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India, France, UAE conduct mega air exercise over Arabian Sea

The exercise 'Desert Knight' featured several frontline aerial assets and combat jets of the air forces of India, France and UAE. (Photo: Indian Air Force/ Twitter)

NEW DELHI (PTI): India, France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) carried out a mega air exercise over the Arabian Sea against the backdrop of the rising global concerns over Houthi militants targeting several commercial vessels in the strategic waterways in the region.

The exercise 'Desert Knight', conducted on Tuesday, featured several frontline aerial assets and combat jets of the air forces of the three countries, officials said.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) component at the drills consisted of Su-30 MKI, MiG-29 and Jaguar fighter jets besides AWACS (airborne early warning and control aircraft), C-130-J transport plane and air-to-air refuelling aircraft.

"The main focus of exercise 'Desert Knight' was on enhancing synergy and interoperability between the three air forces," the Indian Air Force said.
The exercise took place in the Indian FIR (Flight Information Regions) and with IAF aircraft operated from several bases in India.

All airspace worldwide is divided into FIRs and each of them is managed by a controlling authority responsible for ensuring that air traffic services are provided to aircraft flying within it.

The exercise came amid increasing attacks on commercial vessels by Houthi militants in the Red Sea.

"On January 23, the Indian Air Force conducted exercise Desert Knight along with French Air and Space Force (FASF) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force," the IAF said.

"While the French participation included the Rafale fighter aircraft and a multi-role tanker transport, the UAE Air Force fielded the F-16," it said in a statement.

The aircraft of the French and the UAE air forces operated from the Al Dhafra air base in the UAE.

"The interactions during the exercise facilitated the exchange of operational knowledge, experiences and best practices amongst the participants," the IAF said.

"Such exercises are indicative of the growing diplomatic and military interactions in the region, apart from showcasing the prowess of the IAF," it added.

The trilateral exercise came days before India's Republic Day celebrations where two Rafale fighter jets and an Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport aircraft of the French air force will also feature.

A 95-member marching contingent and 33-member band contingent from France will also take part in the parade.

French President Emmanuel Macron will be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations on January 26 that would make him the sixth leader from France to grace the prestigious annual event.

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