Exercise Indra Dhanush 2007

RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire

2-12 July 2007


RAF Waddington, just south of the city of Lincoln, played host to what is propably the most interesting deployment of fighters to the UK for the past few years. Under the title Indra Dhanush, which stands for the bow of Indra, the war god, six Sukhoi Su.30MKI Flanker fighters from No. 20 "Lightning" squadron, Indian Air Force from Pune Air Force Station deployed to the UK for two weeks of exercising with the Royal Air Force. Indra Dhanush 2007 was a follow-up to Indra Dhanush 2006, staged at Gwalior AFS, India during October 2006.
The Su.30MKI is the latest variant from the Sukhoi Design Bureau of an aircraft that started life as the Su.27. Basically only the airframe and engines are of Russian origin, most of the instrumentation apart from the radar itself have been hand-picked by the customer, the Indian Air Force. A mix of Russian and Indian built aircraft took part in the exercise. Four, serialled SB041 - SB044, were of the Su.30MKI subtype and built by Irkutsk Aicraft Production Organisation in Russia. The other two, SB103 and SB107, were among the first to have been license built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. in Nasik, India and are known as Su.30MKI-3. One of the Russian built jets is seen to the right.

Externally similar to the Russian built aircraft, this is an Su.30MKI-3. Contrary to expectations, the Indian jets did not fight the RAF in mock combat. Instead, mixed packages of Su.30's and RAF Tornado F.3's and Typhoon F.2's alongside Hawks and Harriers were composed. These battled it out with each other.

The Sukhois would fly two daily missions during the course of the exercise, which lasted between 2 and 12 July 2007. A disadvantage for the Indians, but also for the British, must have been the fact that the Russian suppliers had forbidden the Indian Su.30MKI pilots to use certain radar modes. Too sensitive technology, obviously.

The Indian detachment was supported throughout the exercise by a single Ilyushin Il.78MKI tanker. Operated by No.78 "Battle Cry" squadron from Agra Air Force Station, the tanker would fly only during the second week's morning mission. The Il.78MKI is a three point tanker, featuring wing mounted pods as well as a fuselage pod mounted under the left side of the tail fin.

Host unit was the RAF's No. 25 squadron from RAF Leeming. Although No. 43 squadron had taken part in Indra Dhanush 2006, thus making RAF Leuchars the logical choice for the exercise. However, Leuchars had its runway resurfaced during the exercise and as RAF Leeming, 25 sq's home, boasted a runway considered too short by the Indians, the decison was taken to use RAF Waddington as the exercise's venue. Above, two of 25 sq's Tornados can be seen. Depicted in the centre image is a Tornado F.3 still in full No. 41 sq markings following the aircraft's time with the RAF's Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit. Naturally, E-3D Sentries based at Waddington with Nos 8 and 23 sqs featured in Indra Dhanush 2007. This was very important for the Indian Air Force, as the service is about to introduce such a capability itself shortly. 

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink