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Indian jets, US F-15s stage mock dogfight

February 26, 2004

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GWALIOR, Feb 25: American F-15 fighter planes and Indian jets fought a mock battle over this central Indian city on Wednesday as the curtain fell on the first-ever joint aerial exercises between the two nations who were on opposite sides during the Cold War.

The 10-day war games, codenamed "Cope India 2004", signalled a new level of military cooperation between India and the United States, its largest trading partner. The Indian Air Force (IAF), the world's fourth largest, said it was a close match for the United States Air Force (USAF).

"The USAF is very advanced but at a tactical level, we are a flying match. In air-to-air and in beyond-visual-range combat, however, the Americans have lots of experience and so we are learning from them," said IAF Air Marshal Ajit Bhavnani in Gwalior.

"In the same way they are learning from us because we have completely different equipment," Mr Bhavnani said, declining to give the results of the dogfight in which the four F-15s were "defenders" and IAF's Russian-built Sukhoi-30s and French Mirage-2000 were the attackers.

Colonel Greg Neubeck, team leader of the F-15 squadron, appeared satisfied. "We leave here with a good idea how each other's air forces operate. We consider the IAF as very professional," the fighter pilot said as supersonic aircraft streaked across Gwalior.

The war games, which covered an area from India's Gangetic plains to the rarified atmosphere of the Himalayas, had been gruelling, said IAF spokesman Group Captain S.B.P. Sinha.

"A number of missions have been flown during the exercise and the result has been very encouraging and rewarding," said Mr Sinha. -AFP