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Indian Sukhoi fighter jets, C-17 aircraft land in Australia

The Times of India logo The Times of India 19-08-2022
© Provided by The Times of India

New Delhi: Four Indian Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets and two C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlifter have touched down in Australia for the major 'Pitch Black' air combat exercise, which will see participation of around 100 aircraft and 2,500 military personnel from 17 nations.

On way to the Darwin base in Australia, the Sukhois were refuelled midair by tankers of the French Air & Space Force, which is taking part in the exercise along with the air forces from the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and UAE.

READ ALSO: India set for air combat exercise with Malaysia, which has also shown interest in Tejas

The exercise will focus on "large force employment warfare" from August 19 to September 8. "The IAF contingent, led by Group Captain YPS Negi, will undertake multi-domain air combat missions in a complex environment and will exchange best practices with the participating air forces," an officer said on Friday.

The Pitch Black comes after the IAF also sent Sukhoi fighters and C-17 aircraft for the "tactical leadership programme" to the Egyptian Air Force (EAF) Weapon School at Cairo West Airbase, which saw its aircrew also take part as instructors, in June-July.

Earlier this month, an IAF contingent of four Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets, a C-17 aircraft and an IL-78 midair refueller had also left for Malaysia to participate in the bilateral 'Udarashakti' air combat exercise, even as India also remains the frontrunner to sell the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft to the Southeast Asian nation.

READ ALSO: 51 Chinese warplanes, 6 warships infringes on Taiwan's air defence identification zone

Since the IAF last participated in the Pitch Black exercise in 2018, India and Australia have cranked up their military ties and engagements in a major way as an important pillar of the bilateral "comprehensive strategic partnership".

Australia has also become a regular participant in India's top-notch Malabar naval exercise with the US and Japan, with the four "Quad" countries declaring their intent to deter any "coercion" in the Indo-Pacific with an eye firmly on China.

China's expansive military build-up and its assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific is the "biggest security anxiety" for both Australia and India, Australian deputy PM Richard Marles had said during his visit here in June.

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