The Union ministry of defence has announced that the newly inducted Rafale fighter jets would be part of the bilateral air exercise ‘Desert Knight-21’ between the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the French Air and Space Force. The five-day joint exercise code-named Desert Knight-21 is being held at the Jodhpur air force station.
The exercise marks an important milestone in the series of engagements between the two air forces.
“French side will participate with Rafale, Airbus A-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), A-400M Tactical Transport aircraft and approximately 175 personnel. The Indian Air Force aircraft participating in the exercise will include Mirage 2000, Su-30 MKI, Rafale, IL-78 Flight Refuelling Aircraft, AWACS, and AEW&C aircraft,” said the defence ministry.
Both air forces will be fielding their refuellers for the drills. While the IAF’s IL-78 tankers will be seen in action during the exercise, the French side will deploy its Airbus A-330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft during the exercise, officials said. The French air force has also flown its A-400M military transport aircraft to Jodhpur for the exercise, they added.
The Rafales will also make their debut at the Republic Day parade this year. Two of the 4.5-generation fighters will be among the 15 fighters, five transport aircraft, 21 helicopters, and a vintage Dakota that will take part in the flypast on January 26. The showstopper will be a Rafale that will undertake the “Vertical Charlie” manoeuver by tearing into the sky directly over the Rajpath.
The aim of the Desert Knight exercise, in which India and France will deploy fighters, transport planes, and mid-air refueling aircraft from January 20 to 24, “is to provide operational exposure and share best practices towards enhancing combat capabilities”, said an official.
The French forces are currently deployed in Asia as part of their ‘Skyros deployment’, and will be transiting through India. The Desert Knight exercise is in addition to the regular ‘Garuda’ wargames held between the two air forces.