The first ever combined United Kingdom /Indian air exercise to take place in the UK has drawn to a close with both sides pleased by what they achieved during the fortnight-long training package.
Exercise Indra Dhanush, which took place at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, followed on from a successful training exercise between the Royal Air Force and Indian Air Force (IAF) in India in 2006.
This time pilots and aircrew from Waddington welcomed their Indian counterparts to the UK after training with them in Gwalior and Agra in 2006. The two-part exercise, designed to further develop UK and Indian relations, is the first time that the two countries have worked together in more than 40 years.
Officer Commanding 25 Squadron, Wing Commander John Prescott, said: "We first worked with 43 Squadron India for the first part of this exercise in 2006 which the Indians hosted. Working with a nation we were not familiar with proved to be extremely good value.
"It is good for both sides to be able to adapt and work with each other and gain a level of understanding with officers and airmen - not just in the air but in a social situation as well.
"From my point of view there are mixed experience levels in the Squadron across all ranks with some having experience of working alongside other countries, while others have no coalition experience.
"This exercise has given them the chance to learn how to operate closely with a different nation, particularly a country which is non-NATO and non-European.
"Both ground crew and pilots have gained confidence and flexibility from the work they have done.
"It's been an absolute success with all of the aims and objectives achieved. We have gone from simple air exercises to large force employment in a variety of operational relevant scenarios.
"The Indian pilots spoke excellent English, so apart from taking into account a different accent, there were no problems with communication."
The Indians are using SU30 MKI fighters during the exercise. They have also brought a tanker and full ground crew with them.
The IAF has historically chosen many UK aircraft for its fleet, with India already having acquired the Hawk fast jet trainer. Their procurement of the Hawk has seen many IAF pilots training at RAF Valley as part of the deal.
The Exercise Indra Dhanush training has evolved from basic, simple air exercises to large scale force employment in a number of operational scenarios. Flt Lt David Griffiths, a pilot with 25 Squadron, said: "It's been a fantastic experience, and not like anything I have done before - it is my first time working with another nation and it's the chance of a lifetime. It's been extremely challenging.
"We have been really working together and integrating crews from both nations onto each side. We have had to learn each other's terms and tactics and it has definitely been rewarding."
Wg Cdr A C Chopra added: "We wanted to build on last year's exercise in India and we have been able to meet our objectives. We have flown in mixed formations and now have a degree of interoperability."
Images: Photographer - Geoff Lee
Image 2: Larger size - L-R: A Tornado F3 from XXV Squadron based at RAF Leeming, a Typhoon, from 17 Squadron based at RAF Coningsby and a Sukhoi SU30 MK 1 from the Indian Air Force
Image 3: Larger size - An Indian Air Force Sukhoi Flanker H, a RAF Typhoon and a RAF Tornado take part in a familiarisation sortie as part of Exercise Indra Dhanush 2007.
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