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French Rafale fighters may fly to India for wargames with IAF


The Rafael fighter aircraft. A Dassault Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): The French Air Force is planning to bring its state-of-the-art Rafale fighter aircraft to India for a bilateral air exercise next year.

French Air Force officers had discussed the idea with the Indian Air Force team, which is currently in France for a tri-lateral air exercise in which the Singapore Air Force is also taking part.

“At present, the talks for the next Indo-French exercise are also on and the French officials have expressed their desire to bring the Rafale aircraft for the next joint air exercise likely to be held in 2011-12 in India,” an IAF officer, who is part of the Indian continent for Garuda-2010 exercise in Istres air base in France, said on Thursday.

During the aerial wargames, IAF's six potent Su-30MKI fighter aircraft along with the French fighter jets Mirage-2000-5 and Rafale engaged in various air defence manoeuvres alongside the Singaporean Air Force's F-16 planes.

Among the manoeuvres practised were implementation of 'no fly zones' and large force engagements during day and night.

The Su-30s also took part in a high value air-borne asset protection as well as protection busting missions.

The IL-78 refuellers of the IAF and the KC-135 refuellers of the French Air Force also participated in various missions carrying out refuelling of fighters of other air forces.

Refuelling denials were practised, making these missions more difficult, a press release issued by IAF here said.

A unique feature to which the Su-30 were subjected was the 'swing roles' under which the same aircraft was simultaneously put to offensive as well as defensive roles.

The E-3 AWACS provided the radar coverage during the exercise, while the IAF special forces ‘Garud’ carried out two jumps each by day and night along with the French special forces.

IAF's IL-76 was used for these jumps by the two special forces teams.

Senior IAF officer Air Marshal K K Nowhar, who visited the contingent during Garuda-2010, said, “Our participation in the exercise has reinforced the manner in which we conduct our operations. It has also helped us refine our doctrine.”

On the lessons learnt from the exercise, Nowhar said, “In the future, there is a slim chance that a country would operate in isolation especially in a co-operative defence scenario. Thus knowing each other’s best practices in terms of tactics, techniques and procedures is the main objective of this exercise, which is also a part of the Indo-French defence cooperation.”

The intensity of the exercise was increased gradually to enhance the understanding of the contingent, beginning with basic one-on-one missions and limited Beyond Visual Range (BVR) capabilities, and then progressing to multi-aircraft strikes and counter air missions with complete BVR capability, and concluding with large force engagement sorties.

The Garuda exercise concludes on Friday. The IAF contingent will return to India on July 3.

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