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Joint exercise for Indian, US air forces

Josy Joseph in New Delhi | February 04, 2004 12:22 IST

Indian and American air forces will hold their first joint combat exercise in Gwalior from February 14 to 26.

In the run up to the exercise, an IAF team went to America to get familiar with USAF operational procedures. Three Indian pilots flew with their American counterparts in twin-seater F-16s, according to an IAF spokesman.

The exercise, Cope India '04, will be the largest that India has held with any foreign air force, the spokesman said.

For the Americans it is a chance to try out the IAF's Russian fighters, including the Su-30MKI. Though there were reservations about fielding the Su-30MKIs, it is learnt that the IAF is going to field them along with Mirage 2000 fighters, Jaguars and MiG-21s.

The US is expected to field six F-15Cs.

Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy had discussed the basic contours of the exercise with his American counterparts during his visit to the US in September 2003.

A major aspect of the growing Indo-US defence cooperation is to develop interoperability.

"Progress in interoperability will depend on a number of factors to include frequency of training exchanges, exchange of doctrines, and access to equipment," an American official recently told rediff.com "India's desire to buy US equipment through FMS (Foreign Military Sale) and US willingness to sell state-of-the-art equipment are converging. The more we exercise together, the greater the rationale on both sides for providing India access to the weapons, communication, doctrine and other technologies," he said.

In October 2002, the two sides carried out an air transport exercise codenamed Cope India '02. "Those exercises were meant to develop a baseline for future interoperability that include fighter aircraft exchange," the official said.

The same year the two air forces also began an instructor pilot exchange programme.

The two air forces are set to conduct Cooperative Cope Thunder (July 04) in Alaska, he added.

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