Indian Air Force commander proposes joint maneuvers with IAF
By ARIEH O'SULLIVAN
The visiting commander of the Indian Air Force has proposed joint maneuvers and training exercises with the Israeli Air Force.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Air Chief Marshal Srinivaspuram Krishnaswamy said that he had received a "positive" reaction from his Israeli counterpart.
OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Elyezer Shkedy is hosting Krishnaswamy, a former test pilot. He has given him the honor of becoming the first non-Israeli to fly in the US-made F-16I, Israel's newest fighter jet.
"We look forward to exercising with the Israeli Air Force," Krishnaswamy said. "We can learn from each other in many ways as we are learning from the others."
"It is a matter of working out the practicalities, whether they wish to come [to India] or we come here and other various modalities. I believe there are mutual appreciations and interests. We hope that it would progress further."
He said that his air force has not conducted joint training with any Arab states.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post earlier this week, Shkedy said the IAF was in the process of developing links with other air forces.
"One of these nations is no doubt India," Shkedy said. "Openness to the world and training around the world has benefits for the IAF."
Krishnaswamy noted that the Indian air force has trained with the French and most recently with the United States in Alaska. It was the first time Indian fighter jets crossed the Atlantic Ocean, traveling 30,000 kilometers one way.
"It was a very successful exercise and they quite enjoyed themselves," he said.
He said that the Indian air force was dispatching next week their Mirage 2000 to train in South Africa. They will be crossing the Indian Ocean. Next year the air force is planning to send them to France to exercise with the French Air Force.
Next month, Singapore's F-16 squadron is slated to come to India to train.
In Israel for a five-day visit this week, Krishnaswamy toured on Thursday the Ramon air base, home of the F-16 I squadrons and the Palmahim base, where Israel maintains part of its large UAV aircraft and attack helicopters.
His visit is part of the ongoing warm relations between the two militaries.
During his visit here, Krishnaswamy also stopped by Israel Aircraft Industries to review the progress on the $1 billon deal to supply India with three "Phalcon" early-warning airborne radar aircraft.
"It will be a force multiplier by providing a radar in the sky. It will give us a longer look beyond the horizon and it certainly has its operational utility. We look forward to it," Krishnaswamy said.
Krishnaswamy said he was not familiar with reports that said India was keen on getting Israeli satellite photos of Pakistani nuclear sites.
"We have our own access to whatever intelligence is necessary," he said.
He also was adamant that India would not request or require any Israeli aid to meet future threats.
"I don't expect any significant help as such from Israel. We are quite capable of managing it ourselves. We don't expect any help or support to meet our threat from any nation. Let's make that very clear," he said.
Krishnaswamy said the Indian air force was interested in learning how other countries manage their air forces and train their pilots and crews.
He said he found openness from the Israelis and was "inspired" by the training methods he was shown.
"We were briefed that the Israeli air force has about 35,000 people in uniform, but you have some very formidable capabilities. You have your number of squadrons and you manage it so efficiently," he said.
In his capacity as chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee, Krishnaswamy also visited TASS Israel Military Industries, Elbit, and Rafael.
Defense links and deals are blossoming with India, but Krishnaswamy indicated that India expected to off-set purchases in India for weapons purchases here.
"Between countries there is a certain reciprocity, like in the good old days of trade and barter. We are looking at which way we can be beneficial," he said.
While declining to give precise figures, Krishnaswamy said that Russia and Israel were its main arms suppliers