Have Indian Su-30s really “dominated” RAF Typhoons in aerial combat with a 12-0 scoreline? Most probably not.

Indian fighter jocks claim they have “humiliated” the RAF colleagues in mock aerial combat exercises conducted during Exercise Indradhanush 2015. “Our analysis does not match what has been reported” the RAF said.

As we have already reported, four Indian Air Force Su-30MKI Flankers from 2 Sqd have recently been deployed to RAF Coningsby, UK, to take part in Indradhanush 2015, a two-week training exercise with the Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s.

The exercise has ended and the Russian-built aircraft have returned to India but Exercise Indradhanush 2015 left an unexpected trail of controversy after Group Captain Srivastav, the Indian Contingent Commander in the drills, told the Indian NDTV that the performance of his pilots was “exceptional.”

According to Srivastav, India’s most experienced Su-30 pilot, the IAF pilots came away from the exercise with a resounding 12-0 victory against the RAF Typhoons in WVR (Within Visual Range) engagements conducted while in the UK.

Here’s the report of the mock aerial combat exercises published on the NDTV website:

“The first week of the exercises pitted the Su-30, which NATO calls the Flanker, in a series of aerial dogfight scenarios. First, there were 1 v 1 encounters, where a single jet of each type engaged each other in Within Visual Range (WVR) combat, firing simulated missiles to a range of two miles. The exercises progressed to 2 v 2 engagements with two Eurofighters taking on two Su-30s and 2 v 1 exercises where two Sukhois took on a single Typhoon and vice versa. Notably, in the exercise where a lone Su-30 was engaged by two Typhoons, the IAF jet emerged the victor ‘shooting’ down both ‘enemy’ jets.”

So, not only held the Su-30s an edge on the Typhoons on 1 vs 1 and 2 vs 2, but even when a Sukhoi flew against two Typhoons, it managed to shoot down both enemies.

The response to such claims was almost immediate, even though not too detailed. According to an RAF source quoted in an Independent piece the Indian claims were “clearly designed for a domestic audience“.

A UK MoD blog on this topic said: “As you would expect, advanced military capabilities are rarely operated to the limits of their potential, especially when exercising against other nations’ aircraft. This exercise was no exception for the Typhoon Force.”

True.

A spokesperson for the RAF just said:

“Our analysis does not match what has been reported, RAF pilots and the Typhoon performed well throughout the exercise with and against the Indian Air Force. Both forces learnt a great deal from the exercise and the RAF look forward to the next opportunity to train alongside the IAF.”

So, the outcome of the engagements is at least unclear. However something can be said.

First of all, the purpose of such exercises is usually to study the opponents, learn their tactics and strategy, sometimes without showing the “enemy” the full extent of a weapon system capability (even though the latter is also the “excuse” air arms most frequently use to comment alleged defeats). Then, the kill ratio depends on how the scenario has been set up, with the Rules Of Engagement affecting the number of simulated kills.

Actually, this wasn’t the first time the Indian Air Force publicly claimed a resounding (and debated) victory: during Cope India 04, Indian Su-30 were able to achieve a 9:1 kill ratio against U.S. Air Force F-15C jets from 3rd Wing based at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

In that case, the kill ratio was confirmed but it was also explained that the F-15s were defeated because they lacked an advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) and were called to fight the Su-30s in scenarios that involved six Eagles against up to eighteen IAF aircraft with no chance to simulate any beyond visual range (BVR) missile shot (due to the Indian request of not using the AMRAAM). Furthermore, since the drills took place during F-22 budget reviews, some analysts affirm the Air Force intentionally accepted the challenging ROE (Rules Of Engagement) to gain more Raptors…

Anyway, just like all the simulated kills we have much talked about in the past, including some involving F-22 shot down, all these kill ratio claims should be taken with a grain of salt since they are often used for internal “propaganda” and marketing purposes and they have very little value unless we have some details about the scenario, the supporting assets involved in the engagement (AWACS, Electronic Warfare platforms, Ground Controlled Interceptors, etc.) and the ROE.

In this case, for instance, dealing with the ROE, an RAF source said the Typhoons fought “with one arm behind their backs.”

Moreover, WVR engagements, in which the super-maneuverable Su-30 excels, are less likely than BVR (Beyond Visual Range) ones where a Flanker would be much more vulnerable, as Indradhanush 2015 seems to have proved.

Here is what Group Captain Srivastav told NDTV about LFE (Large Force Engagements) that saw from 4 vs 4 to 8 vs 8 engagements at BVR in the skies near Coningsby:

“Asked about the performance of IAF pilots in these Large Force Engagements, Group Captain Srivastav told NDTV his pilots performed “fairly well” though “quantifying [the results] is difficult”. It was not unexpected for the IAF to “lose” one or two jets (over all the Large Force Engagements put together) given that the movement of each formation was directed by fighter controllers coordinating an overall air battle.”

Image credit: Crown Copyright / Royal Air Force

 

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

5 Comments

  1. The “Group Captain” did not say that the Su-30’s had “an edge on the Typhoons on 1 vs 1 and 2 vs 2”, or that they defeated the Typhoons in every engagement. That conclusion is simply not supported by the quote.

  2. Nobody in Bharat would’ve posted an explanation on the internet like this one here, if IAF would’ve been defeated. I mean there would’ve been people crying foul but most people would’ve said “There’s always a next time, prepare yourselves better” or “Joint military exercises are not competitions” etc. But i see a lot of westerner media channels and military journalists come up with an explanation or excuse after every “Joint Exercise” with IAF. NDTV could’ve pulled the figures out of it’s ass as every Bhartiya knows that it’s infamous for stirring up propaganda and issues in favor of Khangress party. The journalist would’ve asked “How was yr experience in UK?” Pilots would’ve said “Excellent!”, “How did u fair against them” “We did exceptionally well” “Were there any rewards? Did u scored better than them on certain accounts?” “It’s exercise so no rewards but yes on certain aspects we scored better and some they did fairly good but there’s no official record. At one time they took us all out but then we got into our shoes and took 12 of them down losing nothing. So it was great fun and we enjoyed it a lot. I hope they luved it too.”

    NDTV would do it this way. “IAF pilots performed exceptionally better than RAF pilots and won this exercise 12-0”.

    Any sane person can tell “Nobody wins an exercise”.

    Insane people are on both the sides but i don’t see insane people posting explanations on the internet here in my country, that’s the difference if any.

    This one comes from July 2011:
    “RAF Fairford (Britain) : Britain’s frontline fighter jet Eurofighter Typhoon, shortlisted for India’s $10.4-billion combat jets tender, whacked the Indian Air Force (IAF) warhorse Sukhoi in one-on-one dog fights during bilateral air war games, if Britain’s air chief is to be believed.

    “Well, they lost,” was Stephen Dalton’s response when IANS asked how the Russia-developed India-manufactured Su-30MKI air superiority jets performed against the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Typhoons when they matched their wits during the joint exercises in recent years.

    However, he was quick to add that the two aircraft are different in technologies, and that Typhoons are next generation, and hence there is no comparison.

    Dalton was interacting with IANS at the recently held Royal International Air Tattoo military air show at the RAF base here.”

    The real statement of the Group Captain Ashu Shrivastav:

    “The exercises were held in two different scenarios: Within Visual Range (WVR), where simulated missiles are fired up to a range of 2 miles, and Beyond Visual Range (BVR).
    In WVR scenarios, Sukhoi Su-30 is expected to excel against the Typhoon because it is a highly manouevrable aircraft. This is the claim made by Group Captain Srivastav. When it comes to BVR combat, Group Captain Srivastav did not claim much success, acknowledging that “it was not unexpected for the IAF to ‘lose’ one or two jets”.”

  3. Dude nobody wins an exercise. The joint exercises are meant to bring nations closer to each other and to create trust. Why should we be the ones bullying those who invite us to their home and offer trust-friendship? That wouldn’t only be idiotic but also rude. Personally i don’t like Britishers much but that doesn’t mean that i hate them or would humiliate them intentionally. Not by any chance.

  4. The whole thing is pretty obvious to anyone paying attention: the score was actually 12:0 and the British excuses used to save face were pretty lame and here is why. Both air forces use their planes in training mode, because of secrecy concerns. Each time such training is arranged, everybody is trying to sniff every one else’s radar frequencies and such. Talking about the typhoons having to fight with one hand tied behind the back is pathetic. Both planes are limited in the use of their equipment. The handicap is equal for both. Period. The typhoon has no edge over the Sukhoi, neither in IR, Radar, AAM or EW spectrum. So the score is surely hard to swallow for the RAF leadership. And it should be. Even deadlier potential adversaries are in the pipe line, Su-35S, Su-30SM3 with Khibiny EW pods and the Pak fa… all of which are even more agile in the air.

  5. Syrian Mig 23s killed F15s. There is a record of a Mig 21 shooting down an F15. Also another record of a Mig 25 shooting down an F15. You won’t find this on Wiki though. Actually you will find some info if you look properly on Wiki.

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