Cope India 2006
F-16s flying against Su-30s? My heart beats faster…
Cope India 2002 focused on airlift operations. The 2004 joint exercise involved F-15s and a variety of Indian aircraft, including SU-30s. The surprising this about Cope India 2004 was that the Indians won; it has been remarked that they won because the USAF threw the game in order to provide a better case for the F-22. Indeed, the 2004 exercise was clearly cooked in favor of the Indians, who were able to fly with superior numbers and more tactical flexibility.
Now they’ve played again, and it looks as if the Indians have won again. The IAF is flying some pretty advanced aircraft, including the Su-30, which some argue is the most advanced aircraft in the world outside of the F-22. However, the Indians are also flying refurbished Mig-21s, which are probably somewhat more advanced than a F-4. You can continue to color me skeptical about the actual effectiveness of the IAF against the USAF. The most important thing to remember is that the USAF has an incentive to lose with both its F-16s and F-15s; it wants new aircraft, and it does not want to showcase its best tactics in an arena accessible to potential foes. Now, whether those considerations outweigh concerns about institutional pride and, frankly, fighter jock arrogance remains unclear.
Still, such exercises can only please the PLAAF, which has an undetermined but growing stable of Su-30 fighters, as well as many older models.