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 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.

12 Comments

  1. “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.”

    Not really. BVR missiles historically always had rather disappointing kill probabilities against anything but straight-and-level targets.

    And BTW, Typhoon is more agile than Su-30 in both BVR and WVR. Supermaneuverability is overrated.

    • You’re damn right about BVR kill statistics being notoriously unreliable and disappointing.

      The claim that the Eurofighter is superior in BVR and hence more capable in the real world is really clutching at straws for a fighter that was MEANT to be an undisputed air-dominance fighter for the Europeans. Or has everyone forgotten that?

      Secondly, ask the USAF, the IAF’s SU-30MKIs have incredible jamming capabilities and thanks to the inclusion of a WSO have amazing situational awareness with powerful radars that can act as “mini-AWACS” in themselves. In this context the chances of downing a flight of MKIs as they close in on you at supersonic speeds is very minimal and a merge is almost guaranteed to happen as such, based in what we already know and these results, the EFT is going to get butchered.

      Hiding behind the supposed BVR superiority is weak.

    • You missed the point.
      In this case, no one has talked about kill probability, just probability that the engagement would be BVR rather than WVR.
      In a future scenario, Typhoons carrying Meteor missiles would shoot at Su-30s at BVR range.

      • Yes. may be in the future Typhoons will carry those missiles. But now Su-30s are the best ;)

      • True, BVR engagement is almost a certainty, though it won’t make use of full capability of Meteor as Typhoon can engage at ~40-50 km (PIRATE identification range vs fighter aircraft, according to info I have found. Reference fighter is likely a Flanker variant.).

      • India is getting its own version of meteor called SFDR. It is jointly developed with Russia and india has full manufacturing rights and IP.

  2. Now India may not hasitate to claim a compensation for being colonised by the UK.

    • you perhaps meant hesitate. Funny your english sounds like a pakistani guy I know.

  3. You all seem to forget that the primary enemy of India, other than Pakistan, is the PRC. Whatever was broadcast was as much for their benefit as to justify the money spent by the Indian Air Force.
    Politics.
    The participants know what did what and who may have ‘won’.
    The objective was training, and the scenarios dictated the outcome.
    Apparently, there were no surprises for either side.
    However, the issue is that India put out a press report that was designed to give the Chinese thought.
    Highly unlikely India will be invading Britain anytime soon . . . or vice versa. : )

    • India ( MiG 21 vs F86 from 1965, MiG 21/Su7 vs F104/F86 from 1971, MiG29 vs F16 from 1999)

      Reports from 1999 are unconfirmed. In all these three wars, Pakis fielded the latest USA had to offer but India had total domination of the skies

  4. Please remember folks – the Pilot never made that claim publicly. He may have mentioned something to that effect informally to the reporter – bragging over a drink, perhaps. And the stupid reporter put it out in public.

    Like all soliders, the ones in India might brag a bit. But they aren’t cussed enough to put down the fighting forces of a friendly nation, with whom they have carried out a war-game.

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