With the start of the Indra 2017 Joint Indian-Russian military drills, air crews from the two countries have for the first time flown in mixed international units. The drills took place in Russia’s Far East near Vladivostok. Similar such cooperation was previously demonstrated the month before in joint Chinese-Pakistani Air Force Drills in September.
Interviewed in October 26th, Russian Pacific Navy spokesman Nikolai Voskresensky announced that “for the first time in the history of the Russian aerospace forces, mixed international crews, with Indian second pilots, perform flights onboard Russian aircraft at the Central Uglovaya airfield near Vladivostok as part of the Russian-Indian multi-service force drills Indra-2017. All foreign pilots have experience of piloting similar aircraft used by the Indian Air Force.”
Mixed Russian and Indian crews have used Su-30MK2 air superiority fighters, similar to but slightly more advanced than India’s own Su-30MKI fighter – the backbone of the country’s air force. 80 personnel from the Indian Air Force and 350 soldiers from the Indian Army took part in the exercises, while two warships from the Indian Navy warships also participated alongside their Russian counterparts.
This made Indra 2017 the first ever exercises between the two countries incorporating all three services . With India developing closer defence time to the United States, conducting such close cooperative exercises with Russia could be seen as an attempt to cement defence ties between India and its longtime strategic partner.
With the bulk of India’s Air Force using Russian made fighters, and the recent announcement that the country’s Sukhoi fleet is set to be heavily upgraded with Russian assistance, Russia remains by far India’s most critical defence partner – a position it is set to maintain in future.