If ever the airmen on both sides - IAF and RAF, differed on tactics during the just-concluded ‘Exercise Indradhanush 2007’, at RAF Waddington, it never showed when the two sat together at the Mobile Catering Support Unit (MCSU) for their afternoon meals.
While their respective aircraft received fuel at the tarmac for their next flight, five RAF and two IAF chefs were fuelling nourishment for the aircrew and the ground crew at the MCSU. More popular in the RAF as the ‘field kitchen’, the MCSU housed beneath three large canopied tents - a kitchen and two dining areas that remained the common meeting zone.
Relishing the modest, yet appeasing fares were nearly 250 airmen from both the air forces during lunch, and about 60-70 RAF personnel, their dinner. Both, the visiting Chief of Air Staff from India, Air Chief Marshal FH Major and the RAF Commander-in-Chief Air Command, Air Chief Marshal Sir Clive Loader also had an opportunity to taste the mixed fare of English continental menu and a few Indian dish together, during their visit on the last day of the exercise.
The five RAF chefs - Sergent Edwards, Corporals Fletcher, Alps and SACs Harrison and Kneller are all trained from RAF Houlton. But they had no clue to any of the Indian dishes that they cooked prior to the exercise. “Whatever little we tried (cooking) was picked up from some Indian recipe books,” informed Kneller hoping that the visitors relished them. “The dal wasn’t being sautéed with the essential ingredients, so we just tried to spice it up with whatever herbs that we could manage here” spoke AK Pandey, who together with BR Sharma are among the two IAF ‘Non-Combatants’ accompanying the “Rhinos” detachment from Pune.
The MCSU consists of a superbly designed ‘Operational Field Catering System’ (OFCS) that has been in use in the RAF for over a year now. It consists of kerosene/electricity-operated hotplates, boilers, ovens, multi-purpose cooking vessels and a brand-new savoury for serving. “They are not ideally suitable for cooking Indian favourites like rajma and other delicacies, since they are not like any of the pressure cooking devices that we use back home,” opined Sharma.
Some of the fares on the English menu included cornish pasty, sausage blyonnaise, pasta carbonara, vegetable moussaka, chilli con carnie, pizzas, nazi gorin – new names et al, for the taste buds of most Indians on the tour. Indian dals, chicken biryani, mutton rogan josh, tandoori chicken on the contrary, proved more familiar with the RAF, and popular too.
The RAF personnel hugely relished the Indian fares served at the dinners hosted by the IAF. In addition, the Indian hospitality and warmth clearly bowled the ‘exercise hosts’. But one individual who deserved and got the loudest round of applause from the Indians was Abdul Samad, a Bangladesh-born restaurateur at Lincoln whose sumptuous contracted Indian dinners hardly let any IAF personnel miss much of his home-cooked Indian meal during dinners.
TKS (in Waddington)
CONTROLLING AERIAL COMBATS – AN UNSEEN SAGA
Even as the Su-30 MKIs, F3 Tornadoes and Eurofighter Typhoons of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Royal Air Force (RAF), battle it out in the sky during – Indradhanush 2007, elsewhere discreetly and unseen at the ‘Control and Reporting Centre’ (CRC) of RAF Scampton, a team of ‘fighter controllers’ (FC) from both Air Forces remain closeted and deeply engrossed on computer screens, albeit keeping a close watch on the proceedings.
Of a marked significance during the exercise is the role of FCs accompanying the IAF contingent. In an airspace that is normally bereft of any liberties, fighter pilots invariably depend on them for manouevring tactically when engaging enemy targets in the air. “It is a team work,” informs Wing Commander Jaswinder Singh, a Master Fighter Controller (MFC) on the IAF side. FCs undertake the crucial job of airspace management by coordinating and controlling the conduct of missions while providing regular updates on target information.
IAF FCs hone their ‘controlling skills’ while their winged colleagues manouevre in all the dimensions in air. Their exposure to the Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) systems is expected to go a long way since the IAF, with its modernization plans of inducting new radars, aerostats and AWACs in place, is all set to enhance further its existing surveillance and control capabilities. Some of the MFCs had some prior exposure to the scenario during the last Indradhanush exercise held in India. They keenly observed the E3D Sentry’s controlling prowess from the air during the current exercise also.
“Since they have been at it for more than 20 years, we have a great deal to learn from their experience,” echoes Squadron Leader Achin Pillai, an MFC. “The RAF controllers have been very forthcoming in sharing their experience and we are coping very well too,” he further added on the quick assimilation, adaptation and professional acumen of the IAF FCs, a fact acknowledged by the RAF FCs too.
The missions being undertaken in the current exercise mostly conform to the NATO/RAF methods of operations. The missions are vastly diverse and include the conventional 1vs1 to large force engagements, involving several aircraft of different types. This increases the challenge for the FCs and requires skills extraordinaire. And significantly, they also enhance flight safety.