beat” USAF. I bet that all the major AF’s in the world are learning from USAF from Gulf War 1 & 2. The USAF can’t be beaten on a one on one for the next couple of decades.
In India’s case, the China threat works through the Pakistan threat. So any US largesse to Pakistan will allow China to do more with less.
Also, I get a sense that there might have been a missed opportunity here because of the ‘cuffing’. Neither air-force gets intelligence on what would happen in a realistic situation. Perhaps that will be syllabus for future exercises.
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