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The Indian Air Force and French Air Force are taking part in a joint air exercise called Garuda 2022 in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Under the combined exercise, General Stephane Mille, Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force (AAE), flew a sortie in the Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jet. On the other hand, Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari flew a sortie in the IAF Rafale fighter jet. Both the fighter jets are part of the Indian Air Force and also the most advanced jets with the defence forces in the country.

The second phase of the ongoing Garuda 22 exercise saw participation from Indian and French Air Force pilots flying Rafale and TEJAS fighter jets. The French Air Force chief also held discussions on issues of strategic significance and on avenues for further broadening the bilateral defence cooperation with Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan.

At the Jodhpur air base, the second phase of the ‘Exercise Garuda’ began in earnest after completion of phase 1 of manoeuvres between the Indian Air Force and the French Air that had kicked off on October 26.

From now on until November 14, large-scale missions will be carried out bringing together more than 30 aircraft, including Rafale, Su-30 and also Made-in-India Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas fighter. With both forces flying Rafale jets now, things have changed drastically since the last time French crews landed in India for Garuda 2014.

The AAE has deployed a contingent of 220 personnel, five Rafales and state-of-the-art Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) Phenix for the bilateral exercise this time as the edition focuses on ‘Large Force Employment’ with a predominance of fighter aviation. The IAF, on the other hand, is participating with Su-30MKI, Rafale, LCA Tejas and Jaguar fighter aircraft, as well as the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Mi-17 helicopters.

The IAF contingent also includes Combat Enabling Assets like Flight Refuelling Aircraft, AWACS and Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system. “During the second phase, with the presence of our A330 MRTT, we will be able to carry out cross-refuelling. We are fortunate to be able to work with many IAF assets: SU-30, Rafale, TEJAS, Jaguar, AWACS, IL-78, helicopters, etc. Exotic material compared to what we are used to,” said AAE Commander Pierre Cagnac, Director of the exercise.

Besides exchanging experiences, enhancing operational knowledge and strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries, Garuda 22 is also a way for French airmen to cross cultures. Crews engaged must plan, execute and debrief missions in a realistic tactical environment.

“India is a major strategic partner which has acquired the Rafale. We must learn to work together so that we can conduct joint operations if necessary. Especially since our procedures are different, because India is not a member of NATO,” adds Cagnac.

Mille’s visit to New Delhi gave further depth and strength to the India-France Strategic Partnership, the exercise over the deserts of the western sector continues to increase in intensity.

“It’s a real pleasure to be here more than 6,000 kilometers from home, rediscovering the same fighting spirit with our Indian partners,” Cagnac was quoted as saying by the French Air and Space Force in Jodhpur over the weekend.

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