USAF explains 'Cope India' Results

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3rd Wing Explains 'Cope India' Exercise Aviation Week & Space Technology 10/04/2004, page 50 David A. Fulghum Elmendorf AFB, Alaska

3rd Wing explains what happened when U.S. pilots faced innovative Indian air force tactics

Indian 'Scare'

The losing performance of F-15Cs in simulated air-to-air combat against the Indian air force this year is being perceived by some, both in the U.S. and overseas, as a weakening of American capabilities, and it is generating taunts from within the competitive U.S. fighter community.

The Cope India exercise also seemingly shocked some in Congress and the Pentagon who used the event to renew the call for modernizing the U.S. fighter force with stealthy F/A-22s and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The reasons for the drubbing have gone largely unexplained and been misunderstood, according to those based here with the 3rd Wing who participated. Two major factors stand out: None of the six 3rd Wing F-15Cs was equipped with the newest long-range, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. These Raytheon APG-63(V)2 radars were designed to find small and stealthy targets. At India's request, the U.S. agreed to mock combat at 3-to-1 odds and without the use of simulated long-range, radar-guided AIM-120 Amraams that even the odds with beyond-visual-range kills.

These same U.S. participants say the Indian pilots showed innovation and flexibility in their tactics. They also admit that they came into the exercise underrating the training and tactics of the pilots they faced. Instead of typical Cold War-style, ground-controlled interceptions, the Indians varied aircraft mixes, altitudes and formations. Indian air force planners never reinforced failure or repeated tactics that the U.S. easily repelled. Moreover, the IAF's airborne commanders changed tactics as opportunities arose. Nor did U.S. pilots believe they faced only India's top guns. Instead, they said that at least in some units they faced a mix of experienced and relatively new Indian fighter and strike pilots.

Maj. Mark A. Snowden, the 3rd Wing's chief of air-to-air tactics and a participant in Cope India, spoke for the 13 U.S. pilots who attended the exercise. They flew six F-15Cs, each equipped with a fighter data link for rapid exchange of target information, AIM-9Xs and a Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System, he says. The aircraft had been to Singapore for another exercise and for the long, six-week jaunt it was decided not to bring along the additional maintenance package needed to support AESA-equipped F-15Cs.

Cope India was held Feb. 15-28 at Gwalior, about 150 mi. south of Delhi, where the Indian air force has its Tactics Air Combat Development Establishment, which operates late-model MiG-21 Fishbeds as fighter escorts and MiG-27 Floggers as strike aircraft. Aerospace officials who have heard the classified brief on the exercise say the MiG-21s were equipped with a "gray-market" Bison radar and avionics upgrade.

Mica-armed Dassault Mirages 2000s are also stationed there. Brought in for the exercise were Sukhoi Su-30s (but not the newest Su-30 MKIs) carrying simulated AA-11s and AA-12 Adders. There also were five MiG-29 Flankers involved in a peripheral role and an Antonov An-32 Cline as a simulated AWACS.

"The outcome of the exercise boils down to [the fact that] they ran tactics that were more advanced than we expected," Snowden says. "India had developed its own air tactics somewhat in a vacuum. They had done some training with the French that we knew about, but we did not expect them to be a very well-trained air force. That was silly.

"They could come up with a game plan, but if it wasn't working they would call an audible and change [tactics in flight]," he says. "They made good decisions about when to bring their strikers in. The MiG-21s would be embedded with a Flogger for integral protection. There was a data link between the Flankers that was used to pass information. [Using all their assets,] they built a very good [radar] picture of what we were doing and were able to make good decisions about when to roll [their aircraft] in and out."

Aerospace industry officials say there's some indication that the MiG-21s also may have been getting a data feed from other airborne radars that gave them improved situational awareness of the airborne picture.

Generally the combat scenario was to have four F-15s flying at any time against about 12 Indian aircraft. While the U.S. pilots normally train to four versus 12, that takes into account at least two of the U.S. aircraft having AESA radar and being able to make the first, beyond-visual-range shots. For the exercise, both sides restricted long-range shots.

"That's what the Indians wanted to do," Snowden says. "That [handicap] really benefits a numerically superior force because you can't whittle away some of their force at long range. They were simulating active missiles [including] AA-12s." This means the missile has its own radar transmitter and doesn't depend on the launch aircraft's radar after launch. With the older AA-10 Alamo, the launching fighter has to keep its target illuminated with radar so the U.S. pilots would know when they were being targeted. But with the AA-12, they didn't know if they had been targeted. The Mirage 2000s carried the active Mica missile. Aerospace industry officials said that some of the radars the U.S. pilots encountered, including that of the Mirage 2000s, exhibited different characteristics than those on standard versions of the aircraft.

The U.S. pilots used no active missiles, and the AIM-120 Amraam capability was limited to a 20-naut.-mi. range while keeping the target illuminated when attacking and 18 naut. mi. when defending, as were all the missiles in the exercise.

"When we saw that they were a more professional air force, we realized that within the constraints of the exercise we were going to have a very difficult time," Snowden says. "In general, it looked like they ran a broad spectrum of tactics and they were adaptive. They would analyze what we were doing and then try something else. They weren't afraid to bring the strikers in high or low. They would move them around so that we could never anticipate from day to day what we were going to see."

By comparison, the U.S. pilots don't think they offered the Indians any surprises. The initial tactic is to run a wall with all four F-15s up front. That plays well when the long-range missiles and AESA radar are in play.

"You know we're there and we're not hiding," Snowden says. "But we didn't have the beyond-visual-range shot or the numerical advantage. Eventually we were just worn down by the numbers. They were very smart about it. Their goal was to get to a target area, engage the target and then withdraw without prolonging the fight. If there were a couple of Eagles still alive away from the target area, they would keep them pinned in, get done with the target and then egress with all their forces.

"All their aircraft seemed to be capable of breaking out [targets] and shooting at the ranges the exercise allowed," he says. "We generally don't train to an active missile threat [like the Mirage's Mica or the AA-12 for the Russian-built aircraft], and that was one of the things that caused us some problems."

USAF planners here see Cope India as the first step in an annual series of exchange exercises.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1237790/posts

i know this is an old topic but still thought if i could get different veiws on this!! no flames intended!

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Very interesting read bring_it_on. Thanks for sharing!

Cliff

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which MICA missiles.....

"We generally don't train to an active missile threat "

So what are they used to doing? Only training against poor aggressors ?... Wouldn't it be serious if they wouldn't know how to fight in a modern combat environment?

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"We generally don't train to an active missile threat "

something they better start doing now..infact a lot of these changes would happen next year..mosley promised that recently in a statement to the congress..

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Cope India was held Feb. 15-28 at Gwalior, about 150 mi. south of Delhi, where the Indian air force has its Tactics Air Combat Development Establishment, which operates late-model MiG-21 Fishbeds as fighter escorts and MiG-27 Floggers as strike aircraft. Aerospace officials who have heard the classified brief on the exercise say the MiG-21s were equipped with a "gray-market" Bison radar and avionics upgrade.

Mica-armed Dassault Mirages 2000s are also stationed there. Brought in for the exercise were Sukhoi Su-30s (but not the newest Su-30 MKIs) carrying simulated AA-11s and AA-12 Adders. There also were five MiG-29 Flankers involved in a peripheral role and an Antonov An-32 Cline as a simulated AWACS.

"The outcome of the exercise boils down to [the fact that] they ran tactics that were more advanced than we expected," Snowden says. "India had developed its own air tactics somewhat in a vacuum. They had done some training with the French that we knew about, but we did not expect them to be a very well-trained air force. That was silly.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1237790/posts


Do the Indian M2000s ("H", I suppose) have Mica capability? :confused:

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They dont train against Active Missile Threats? Thats shocking.

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which MICA missiles.....

"We generally don't train to an active missile threat "

So what are they used to doing? Only training against poor aggressors ?... Wouldn't it be serious if they wouldn't know how to fight in a modern combat environment?

It's probably safe to bet that after that exercise a lot of things got added to the syllabus :eek:

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The 3rd's role has traditionally been to intercept bombers coming over the north pole to attack North America. Those bombers don't carry AAMs.

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The 3rd's role has traditionally been to intercept bombers coming over the north pole to attack North America. Those bombers don't carry AAMs.

That's being changed. With importance being shifted away from the European continent towards the Pacific Alaska's role is changing. It's relative proximity East Asia is expanding the mission of Alaska's aircraft. In fact Alaska is next in line after Langley to get F-22s because of this. Alaska has the most advanced F-15s in the USAF because of this. They're the only ones with AESA and they were the first to get AIM-9X and HMCS.

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I really donot understand the reasons US is giving for their debacle. For one, they say that they didnt use AESA and their missile range was restricted to 20 nau. mil. While AESA part is understandable (would have given them some advantage) I dont understand the missile range restrictions. If their missiles are simulated for 20 n.m, then so are IAF missiles. THen how can US be ata disadvantage? To me it seems like USAF tactics are heavily dependant of BVR and they lack WVR skills.


At India's request, the U.S. agreed to mock combat at 3-to-1 odds and without the use of simulated long-range, radar-guided AIM-120 Amraams that even the odds with beyond-visual-range kills.

For the exercise, both sides restricted long-range shots.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1237790/posts

i know this is an old topic but still thought if i could get different veiws on this!! no flames intended!

The other reason given is that four F15's were up against 12 IAF planes. But no report states what kind of planes they are. The strike package has 4 escorts and 8 ground attact planes. So numerical superiority is moot.

If there were a couple of Eagles still alive away from the target area, they would keep them pinned in, get done with the target and then egress with all their forces.

The MiG-21s would be embedded with a Flogger for integral protection.

I am not aware if IAF used 12 fighter escorts for the Floggers.

In my view, the following statment explains the poor performance (poor may be a strong word, less than expected) of the USAF.

These same U.S. participants say the Indian pilots showed innovation and flexibility in their tactics. They also admit that they came into the exercise underrating the training and tactics of the pilots they faced.

"The outcome of the exercise boils down to [the fact that] they ran tactics that were more advanced than we expected," Snowden says. "India had developed its own air tactics somewhat in a vacuum. They had done some training with the French that we knew about, but we did not expect them to be a very well-trained air force. That was silly.

The US pilots couldnt innovate when faced with a new situation. Lack of AWACS and long range missiles with which they trained all their life sure is a handicap, but when faced with a diffculty, you gotta innovate. I am sure USAF would fare much better with all their gizmos and may beat IAF hands down, but in this particular set-up, they lost.

Finally, I dont buy the 'US lost cos it wants the F22' arguement. May be that was on their mind when coming to the excercise, but they didnt expect to lose badly.

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For one, they say that they didnt use AESA and their missile range was restricted to 20 nau. mil. While AESA part is understandable (would have given them some advantage) I dont understand the missile range restrictions. If their missiles are simulated for 20 n.m, then so are IAF missiles. THen how can US be ata disadvantage?

From what i understand the pilot is trying to say that usually when they train with a 3:1 disadvantage they have the advantage of being able to use AESA radars and get early shots as well as have full authority on the Aim-120..

The strike package has 4 escorts and 8 ground attact planes. So numerical superiority is moot.

even though the others are strike aircraft they are still going up against 12 aircraft with an objective to destroy those strike aircraft or prevent them from getting to their objective..Just because 8 of those aircraft are strike aircraft does not mean that they dont have to be neutralized...

my view, the following statment explains the poor performance (poor may be a strong word, less than expected) of the USAF.

sure does..

The US pilots couldnt innovate when faced with a new situation. Lack of AWACS and long range missiles with which they trained all their life sure is a handicap, but when faced with a diffculty, you gotta innovate. I am sure USAF would fare much better with all their gizmos and may beat IAF hands down, but in this particular set-up, they lost.

Yes u have to innovate and the IAF did that very well and hats off to them..and why are we so surprised at the results man..the IAF according to me atleast was always a proffestional unit that took a lot of pride in what they did and the su-30 was always superior to the f-15C...However what the pilots are trying to say is that because they didnt have the AESA and the aim-120 (fully) they were at tremendous odds as the IAF pilots were equally well trained and good...now when u face pilots that are equally good and know what they are doing then u would want the max that u can get and these pilots did not have that....That should be taken as a compliment to the IAF pilots in my veiw..

The outcome of the exercise boils down to [the fact that] they ran tactics that were more advanced than we expected," Snowden says. "India had developed its own air tactics somewhat in a vacuum. They had done some training with the French that we knew about, but we did not expect them to be a very well-trained air force. That was silly.

"They could come up with a game plan, but if it wasn't working they would call an audible and change [tactics in flight]," he says. "They made good decisions about when to bring their strikers in. The MiG-21s would be embedded with a Flogger for integral protection. There was a data link between the Flankers that was used to pass information. [Using all their assets,] they built a very good [radar] picture of what we were doing and were able to make good decisions about when to roll [their aircraft] in and out."

A compliment and proof of the highest degree of proffestionalism exhibited by the IAF pilots comming from the most important source..

Generally the combat scenario was to have four F-15s flying at any time against about 12 Indian aircraft. While the U.S. pilots normally train to four versus 12, that takes into account at least two of the U.S. aircraft having AESA radar and being able to make the first, beyond-visual-range shots. For the exercise, both sides restricted long-range shots.

"That's what the Indians wanted to do," Snowden says. "That [handicap] really benefits a numerically superior force because you can't whittle away some of their force at long range

that is what the pilot is pleading that given the limitations and the numerical superiority it was really difficult to go and defeat an advesary that is equally good in terms of pilots ability...and training..

"When we saw that they were a more professional air force, we realized that within the constraints of the exercise we were going to have a very difficult time," Snowden says

I dpnt think u can bee any more frank then this...He is basically laying it down while still conceeding that they lost..

By comparison, the U.S. pilots don't think they offered the Indians any surprises

again being frank and conceeding a mistake or two..

"You know we're there and we're not hiding," Snowden says. "But we didn't have the beyond-visual-range shot or the numerical advantage. Eventually we were just worn down by the numbers. They were very smart about it. Their goal was to get to a target area, engage the target and then withdraw without prolonging the fight. If there were a couple of Eagles still alive away from the target area, they would keep them pinned in, get done with the target and then egress with all their forces.

another complement...

anyway many in the f-15 community have done a FOIA request so lets see what happens with that.

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Nothing to debate about here, as if war did happen between the two the US pilots point that they would have full authority on Aim-120 and AESA use is pretty valid and would influence the outcome.

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even though the others are strike aircraft they are still going up against 12 aircraft with an objective to destroy those strike aircraft or prevent them from getting to their objective..Just because 8 of those aircraft are strike aircraft does not mean that they dont have to be neutralized...

But isnt that how all the airwars are fought? Four defenders against the Four escorts + GA fighters seems fair - If they defenders can sneak past the escorts, the strike package is mincemeat (I am assuming that ground attack fighters are not armed with A2A missiles). I would have understood the numerical superiority logic if there were more escorts than the defenders. Besides, F15's and Su30's interchanged their roles and IAF had an upper hand in both scenarios.
That apart, I really appreciate the pilots frankness which should have been very difficult given the USAF's reputation.

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That apart, I really appreciate the pilots frankness which should have been very difficult given the USAF's reputation.

not really a lot of pilots both in the AF and the navy that i have talked to at wright patt are very candid about how some other airforces have things that are better in certain areas as compared to others..And are even more candind in making fun of certain practices that their AF follows..

But isnt that how all the airwars are fought? Four defenders against the Four escorts + GA fighters seems fair - If they defenders can sneak past the escorts, the strike package is mincemeat (I am assuming that ground attack fighters are not armed with A2A missiles).

But there is handicap here..the f-15C's were tasked to go after 8 strike aircraft which were being defended by 4 aircraft equally good if not better then there's and piloted by equally good pilots..now they had to factor into their tactics 12 aircraft..ie. 8 strike and 4 defenders...now put yourselves in the shoes of those pilots..would u not take into account the 8 strike aircraft before u did anything against the entire package..the fact still remained that they had to neutralize a much bigger force without using things that they normally have in their aircraft (and i aint even talking bout awacs and other stuff)...regardless this excersize is really a lot more then this its about pilots getting to know each other , developing relationships and learning tactics and fighting against other tacticians and schools of thought...What the USAF pilots are trying to say is not that they didnt loose but that some of the reports that suggest that they were completely thrashed without understanding the basic nature of engagements that took place and the limitations that BOTH SIDES had were completely wrong and factually misleading...

Finally, I dont buy the 'US lost cos it wants the F22' arguement.

the report doesnt even mention that at all..

May be that was on their mind when coming to the excercise, but they didnt expect to lose badly

exactly they thought that even with the limitations that they operated with (no Aesa,amraam (restricted) and numerical disadvantage) they had a chance..howevre the brilliant/innovative Tactics of the IAF pilots prooved them wrong very early in the exercise..they knew that the IAF is much more of a competant force then what they had thought it to be and therefore given the limitations they had a very tough task ahead of them.

as if war did happen between the two the US pilots point that they would have full authority on Aim-120 and AESA use is pretty valid and would influence the outcome.

thats a reasonable assumption takin into account the outfit these pilots came from..they have clearly said that the AESA permits them to take the first shot while the current radars of the 2 aircrafts meant they were seeing each other at the same time...a safe assumption really.(the indians on the other hand can argue vis-a-vis the MKI being present but then the argument would be endless if u ask me)....however in a real war scenario u would also have to factor in E-3,and various other EW assets that the USAF/USN pocess...the gloves would be completely off...however allies don't go to war...

I am assuming that ground attack fighters are not armed with A2A missiles

I am not certain of this but they should have atleast a pair of heat seekers if u ask me..they would so in a wartime scenario..

The US pilots couldnt innovate when faced with a new situation. Lack of AWACS and long range missiles with which they trained all their life sure is a handicap

It is a wide assumption that USAF pilots always train with awacs..however this is not the case their are plenty of engagements where they are without awacs and aggressors have GBR to support them and cue them in...even if we assume so i see a legitimate reason to bash the USAF pilots for not doing so good in a non-Awacs enviroment but why so in an enviroment where they cannot use the full potential of a standard BVR missile in the AF's inventory? ? ? I can imagine a situation where they may be asked to operate i wartime scenarios without awacs..but why with a 20nm restriction on the aim-120 against an equally lethal force.

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But isnt that how all the airwars are fought? Four defenders against the Four escorts + GA fighters seems fair - If they defenders can sneak past the escorts, the strike package is mincemeat (I am assuming that ground attack fighters are not armed with A2A missiles). I would have understood the numerical superiority logic if there were more escorts than the defenders. Besides, F15's and Su30's interchanged their roles and IAF had an upper hand in both scenarios.
That apart, I really appreciate the pilots frankness which should have been very difficult given the USAF's reputation.

In the west at least ALL strike aircraft (except bombers) carry AAMs. Even A-10s. There was an incident during Desert Storm of two F-18s knocking down either one or two Mig-21s without even droping their bombs to do it. They killed the Migs then went on to drop their bombs on the target they were originally after.

which MICA missiles.....

"We generally don't train to an active missile threat "

So what are they used to doing? Only training against poor aggressors ?... Wouldn't it be serious if they wouldn't know how to fight in a modern combat environment?

this is such bull man!!! they better get on with the training on the more advancewd missiles then. these things arent new so why no training? crazy... like back in the days of ww2 when the zero scared them to death and shot all those "advanced" p-39, p-40 and other planes out of the sky... is this to be a repeat of that? the worlds best airforce underating the so called enemies or opponents? get a grip guys, this aint a move...

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this is such bull man!!! they better get on with the training on the more advancewd missiles then. these things arent new so why no training? crazy... like back in the days of ww2 when the zero scared them to death and shot all those "advanced" p-39, p-40 and other planes out of the sky... is this to be a repeat of that? the worlds best airforce underating the so called enemies or opponents? get a grip guys, this aint a move...

the way the USAF train is completely different topic and is open to debates and other things..however this article only talks about the USAF vs IAF engagements over gwalior...lets leave the syllabus to another day shall we.

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The ability to "sneak past" the escorts depends on the structure of the escort element. Regarding escorts, I think many people only think of sweepers advancing a number of minutes ahead of the strike package, thus creating a relatively large gap of airspace between them (the escort fighters) and the strike aircraft. However, it is important to remember that direct escort fighters may operate as an integral part of the strike package itself with different aircraft providing radar and missile support from "within" the strike package. There is also the option of having other fighters flying slightly ahead of and higher than the strike package, acting as "bait" of enemy interceptors.

That was the same thing i tried pointing out....Going against 8 strike aircraft (with or without defensive missiles)..and 4 dedicated escort defenders is not the same as going up against 4 a2a threats as you have to factor in so much as viper has just laid out...In the back of your mind the pilot's know that there mission is to stop the strike package from delivering its load..and this remains the paramount concern in almost all things that they do..Therefore tactics that they might have applied had there been no strike package would not have been the same as the tactics applie on that occasion simply because there was a strike going on which had to be stopped...therefore i repeat my point Going up against 4 a2a threats is not the same as going up against 4 defenders escorting 4 strike aircraft..

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another BS articles
1)IAF did not simulate any r-77s, the only aircraft that participated in that exercise that could simulate R-77 is Mig-21-93, the Su-30K cannot(only R-27)
2)IAF cannot simulate any MICAs, they have older Mirage-2000s with older radars and cannot simulate Active BVRAAMs
3)Now, I dont think the F-15Cs participating in this exercise had the AESA radar, I remember US refusing to bring in their AESA equipped Eagles because Indians refused to bring in their Su-30MKIs(their best aircraft). I am not 100% sure that AIM-120s participated, but im pretty confident they were simulated against r-27s and super530s

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Are u completely certain of that cuz this comes straight out of someone who flew against the indians and has been published by a magazine of international repute..

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Are u completely certain of that cuz this comes straight out of someone who flew against the indians and has been published by a magazine of international repute..

Mag? Nah. Author? Perhaps but one member from 90th FS also told me that they log 700 hrs/year/airframe (with 500 hrs in 5 months) and that it it did not involve any frontline service. How true could that be?

Its 2006 and the next Cope India is nearing. Debating the results of the previous one ad-nauseum with the same old fallacies, is just...sad. Like srbin said...no MICAs, no this, no that and the the F-15Cs also took part as escorts for equal numbers of strikers. Roles were reversed after each sortie. It would be even more sad if after 2 whole years, one airforce concerned is still debating the event instead of having learned and implemented major lessons for own benefit already.