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.

8 Comments

  1. Hey I am Indian. And frankly telling I have lost faith in Indian journalism and TV channel long back. They always openly change or modify facts accordingly to make it more fascinating and to make some sects of people happy. Of coarse to increase their income by increasing trp. We common man of India ask sincere sorry for controversy created by our media. We know the importance of such bilateral ties and we respect these ties with RAF of our beloved iaf. Thank you.

    • Well said common man.
      Regarding the media: it’s just a reflection of the culture. The only alternative is to have state controlled media (You only have to look to China, to see how well that works!)

      For WVR encounters, the Su30 has two advantages over the Typhoon: Higher Angle of Attack (AoA) capabilities and thrust vectoring (TVC). (For BVR, these are largely irrelevant.)
      The Typhoon is already testing an aerodynamic modification kit (AMK), and they’re extremely happy with its results; it should substantially close the gap in low speed maneuverability.
      Then if TVC proves to be the game changer, that many eastern speculators insist it is, there’s an advanced 3D TVC nozzle that’s been ready for testing on the Typhoon for over a decade. It’s there, if they decide it’s needed.

      The Typhoon will never have the relaxed post stall abilities of the the Su 30’s, but in all other regards I think that a fully kitted out Typhoon would be closer to the PAK 50 in its capabilities. But that’s only if the western (and maybe some eastern) govs want to spend the money and develop it properly. Hell, look at what development has done for the Su27.

      A final word: We mustn’t forget that the single biggest factor is pilot skill; this is much more important than the minutiae of aircraft capabilities. Pilot skill is a combination of training and time in the air. I’m sure both the RAF and IAF found the exercise very useful and I hope that they’ll continue to repeat such training endeavours many more times to come!

      • are those aereodinamic advantages levelled off by a high -off boresite missile launch capabilities of the typhoon? Unless they were restricted in shooting just using the cannon, moving your head should be faster than any AoA/TV gymnic. That is why knowing rules of engagement is a must.

        • The Su-30 MKI also incorporates HMD even the MIG-21bis with the IAF have it. The boresight is supposed to be mated with the particular missile the aircraft is using and the ‘off boresight capabilities have little to do with the helmet sight and more to do with the ability of the missiles to acquire targets in their ‘cone’ of target acquisition. Sorry ‘Renato’ dude but ‘boresight missile launching and interception would mostly be WVR range or ‘cannon range’ and Thrust Vectoring of the Sukhoi and its super maneuverability would be the determining factor in these sort of engagements. As some people have mentioned here The Typhoon would excel in BVR exchanges and the Sukhoi in WVR..

          I think one of the big reason for this ’12:0′ report (if it exists) is perhaps not raising too many eyebrows on the selection of the Rafael for the $20 billion Tender for the Mig 21s. Something like what US AF did to acquire more F-22s> Even today (February 1996 ) India is considering the Grippen or the Block 70 F-16 for local manufacture and the EF Typhoon is nowhere in the melee for one of the most lucrative tenders in the world .. WHo knows? whatever the issue but I am sure that the readers who come to this site are discerning and know what the deal is :)

  2. The West is selective to story telling too. And fooling itself. I never fully believed the Korean kill rations given how close the F-86 and Mig-15 were. And in the end, what was really being fought over was the ability of the US to operate B-29 saturation raids on NORK and Chinese infantry divisions. The Migs achieved their goals. No matter what the kill ratio was, the B-29 raids were cut back. There are some other patterns of note. All of the Mig-29 kills I have looked up were AIM-120 BVR kills. Understandably it seems the West does not want to close and play with a Fulcrum for real. As for your Gulf War 1 examples those are one off’s. Even going against a determined enemy flying 1950’s MIGs against modern hardware, I’d expect single digit losses. Those examples are not an example of something systemic.

    The Flanker is a great aircraft. However, I’m still seeing reports about problems with the engines being ready for combat and still requiring frequent major overhaul. I also question just how the Russians bridged the gap in electronics from the Cold War to now. I ask this question because I performed in depth evaluation of former Warsaw Pact EW hardware meant to track NATO frequency hopping. We were going to use these units as potential radio astronomy receivers. They were filled with Western commercial electronics. If that’s what’s going on in modern Russian based combat systems still, I would not expect a lot of that functionality to work when it goes up against a NATO power well versed in EW.

    It would be foolish to think the Russians ignorant farmers. They have always made excellent aircraft WRT their Western counterparts. Just look at the F-104 and Mig-21. Those two aircraft were meant to do the same thing, at the same time, and the two aircraft could not be more different in quality with the Russian product coming out shining in comparison by every metric. The real threat to Western air superiority is not the Flanker, it’s Western hubris, and the likes of the F-35 and F-104.

  3. Some Indian jingoists have a habit of lying.

    Generally speaking, Western equipment performs better on the battlefield than Russian equivalents.

    I highly doubt that any Flanker has a chance against a Block 50-52 F-16, much less against a Typhoon. A Flanker against an F-22 would be like Helen Keller fighting Chuck Norris – the Flanker would be slower, weaker, and couldn’t see her oppnent.

  4. NDTV is becoming more of a nuisance for India, The same is true of some other TRP mongers invested in by some foreign TV networks too. Did you hear anything of the sort on DoorDarshan which is our official news broadcaster?. They simply said India has sent airforce planes and pilots to learn and share from British Air Force. IT also said the IAF was originally created by British during the world war and British planes were our first fighters etc. While the actual Indians were happy to have close relationships with most countries, some TV channels go around and create blah….blah and all that. IAF pilots and planes did perform well in any excersice and most air forces congratulate them for the training and tactics. I’am sure India sis not sent any planes to fight Britain in any case…….SO there is only one thing to do as an Indian……….LOL

  5. There was no group captain Srivastav who gave any kind of statement to NDTV. It was a deliberate make up story by NDTV to garner viewership by sensationalism. Never do the results of such exercises ever revealed to the general public.

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