Saturday,18 April 2015  
12 July 2007
  Ministry of Defence  

  13:34 IST  
  When the Indian Air Force (IAF) Jaguars flew to Alaska during their first overseas joint air exercise "Cope Thunder" in July '04, the newly inducted Ilyushin-78 MKI 'air-to-air' refuellers of the IAF heralded their acquired strategic reach capability.

This year, the six Su-30 MKIs that flew from Pune airbase in India to Royal Air Force (RAF) airbase at Waddington (UK), were also accompanied by two IL-78 MKIs of the 'Valorous MARS' (No. 78 Mid-Air-Refuelling Squadron) from Agra through their long ferry route. Despite the din and the excitement of the first-ever arrival of the formidable Su-30 MKIs at UK, the significant aspect of IAF's continued enhanced strategic reach capability, did not however go unnoticed.

"The IL-78 MKIs have been employed in five overseas assignment so far. These include Alaska, South Africa, France, Singapore and now UK," informed Group Captain K Raghavendra, Commanding Officer of the MARS.

"We would have loved the experience of tanking RAF fighters during the exercise that would have made inter-operability possible. We look forward to such an experience in the future," he added on RAF Tornadoes not having tanked with them during the exercise.

The six IAF Su-30 MKI fighters will have flown nearly 19,000 kms each, tanked eight times and transferred nearly 225 tonnes of fuel mid-air in all, spread over 28 flying hours with stopovers enroute at Doha (Qatar) and Tanagra (Greece), both ways.

The Il-78 aircrew also visited RAF Brize Norton, the home to RAF VC-10 Tankers flown by 101 Squadron. Interestingly the RAF squadron is 90 years old. The aircrew had discussions on the procedures and tactics and found lot of common ground in the same. The VC-10 can uplift 70 tonnes of fuel in the air. For a similar route by the IL-78 involving two enroute landings from India to UK, VC-10s would have had to undertake three.

SK/TKS (in Waddington)