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Indian, French air forces begin aerial exercise


New Delhi : The Indian and French air forces will engage in a variety of missions ranging from close combat, engagement of large forces, slow mover protection and protecting and engaging high value aerial assets during a 12-day exercise that began at the Istres Air Base in the South of France Monday.

The Singapore Air Force is participating in the exercise for the first time.

“The focus of the air exercise is learning from each other’s best practices, with air defence operations being central to our various manoeuvres,” the Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent commander, Group Captain J Mishra, said of the fourth edition of the Garuda joint drill that concludes June 25.

The exercise will be conducted both in an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) and non-AWACS environment, with the “intensity gradually increasing throughout its duration so that we learn and absorb the maximum”, Mishra added.

During the exercise, the IAF’s Special Forces, named ‘Garuds’, would be proactively participating and will be carrying out parajumps along with the French Special Forces.

The IAF’s IL-76 heavy-lift aircraft, which is an integral part of the exercise’s flying missions, would also practise static line drops with the French Special Forces.

The IAF contingent, comprising six Sukhoi SU-30MKI combat jets, one IL-76 and three IL-78 midair tankers, arrived at the Istres Air Force Base near Marseille on Saturday.

The Singapore Air Force is fielding its F-16s while the French Air Force contingent includes Mirage 2000s, Rafaels and midair tankers.

The Istres base houses some of the world’s finest fighters and helicopters and serves multiple functions, including as a repair facility and as a training ground. It was built before World War II and is of immense historical and operational importance.