From the Times of India:
India’s top-notch Sukhoi-30MKIs were inadvertently caught in the middle of the bitter US-Iran feud when Tehran refused permission to the fighter jets to fly over its territory on way to the US in July to take part in Red Flag air combat exercise.
This has come to light now after the IAF contingent of eight Sukhois, two IL-78 mid-air refuellers and an IL-76 heavy-lift aircraft, along with 91 officers and 156 airmen, returned to India last week after the gruelling world-famous wargames at the Nellis US Air Force base in Nevada.
Sources said IAF’s ‘‘initial routing plan through Iran’’ went completely haywire after Tehran refused permission to its aircraft to overfly its territory just a few days before they were scheduled to take off from Pune and other airbases on July 7. ‘‘Iran made it very clear that if you are flying to the US, you cannot fly over our country. This sent the IAF team scrambling to chart out an alternate route and arrange more visas for the entire team,’’ said a source.
The ‘‘new routing’’ saw the IAF contingent taking ‘‘an awkward, circuitous path’’, with the Sukhois and other aircraft first heading for Qatar (Doha) and then flying over Egypt before finally heading north to Turkey (Corlu). After a stopover at Corlu on July 11, they crossed the Mediterranean to land at the French airbase Mont De Marsan before finally reaching the US mainland on July 17 after hopping through Lajes (Portugal) in a mind-boggling 19,212-km journey, interspersed by mid-air refuelling over the high seas.