Japan-India Drills To Feature SU-30 Fighters Like Those Flown By China
(This was originally posted in SCMP by Julian Ryall)
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is to dispatch six Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft to Japan for joint exercises in the coming months as the two nations seek to strengthen their security and diplomatic ties under the four-nation Quad pact. Analysts suggest it is no coincidence that Tokyo was keen for the Russian-built fighter jets to take part in the drills as Japanese fighters have come up against Su-30s flown by China over the East China Sea and by Russia close to disputed islands, and Japanese pilots will hope to get a better understanding of these aircraft during the drills in case they ever meet in combat.
The Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) first conducted exercises with IAF units in India in December 2018, although those drills and similar manoeuvres the following year solely involved transport and logistics. The two governments had planned drills with fighter jets in India in June 2020, but that was postponed twice because of the coronavirus pandemic. The plan now is for the Indian aircraft and crews to travel to Japan before the end of March and to pit Indian Su-30s against American-built JASDF F-15 Eagle fighters in exercises from a base in Ishikawa Prefecture, on the north coast of Japan.
The Chinese Air Force is understood to have as many as 97 Su-30s still in service, according to a Japanese Ministry of Defence report published in March. A Chinese Su-30 was close to Okinawa Prefecture in 2016, with another spotted the following year over the Sea of Japan. The Chinese Navy also operates the Shenyang J-15 fighter from its carriers, an aircraft based heavily on the Su-30 but with modifications. “The Su-30 – which Nato designates as the Flanker – was an absolute world-beater when it first came out 30 years ago and is still a very capable aircraft,” said Garren Mulloy, a professor of international relations at Daito Bunka University and an authority on defence issues. “It’s fast, it has a long range and it can carry a wide variety of payloads for a range of missions, it has a faster rate of climb and is more manoeuvrable than the F-35,” he said.