IAF pilots participating in the UK-Indian exercise Indra Dhanush last month switched off the radars on their Sukhois to prevent secret radio frequencies from being picked up by Western military intelligence.
The IAF was so concerned about protecting the new-age Sukhois’ highly classified NO11M Bars radars — designed by the Russian Phazotron company — that pilots were ordered not to use them at all during the exercise, top Indian sources here confirmed to The Indian Express.
Asked if the radars were blocked at the request of Sukhois’ Russian designers, the source explained, “It was for a mixture of reasons. The Russians have their IPRs (intellectual property rights) and we have our concerns.”
The source added, “India opened up four or five years ago, but we’re still building up confidence in each other. It’s a step-by-step process, we’ve always moved step by step.”
The frequency of the Su-30 MKI fighter’s radar is jealously guarded because once disclosed it neutralises both the aircraft and its missiles.
And obviously, if India is to maintain its air superiority over Pakistan — and the SU-30 is the world’s most advanced fighter bomber — it needs to make sure that Islamabad does not gain access to its radar frequencies via friendly Western governments. In fact, during Indra Dhanush, the IAF pilots’ refusal to use their radars created problems that the RAF overcame by flying its Tornado F3s alongside each of the six Su-30s.
Later, RAF commanding officer for the exercise, Wing Commander John Prescott, admitted: “It isn’t the way we normally do business. When we are working with another fighter, we would expect the pilot to use his radar for long-range targeting and to take the beyond visual range (BVR) shots as well.”
But stressing that the exercise was a success, Wg Cdr Prescott told UK’s Defence News: “Working with a nation we were not familiar with proved to be extremely good value. It is good for both sides to be able to adapt and work with each other and gain a level of understanding with officers and airmen — not just in the air but in a social situation as well.”