While the US forces are engaged in fierce battle in Afghanistan with critical aid from NATO forces and Pakistan, the United States Air Force (USAF) is joined forces with the Indian Air Force (IAF) to kick start a major joint-training exercise at the Agra Air Force Station in India. The Agra Air Force base is one of the largest in South East Asia.
Code named “Cope India-2009” this is a five-day training exercise which is sixth in a series of such trainings. Cope India-2009 will focus not only on transport operations, but also strategic insertion and extraction of special forces in hostile zones, as also searching for pilots, who may have crashed in enemy territory, and rescuing them.
The USAF brings along with it a vast experience of such combat techniques learnt from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The tactical insertion of commandoes and rescue missions will also help Indian forces in the long term as well as if needed during internal operations like combing the naxal-hit regions which need guerilla warfare know-how.
“One of the major exercises also includes exposure to modern air delivery techniques and management of mass casualties at base and medical evaluation of critical patients by air,” informed Gp Capt Mammen, the IAF Exercise Director. “Rapid insertion of troops and combat search and rescue are among the other major exercises that will be practiced,” said USAF Exercise Director Col La Marche explaining how a downed pilot is sometimes rescued from enemy or hostile territory.
USAF has flown-in three C-130H Hercules, one C-17 Globemaster and one C-130J Super Hercules and 180 personnel for the exercise. The IAF is fielding three AN-32 from Central Air Command, one AN-32 each from Eastern and Southern Air Command, two Mi-17 1V from Western Air Command and one Chetak helicopter from CAC for SAR (Search and Rescue) with force strength of 270 air warriors.
The IAF had recently bought C-130J aircraft for India’s Special Forces operations and this training would strengthen its know-how of using the planes to best use.
The USAF has fielded in about 150 troop members for the training exercise who seemed to be excited about the opportunity to train with the IAF men.
“I am really thrilled to be a part of the exercise. The Indian paratroopers are some of the world’s best. They are focused on their work and always motivate you to try harder and better,” said Group Captain Jady, after touching down at the Malpura drop zone, which is 12 kilometres away from the Agra Air Force base.
“The weather was perfect, the atmosphere is great. It’s great to be in here,” he added.
IAF is now recognizing the importance of increased operational reach and military diplomacy in the Indian Ocean littoral and has off late has increased the frequency of such operations. IAF has recently completed training exercises with South Africa and Singapore too.
IAF is also scheduled to do a joint air exercises this week with Oman, considered India’s strongest partner in the sensitive Gulf region, under the operation name “Eastern Bridge”,.