French pilots flying the new Dassault Rafale appeared to be collecting electronic intelligence on India’s even newer Su-30MKI aircraft during a September Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB, Nev., contends a USAF pilot briefing retired U.S. generals.
The French were originally going to bring the older Mirage 2000-5 until they discovered the Indians were bringing their new Su-30MKIs, he said. They then switched and brought their Rafales with more sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment.
Aviation Week has a full article for AWIN subscribers on the pilot's observations (Update: We've posted it to our homepage here.) The video was made available online at YouTube.com, and our friend Stephen Trimble at The Dew Line has blogged about it there as well.
Foreign air force officials admit that they anticipate intelligence-gathering will go on at an event like Red Flag. India’s Su-30MKI carries the Bars radar developed by the Tikhomirov Scientific Research Institute of Instrument Design (NIIP), which also designed the Irbis passive electronically scanned array radar for the Su-27SM2 (Su-35). NIIP also is working on the radar suite for Sukhoi’s fifth-generation fighter design, the T-50, to meet the Russian air force’s PAK-FA requirement. Indian pilots told Aviation Week that they were operating the radar only in the training mode, which limited its range and spectrum of capabilities.
Once at Red Flag, “90% of the time [the French] followed the Indians so when they took a shot or got shot” they would take a quick shot of their own and then leave,” he said. “They never came to any merges” which starts the dog fighting portion of any air-to-air combat. He contended that French pilots followed the same procedure during Desert Storm and Peace Keeping exercises. When U.S. aircrews were flying operations, the French would fly local sorties while “sucking up all the trons” to see how U.S. radars worked, he said.
But the U.S. apparently isn’t ignorant of the Su-30MKI’s radar either. The Su-30 electronically scanned radar is not as accurate as the U.S. built active electronically scanned radar carried by the F-22 and some F-15s, he said. Also, “it paints less, sees less” and is not as discriminating.