Alexander Yavorsky

Su-27, F-15, MirageThe Cope India ’04 air battle exercise (DACT) in India had been carried out from February 16 till February 26, 2004 at the Gvalior air base (Madhia Pradesh State). It was earlier planned to begin the exercises on February 14, but invited American staff in number of 130 persons, has only arrived to the air base in this day. From the Indian party the crews of Mig-21 Bizon tactical fighters, Mig–27ML, Mig-29, Mirage 2000С, Jaguar, Su-30МК, and also Il-78 transporter-refuelling aircraft had been involved in the exercise. The participation in the exercise of Su-30MKI aircraft was earlier planned, but Indians refused to exhibit this version, and confined only by Su-30МК, not equipped by the system of thrust vector deviation in flight.

The American Air Forces were presented by six single-seat F-15C tactical fighters and by one KS-135 transport-refuelling aircraft. Particularly, the crews of F-15C aircraft (No. 84-0023 and 84-0028) from 19th squadron structure of 3rd Wing of the USA Air Forces, deployed at the Elmendorf Air Force Base (Alaska state) had been attracted.

The general outlines of the joint exercise carrying out were defined in September, 2003 during visit of the chief of staff of the Indian Air Forces Srinivasapurami Krishnasvami to the USA. The Americans were going to study in practice the flight performances of a new heavy, but super- maneuverable Su-30MKI fighter. As the exercises results shown, and possibilities of Su-30MK were more than enough for the Americans.

The similar exchange by experience has been started earlier. In October 2002, India and USA carried out a joint action with participation of military cargo aviation. The same year the program of exchanges on the two countries pilots training was started. Under the representative of the India Air Forces, three Indian pilots visited the USA for an inspection of the American system of flight support and made several flights on two-seat F-15D plane with their American colleagues before the Cope India ’04 exercises. In July 2004, the Indian party planned to participate at the Co-operative Cope Tender international exercises, which should be carried out on Alaska. Il-78 air fuel tankers, recently bought in Russia should be participated in non-stop flight to Alaska for the first time in the Indian Air Forces history.

МиГ-21-93 “Копье” в небе Бангалора (“Аэро Индия -98”)Until now it was considered, that the perfect flight performances of Su-27 family fighters compensated with interest by very good avionics, which used for the American planes equipment. The warning systems installed on F-15C fighters (AN/APG-63 radar station, AN/ALR-56C system of the warning on radar illumination and REB AN/ALQ-128 multi-mode system) allow theoretically detecting the opponent earlier, than it would detect American plane. It should give the relevant advantage in an air fight, as time saving required for decision making, sighting and missiles launch.

However the Indian pilots refuted the American conceptions on fighting capabilities of their plane. Makhmud Makmakhon, Deputy Chief of India Air Forces Staff has told in this connection: ‘the Americans expected from us the actions in terms of the western doctrine of fighting aircraft application, but we choose the Soviet model, and as a result gain the upper hand over the opponents’. Finally, the absolute superiority remained on the side of fighters of Sukhoy Company. They won each two from three battles, in which they took part.

The Indian pilots have inverted the American conceptions on the fighting aircraft tactics. They used optical-electronic systems of the plane in its training fights, not switching on the radar station, which allowed them to approach insensibly to the Americans on the distance of ‘aimed shot from onboard gun’. During the dogfight, the less manoeuvrable F-15C had a few chances to survive. Thus, under the Indian command reports, Americans were ‘shoot down’ not less than 20 times. During the fights it turned out, that Russian radar stations exceed the American ones. They targeted F-15C even on a mountain’s background at the distance up to 60 km. The radar station of the ‘opponent’ in such conditions were ‘blinded’, and not distinguishing a target on a background of multiple reflections from the mountain’s benches.

The Americans made a detailed report under the exercises data, which is still remained as classified. But something has filtered through the applicable regime restrictions, and it, quite for sure is connected with the forthcoming approvals of the new military budget for 2005 financial year, and, specially, with allocations for development and operational development of perspective F/A-22 fighter, intended to replace F-15 aircraft in the units.

So, it became known, that F-15C aircraft, equipped concerning the old AN/APG-63 radar station, instead of its new AN/APG-63(V)2 version with long-rang, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar has participated at the exercises from the American side. This radar station is specially designed for detection of small-sized and low-visible targets at the tactical ranges of application. To the end of 2002, 18 of F-15C/D fighters of 3rd Wing were equipped by this radar station. It was also noted, that F-15C plane has considerable echoing area, which increase the probability of its defeat by the Soviet missiles of air-to-air class. One of the experts in tactics of fighters has furthermore declared that the IR-signature of the plane is ‘three times more, than in most fighters’. Therefore, Indian pilots of Su-30МК also prefer to act in a passive mode (without the radar station switching on) with help of election-optical systems.

On the other hand, it was noted, that as Indian and American pilots with their radar stations assistance were able to find out each other ‘almost’ simultaneously, however the Indians were frequently opened out shooting first and won a fight.

Training level of the Indian pilots was other surprise for the Americans. If the American pilots have annual flying time about 250 hours, that, under the Indian pilot’s words, they have had not less than 300 hours flying time. The most of aviation flights for combat training of the USA Air Forces are made considering the opponent equipment having the obviously underestimated performances and the training level of the opponent, supposed by the Americans (underestimated as well). The Indian crews on the contrary practise its training considering the full performances of the best opponent’s planes and its crews as well.

F-15 EagleThe Cope India ’04 exercises have also shown, that and out-of-date planes after its substantial updating and equipped by a new avionics and air-to-air missiles shall not be disregarded. The Indian Mig-21 fighters, being upgraded by such way, are the serious challenge, which not always may be easily parried.

The official representatives of the USA Air Forces noticed, that until recently during all exercises the crews of 3rd Wing acted with 2:1 numerical superiority, that, under the command of Air Forces opinion, it is considered representative of majority of battle situations. Generally, here’s all that things which are an obstacle for the bad dancer (equipment of the Indian planes is better, as well as manoeuvrability, and the pilots training is more better, and more Indian pilot’s flying time, and tactics is different). In short, all is different from the order, imagined by the Americans. And at the same time unexpected (but required for political considerations!) conclusion is made: to gain an air superiority over the Indian pilots, the American pilots, so said, are required to be equipped by a low-visible fighter having advantage above the opponent at the first shot expense, provided by the radar station with long radar range and ability of data co-ordination, coming from external gauges, i.e. with such performances, which should have F/A-22 perspective fighter, slowly going into the series production.

To made such conclusion it was not required for the Americans at all to face in the air with Su-30MKI aircraft. God forbid, if the ‘fifteenths’ would lose it totally! Then the sceptics should have the objective question: where is the guaranty that new F/A-22, developed so excruciatingly long, such expensive and complicated, will not also lose to the plane such as Su-30MKI. The other question has brewed as well: how long the USA Air Forces during his crews training will keep the opponent ‘for an idiot’, without the real consideration of its fighting capabilities?

The command of the USA Air Forces amazed by this exercise outcome has decided under its own initiative to expand the manoeuvres, scheduled for 2004. The American F-16 fighters, being basic tactical planes of the West should participate in the exercises on the territory of India. It is scheduled to carry out training fights with Mig-29 aircraft being on arms of the India Air Forces. These fights are interesting to the Indians by the fact that Pakistan their potential opponent has these planes on arms, though its early series — F-16A/B with the obviously underestimated possibilities.

To avoid final disgrace (before its western allies as well, who are persistently persuaded to replace their planes by F-16 perspective multifunction fighters, developed under JSF program) during these exercises, it was decided to involve a pair of the American early radar detection warning and communications planes (AWACS). These planes will help to control air fights and provide the target indication of the fighters. It is a good possibility for Indian to check such system efficiency before purchase of A-50 Russian planes with similar destination. However, such example was already met at the military operations history, as in 1982 during armed conflict in Lebanon target destination to the Israeli planes was made from the American Е-2С carrier plane with the same destination, loitering overseas near the Israeli coast. A sad outcome for the Syrian aviation was obvious.

The Americans cunning a little about of Su-30MKI plane performances and desire to try their power, since it was already found long ago, that F-15 fighter loses in air fight to the simple Su-27 serial plane, on which base Su-30MKI multifunction fighter has been designed. The participation of Su-27 planes in international air shows gave a quite good idea on its flight capabilities. However, exhibitions, display flights, and also more than 40 set-up world records, gave not a tangible idea on the real fighting capabilities of this plane.

In 1987 the aviation world has for the first time in practice seen manoeuvring performances of a general standard Su-27 fighter, going into service to the air defence forces of the Soviet Union. September 13 of this year, the Norwegian Р-3В Orion patrol plane from of 333rd Wing of Air Forces of Norway, dislocated at Andoya Air Base, was making ‘a general reconnaissance flight above Barents sea’ according to the message of the Norway defence minister, and to be exact it tried to observe the group of the Soviet combat ships in the neutral waters of Barents sea, and, to be even more exact, above the international waters to north from Murmansk, in 48 miles from the nearest coast of the Soviet Union.

Vasily Tsimbal, the pilot of Su-27 fighter from 941st fighting regiment of 10th air defence army received the order to made training interception of the Norwegian plane and prevent laying of echo-sounding buoys by the plane. It was a first flight for interception of the real target for the young pilot.

Coming closer to Orion Tsimbal tried to force it to change course, but it ends nothing; a ‘stubborn’ Orion continued its task performance. Under the statement of the defence minister of Norway, Su-27 approached Р-3В from the left side for less than 1.8 m distance.

And than unexpected thing had happened. Orion crew made a decision to get rid of the persistent opponent and used a standard trick — to sharply decrease the flight speed, supposing the opponent fighter was not be able to fly near at such low speed and should certainly started to stall. However Su-27 continued its stable flying just under the Orion. The Р-3В pilot, having lost sight of the ‘twenty seventh’, started to manoeuvre, and as a result, the right outer engine propeller has hit the left-hand fin of the fighter. However, it is may be said by another words: ‘twenty seventh’ pilot during his manoeuvre had touched Orion’s propeller by its fin.

The propeller had been destroyed, its wreckage scattered with a high speed and punched the fuselage of Orion, and therefore a depressurisation had happened. The radio-transparent tip of Su-27 fin was damaged. Orion had been forced to leave the patrol area, and Su-27 has safely returned to its home base.

Without specific estimations of both planes crews’ actions it should be mentioned, that planes of the Norwegian air forces (in NATO and specially the Naval Forces of the USA interests) were persistently carried out the air and echo-sonic exploration near the Soviet territorial waters, attempting to control operating of the Soviet submarines. However after that incident an obvious recession in the reconnaissance activity of the Norwegian aircraft had happened. Su-27 flight performances allowed it to manoeuvre in dangerous proximity from the patrol reconnaissance planes.

After that case the US Air Force command has seriously become thoughtful for the first time that a real Su-27 and F-15 engagement could be turned out not for the benefit of the latter. Many illusions were also destroyed by the ‘Storm in a desert’ operation in which F-15C fighters, performing air patrol to prevent Iraq planes transportation into Iran, had missed in general 148 planes, including 115 combat ones.

After the episode with the Norwegian Р-3В Orion patrol plane in 1987 there was not an opportunity to show flight possibilities of Su-27 fighter before its modern opponent for this class fighter. ‘Twenty seventh’ did not participate in combat operations. Certainly, Su-27 has repeatedly displayed its high manoeuvring performances at numerous international air-shows, but it were still display flights inside a very small airspace in densely populated districts with all inherent in this case limitations. But soon an opportunity arose for Su-27 to meet in the training air fight with the plane, against which it had been developed, and namely with the American F-15 Eagles fighter of air superiority conquest. And this meeting became a real ‘sighting shot into a head’ for the Americans.

In August 1992, the delegation in structure of the pilots Kharchevsky, the colonel (now in a rank of the general-major and heads the Centre), E. Karabasov major, and the head of the delegation N. Tchaga, general-major, head of the Lipetsk Center of combat training and re-learn of flight personnel has came to the Lengly American Air Base with friendly visit. Two two-seat Su-27UB aircraft and Il-76 military cargo aircraft were included into structure of the command as ‘technical support’.

During the visit the Russian side has offered to the Americans to carry out the training air fight. The Americans were politely refused to do so in the all public eye, referred to an extensive air traffic in this area and high density of the population in spite of the fact that the air base, certainly, has had its own air zone closed for flights or temporarily closed for flights of civil airline planes, and private planes.

Finally, the Americans have organised, so-called, ‘joint manoeuvring’ (training air fight) a little further from another’s eyes, i.e. eyes of its own citizens, in the Atlantic Ocean waters.

At Langley (do not mix with Langley place near Washington, where the CIS headquarter located) 1st Wing of tactical fighters, considered as the best aviation unit of the USA Air Forces which pilots have high flight qualification, the excellent tactical preparation and is piloted the most advanced fighters is traditionally dislocated.

As for Americans they made sole flights of F-15 fighter, according to it the Soviet pilots could define weak and strong points of this aircraft. As A. Kharchevsky told later, ‘… we have seen, that somewhere it ‘makes sites’ to increase velocity, counted its turn on seconds and so on. That is, many F-15 performances have become clear to us’.

For joint manoeuvring the air zone in 200 km from the Atlantic coast of the USA in an echelon of heights of 2500-8500 m was chosen. Two-place Su-27UB (the Russian pilot in the front cockpit, the American, commander of this air base in the rear one), F-15D (American pilot in the front cockpit and the Russian air attaché, who was pilot too and helped as an interpreter — in the rear), and also two-seat F-15D as an escort and observation plane, in the rear cockpit of which was the photographer with camera were directed to the flight zone. The conditions were typical for a dog fight: attack from the aft hemisphere side (AHS) and the attempt to be held ‘on a rear’ of the opponent, which one, in his turn, try to destroy the attack and go into the AHS of the attacker by himself.

F-15D attacked by Su-27UB played a target role in the first ‘round’, hereinafter it was supposed to change places. For American ‘Eagle’ a problem ‘to shake’ the Russian fighter from a tail has appeared impracticable. But the ‘twenty seventh’ kept the opponent in a sight without special efforts.

The place change had increased a breaking in results even more. Su-27UB attacked by the American by a fast climbing turn on a complete after-burning was broke was loosing contact with the enemy, and after full one and a half turns the ‘twenty seventh’ came into ‘fifteenth’ tail and has made capture of the target. After Su-27UB ‘defeated’ F-15, it was turned out, that it ‘has removed’ driven evident by this action, by which absolutely not guilty F-15D escort aeroplane has appeared.

After that the Russian pilot has attended to its real opponent — two-place F-15D. And that completely has lost from a view Su-27UB and had been forced to request the escort aeroplane on a site of the opponent. At this time the ‘twenty seventh’ has gone to F-15D tail and, remaining undetected for it, strongly retained it in a sight, which was reported from the escort plane. The American repeatedly tried to gone from the sight of pursue ‘twenty seventh’, but all its attempts appeared in vain.

The pilots rotation in the ‘fighting’ planes cockpits has not enter any surprises to the results. And the second Russian pilot had ‘beat’ the new American pilot in the F-15D cockpit as well. Celebrated American ‘Eagle’ was disgraced by Russian fighter with the Su mark, which this time was in air superiority on short-range approaches to the USA territory. Certainly, this friendly meeting of the potential opponents results were not lighted by the American mass-media’s in order to prevent spiteful questions of the tax payers, about on what, really their money does spend.

The total of offensive instants experienced by the American pilots became the revision of many of basic principles of activity of the US Air Forces, concerning forming of the order for a new engineering and updating of one being on arms, aircrew training and tactics of fighting aircraft combat application. Among the prime problems were updating of F-15 and F-16 basic tactical fighters, enforcing of works on development F/A-22 Raptor fighter of 5th generation.

Despite of difficulties of operational development and deploying of series production, F/A-22, under the Americans opinion, already showing its obvious advantages compares to F-15 and F-16. Alex Grinkevitch, major of the US Air Forces participating in development of tactics of air superiority conquer and aircrew training, informed on his impressions from tests series made at polygons of the Nellis Air Force Base. Nevada, in which pair of F/A-22 fighters acted against mixed forces of an ‘aggressors’ who included eight F-15 and F-16 fighters. ‘We enter the zone with a speed, corresponding to M =1.5 at the 15240 m altitude and the ‘opponents’ were already dead in five minutes’. As he said, the pair made a minor manoeuvring with visual distance, and 30 seconds were required to take the position for F-15 or F-16 aircraft shooting, at the same time the weapon of F/A-22 was already prepared for the fight…