In UK-India joint tri-service exercise, Indian fighter pilots’ will have their first encounter with 5th-generation aircraft - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 22 October 2021

In UK-India joint tri-service exercise, Indian fighter pilots’ will have their first encounter with 5th-generation aircraft

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, with the India frigate, INS Shivalik 

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 22nd Oct 21


India’s military will be operating for the first time ever with a fifth-generation fighter – the Royal Navy’s (RN’s) F-35B Lightning II – as the army, navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) participate in the Indo-UK joint Exercise Konkan Shakti in the Arabian Sea.


The Chinese Navy’s growing aggression in the Western Pacific is bringing together a range of allies and partners. In September, the US, UK and Australia announced an alliance called AUKUS. Last week, the Indian Navy (IN) participated in the four-nation Exercise Malabar. Now, from Sunday till Wednesday, a British carrier strike group (CSG), centred on the aircraft carrier, Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Queen Elizabeth, is participating in the tri-service Exercise Konkan Shakti on its way home after a long deployment in the South China Sea.


Both sides are fielding the cream of their militaries. The RN will fly F-35B sorties from HMS Queen Elizabeth. Participating from the Indian Navy’s side will be its MiG-29K/KUB fighters, shipborne Sea King 42B, Kamov-31 and Chetak helicopters; and Dornier-228 and P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.


The Indian Air Force (IAF) will participate with Jaguar and Sukhoi-30MKI maritime strike fighters, Phalcon airborne warning and control systems (AWACS), airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft and in-flight refuelling tankers.


Besides HMS Queen Elizabeth, with her integral F-35B fighters and helicopters, the RN will be fielding its Type 45 Daring-class destroyer, HMS Defender – amongst the most advanced air-defence ships in the world. The RN will also field its Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond, Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Fort Victoria, and a Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS Evertsen.


The Indian Navy (IN) will be represented by three indigenous, stealth destroyers: INS Kolkata, INS Kochi and INS Chennai; two stealth frigates, INS Talwar and INS Teg; a submarine, and the fleet tanker INS Aditya. 


The maritime component of the exercise, to be conducted off the west coast of India, is scheduled to be held in two phases. The harbour phase is under way in Mumbai from October 21-23. The sea phase will be conducted from Sunday onwards.


“The naval linkages between India and the UK is one of antiquity and, over a period, it has grown substantially in terms of interoperability and synergy,” stated the IN.


In fact, the IN is a direct successor to the RN. For the first 11 years after independence, a British admiral was the chief of the IN. India’s first two aircraft carriers – INS Vikrant and INS Viraat – were bought second-hand from the UK. India’s first serious warships were six Leander-class frigates, which were built in India with British guidance.


The exercise at sea will feature advanced warfare tactics: anti-submarine warfare exercises, over-the-horizon targeting drills, air defence exercises, cross deck landings and other complex manoeuvres at sea,” said the Indian Navy. 


“The IAF has already participated in an operational engagement with the British CSG on 19 and 20 Oct 21. The exercise focused on multiple areas including enhancing aspects of interoperability and exchange of best practices,” said the navy.


Meanwhile, the land phase of Exercise Konkan Shakti is being conducted between the Indian and British armies at Chaubatia, in Uttarakhand, from October 21-27. The British Army is being represented by officers and troops of the 1st Battalion of the Fusilier Regiment and the Indian Army is represented by troops from 1/11 Gorkha Rifles.


The joint company level exercise depicts a setting in which a coalition force is conducting Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) in an opposed environment.


  1. Take it with a pinch of salt, the F35 is not a real fighter. The world knows how incapable it is. even the F16 designer gave it a poor rating.

    1. I'll take it with a bucket of salt, anyway the F35B Lightning 2 has not seen any real service yet, so it's to early to tell yet.


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