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CDS Gen Bipin Rawat to fly in French Rafale fighter today

India Today logo India Today 21-01-2021 Manjeet Negi
Bipin Rawat wearing a costume

In a sign of strong military ties between India and France, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat will undertake a sortie in a French Air Force (FAF) Rafale fighter in Rajasthan's Jodhpur on Thursday.

General Rawat will undertake the sortie on Thursday afternoon, and fly in the jet, Indian Air Force (IAF) officials told India Today.

The all-important exercise is taking place soon after the Pakistani-Chinese aircraft flew together in an exercise opposite the Jodhpur sector — Bhullari. After the sortie, the CDS will also be briefed on the scope of the exercise, and how it is going to help the IAF's capabilities to undertake joint operations.

Under the exercise, four French Rafale fighters, Desert Knight-21, landed in Jodhpur after flying directly for around four hours from the Djibouti air base, using their A-330 multi-role tanker transport aircraft — which also landed in Jodhpur.

Exercise Desert Knight-21 started at the Jodhpur Air Force Station on Wednesday (January 20), and will conclude on Sunday (January 24).

a fighter jet sitting on top of a runway © Provided by India Today
Photo: Manjeet Negi / India Today

The French are participating with Rafale, Airbus A-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), A-400M Tactical Transport aircraft and approximately 175 personnel. The IAF aircraft participating in the exercise include Mirage 2000, Su-30 MKI, Rafale, IL-78 Flight Refuelling Aircraft, AWACS and AEW&C aircraft. The exercise marks an important milestone in the series of engagements between the two air forces.

As part of Indo-French defence cooperation, the IAF and the French Air and Space Force held six editions of air exercises named 'Garuda' — the latest being in 2019 at air force base Mont-de-Marsan in France. As measures to further the existing cooperation, the two forces have been gainfully utilising available opportunities to conduct "hop-exercises".

The French Air and Space Force deployment, while ferrying to Australia for EX Pitchblack in 2018, was hosted by the IAF at the air force stations in Agra and Gwalior, for exercise with fighters and MRTT aircraft. Currently, the French detachment for EX Desert Knight-21 is deployed in Asia as part of their 'Skyros Deployment', and has ferried in forces to the Air Force Station in Jodhpur.

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