US Air Force pilots flying Boeing F-15s “dominated” and “amazed” Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKI pilots in a recent exercise, but still expect that legacy F-15s and Lockheed Martin F-16s will swiftly lose their competitive edge to the Russian export fighters.
Those remarks came in an explicitly candid assessment by an unidentified USAF pilot posted on 4 November on the YouTube online video sharing service. “Now what I’m scared of is Congress is going to hear that and go – ‘Great, we don’t need to buy any more airplanes. No, no, no, no,'” the pilot tells an audience that includes retired air force leaders.
He adds that “it’s only a matter of time” before the IAF Su-30 pilots learn how to overcome the manoeuvre used so successfully against them at the international Red Flag exercise.
The F-15 pilots used their simulated combat experience against the thrust vectoring capability of the Lockheed Martin F-22 to exploit a vulnerability of the Su-30 in a hard turn, the pilot said.“So we start to pull in on him, and then all of a sudden you start to see the [Su-30’s aft-] end kick down and he starts doing vectored thrust,” the pilot says.
“But now he starts falling out of the sky. He’s falling out of the sky so fast that you don’t even have to go up,” the pilot adds. “You just have to pull back on the stick a little bit, pull the throttle, go to guns and come in and drill his brains out.” Even so, the professionalism and skill of the IAF pilots at Red Flag gained the respect of the USAF pilots.
However, French Air Force pilots, who deployed to the same event with the Dassault Rafale fighter, apparently engaged in non-friendly activities.“They never really came to any merges,” the pilot explains.
“What they were really doing was, they had all their sensors on sniffing and seeing how our radars worked. And that’s really all they were doing out here. They came out here and they watched the whole flight, with their newest airplane and their newest electronic receiving units, and sucked up all the ‘trons in the air.”
The pilot also says the IAF’s MiG-21 Bison aircraft, modified with Israeli radar, active radar missiles and electronic jammers, are nearly “invisible” to the F-15 and F-16’s current mechanically-scanned arrays, allowing the Indian pilots to sneak past the USAF radar screen and engage the F-15s and F-16s in dogfights.
“The MiG-21 had the ability to get in the scissors with you at 110kts at 60 degrees nose high and go from 10,000 to 20,000 feet,” he said.
The Su-30MKI deployment to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, for the exercise was complicated by the low-reliability of the Russian made engines, the pilot adds.
“One of the things the Indians were very disappointed in, was when they FOD’d an engine out, the Russians make them send the engine back to Russia, and then they’ll send them a new one,” the pilot says. “So, not the perfect situation for them being here in the United States with those engines.”
The pilot did not identify himself in the videos, but there were several clues to his status. He wore a fighter pilot’s G-suit, and he referred to a patch on his shoulder that indicated he was a member of the Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB. He also referred to Nellis as “here”, indicting this was the location where his lecture took place.