#FriendsAcrossContinents: IAF, French Air Force conduct large force engagement

The Indian Air Force deployed the Su-30MKI and Jaguars as France flew the Mirage-2000 and Rafale fighter aircraft.

IAF, French Air Force conduct joint drill with Rafale (Photo Courtesy: IAF)

"Distance is just a test of how far friendship can travel," the Indian Air Force said in a tweet as it participated in large force engagement exercise over the western seaboard with the French Air Force.

The Indian Air Force deployed the Su-30MKI and Jaguars as France flew the Mirage-2000 and Rafale fighter aircraft.

The French and Indian Air forces have been conducting the Garuda exercises for the last several years as part of efforts to boost operational cooperation.

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Mirage 2000 and Rafale jets (Photo Courtesy: Indian Air Force)

The India, France drill named "Excercise Desert Knight 2" pitched the pilots of the two countries in complex maneuvers. 

The exercise brought together 16 Indian and French aircraft, including French Mirage 2000 and Rafale jets from the Abu Dhabi airbase, as well as the Chevalier Paul destroyer. The excericse was aimed to simulate complex air attacks and defence scenario.

On April 25-27, 2021, France and India held their 19th “Varuna” bilateral exercise with large-scale drills in the western Arabian Sea with the participation of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and its entire carrier strike group.

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Rafale induction amid India-China tensions along LAC (Photo Courtesy: Indian Air Force)

France has already said India will have all 36 Rafale jets by April next year which is considered critical for its security due to continued tensions along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) with China.

India has been eager to update its ageing fighter jet force amid tensions with China. Even before relations with China nosedived, India was moving strategically closer to the West, deepening security cooperation with the United States, Japan and Australia in the Asia-Pacific region.

It has also embarked on a $130-billion modernisation of its armed forces -- including ordering attack helicopters from the United States and the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.

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Rafale's air-to-ground, air-to-air attack capability

With a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, the Rafale combat aircraft can reach maximum speeds of 750 knots.

It can carry out both air-to-ground strikes, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie. The jet is capable of performing several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase, giving it outstanding survivability.

The mission system of the Rafale has the potential to integrate a variety of current and future armaments.

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Rafale deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Mali

The Rafale is France's most state-of-the-art fighter jet, capable of speeds of more than 2,000 kilometres an hour (1,400 miles per hour), which has been deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Mali.

China had placed its premier J-20 jets close to the Line of Actual Control(LAC) as the Indian Air Force ramps up its Rafale fighters.

In fact, Indian Air Chief RKS Bhadauria had said recently that "They had brought their J-20 fighter aircraft to areas close to eastern Ladakh," adding,"The moment Indian Rafales were brought in, their J-20 was there."

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Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition

The first batch of the five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.

The formal induction ceremony of the fleet had taken place nearly six weeks later.

A second batch of three Rafale jets arrived in India on November 3 while a third batch of another three jets joined the IAF on January 27.

The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 year after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.

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Rafale carries out sorties in eastern Ladakh along LAC

The Rafale fleet has been carrying out sorties in eastern Ladakh where Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a standoff for the last nine months.

The first squadron of the Rafale jets wasstationed at the Ambala air base while the second one will be based at the Hasimara base in West Bengal.

The jets are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA's Meteor air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of their weapons package.

Meteor is a next generation beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden.

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Beyond Visual Range interception

It has been cleared to operate weapons like the MICA air-to-air 'Beyond Visual Range' (BVR) interception, combat and self-defence missiles, the METEOR very long-range air-to-air missile, the HAMMER -- Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range -- modular, rocket-boosted air-to-ground precision-guided weapon series, laser-guided bombs with different warheads, and "specifics armaments" selected by some clients.

The Rafale is also fitted with 14 hardpoints, out of which five are capable of drop tanks and heavy ordnance.

The jet's total external load capacity is more than nine tonnes.

"Hence, Rafale can lift the equivalent of its own empty weight in payloads," according to Dassault. As per the manufacturers, the pilot interface is very easy to use and relies on a highly integrated suite of equipment which has capabilities for short-term, medium and long-term actions.

The design of the cockpit gives a wide field of view at the front, on both sides, and at the rear.

(Photograph:AFP)

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