The fighters arrived in two separate waves trailing the two IL-78 fuel-tankers in a formation of three each, all-along from Tanagra in Greece. The lead IL-78 MKI of the ‘Titan’ formation was lead by Group Captain K Raghavendra with the three Su-30 MKI’s in tow that were captained by Group Captain Girish Saini, Team Leader of the IAF contingent, Wing Commander AK Bharti, Commanding Officer of the No. 30 Squadron and Wing Commander H Assudani. Wing Commander N Kharkar led the second wave ‘Pluto’ formation that landed 45 minutes later. The Su-30 MKIs in the formation were lead by Wing Commander Asit Kumar, Squadron Leaders S.V. Munje and Nitin Jain.
“This is undoubtedly history in the making”, remarked Air Commodore PP Reddy, IAF’s Air Attache at the High Commission of India, London. He was present to welcome the IAF contingent, arriving for the first-time ever, at United Kingdom (UK). Among others who were present also included Group Captain Andy Fryer, Station Commander of RAF Waddington, Wing Commander Jobling, Officer Commanding (OC)-Operations at the base and officers of the ‘Air Command’ Team comprising Wing Commander S Cockbill, Squadron Leader M Cowie, Flight Lieutenant R Middleton and Squadron Leader Richie Dicks, the Project Executive Officer belonging to RAF’s No. 25 Squadron and responsible for the planning of the exercise.
“The feeling is very good!” remarked IAF Contingent Leader, Group Captain G Saini immediately after landing. “Except for the terrain being flat as seen from air, the environment is quite similar to that in Pune. And yes, the weather is also good!” he further added.
“It’s a good first! A year’s planning has been brought into fruition and the sight of the Su-30 MKIs on the tarmac is fantastic”, said Wing Commander S Cockbill, representative from RAF’s Air Command. “It is a wonderful thing (exercise) to be happening as it will invigorate the relations between the two Air Forces that had seen a slight downswing after the early ’60s”, he said when interacting with some of the visiting IAF personnel.
“Most importantly the fighters arrived on time and safely”, said Group Captain Raghavendra, Commanding Officer of the IL-78 Squadron after the sortie. “And this has been possible (strategic reach for the fighters) ever since the IAF began operating the air-refuellers since the last four years”, he further stated.
As such the RAF airbase is already teeming with aviation aficionados in view of the weekend air show, but the arrival of the much talked about Su-30 MKIs kept most enthusiasts scanning the skies awaiting their arrival. The Tornado F3 aircraft belonging to RAF’s No. 25 Squadron from the Leeming RAF airbase is also scheduled to arrive at Waddington by late evening today.
A total of 18 Fighter Pilots and two Flight Navigators who will also double-up as Weapon Systems Operator (WSO) will be flying the Su-30 MKI’s during the exercise. At the weekend airshow at Waddington, IAF Su-30 MKIs and IL-78 are slated to participate and are major attractions already.