In the 80th year of its inception, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is gearing up for two major war games next year—the mother of all exercises ‘Livewire’ and ‘Red Flag’ with the US Air Force after five years.
IAF will participate in the first organisational-level war games ‘Livewire’—to be organised early next year. Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Force President Pranab Mukherjee will also witness the Fire Power Demonstration at the end of ‘Livewire’. The other major participation will be the ‘Red Flag’ exercise in the US—essentially meant for the country’s NATO allies. Last time the IAF fighter jets roared in the US sky was in 2008.
“The IAF has been inducting new platforms in its inventory. Since the integration is over, the next year will give an opportunity to test the wherewithal of the organisation to maximum,” officials said. The exercise, brainchild of Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, was planned in 2012 but was postponed for 2013 when the new platforms have integrated well with the existing ones.
The exercise would be the first in the history of the IAF and was planned to validate its new war strategies, inductions and technologies.
The exercise is planned to check the integration of the newly-acquired platforms and network-centric warfare system with the existing fighter fleet of the IAF. The mid-air refuellers were to be tested to the hilt for a war fought on multiple fronts. The endurance-testing war games will be followed by India’s participation in ‘Red Flag’ exercise, that is held every three months for duration of around two.
In 2008, IAF’s eight Sukhoi Su-30MKIs, two Il-78 mid-air tankers and one Il-76 heavy lift aircraft covered a distance of 19,000 km along with 91 officers and 156 other ranks. As much as the IAF would have wanted to participate in the prestigious exercise every year, in view of the huge cost—last time the bill came to be around `100 crore—it has decided to participate in the exercise once every five years. Left parties, an important ally of the UPA I, have been against Indian armed forces exercising with their US counterpart. The COPE Indo-US exercise in West Bengal, the ‘Red Flag’ exercise in the US and the Malabar naval exercise had met a stiff opposition from these parties.
The experience of participating with the best of the air force in the world in 2008 has given invaluable experience to the force. In 2008, it was the first time that Sukhoi, a Russian-built fighter jet, was used in the US territory. The Indians learned about the French Rafale and the US F15s and F16s. The IAF had managed to outdo the US Air Force in visual and Beyond Visual Range combat simulations even as it kept its radars off and operated on training frequencies and not the wartime frequencies used for communication.