x Post Official press releaseIndo-Oman Air Exercise -- Eastern Bridge to Foster Defence Cooperation Ties
Indian Air Force (IAF) and Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) will conduct a week-long bilateral Air Force exercise codenamed - Eastern Bridge - at the RAFO Base, Thumrait, Oman, from Oct 22-29. This will be the first-ever air exercise between the two countries.
Six, single-seat, Darin-I Jaguars from the Indian side will participate alongside RAFO Jaguars and F-16s. Incidentally, the two Air Forces are among the only ones that continue to operate the twin-engine Jaguar aircraft till date.
The IAF will also involve two IL-78 MKI air-to-air refueler aircraft for tanking the Jaguars enroute to Oman. Meanwhile, an IL-76 will airlift the IAF air warriors to Oman.
The main IAF contingent comprises 33 officers and 65 personnel below officer rank (PBOR). The support team of IL-76 and IL-78 MKI additionally comprises 12 officers and 26 PBOR.
Group Captain V Dedgaonkar is the team leader, while Group Captain K Kale is the Exercise Director for the IAF. The Jaguar Detachment will be led by Wing Commander A Mathur. The pilots belong to the two Jaguar squadrons - 16 (Cobras) and 27 (Flaming Arrows) that are based at IAF’s Gorakhpur airbase under Central Air Command.
A senior Air HQ observer along with one staff officer will also visit the IAF contingent during the period of the exercise.
The exercise in the Gulf region will enhance understanding of operational, maintenance and administrative procedures between RAFO and the IAF. The bilateral exercise would also be cost-effective in terms of benefit realization of operational and tactical preparedness over an unknown mixed terrain of land and desert.
Oman features among IAF’s priority-one country listed for defence cooperation. IAF-RAFO defence cooperation was initiated in 2006, and has increased substantially in the current year. The defence cooperation is characterized by high-level visit exchanges, training and bilateral exercises between the two air forces.
Oman has also been availing courses in India on a self-financing basis. Oman has also been providing turn-around facilities to our transiting military aircraft. Several rounds of Air Force Staff Talks with RAFO have now provided the necessary framework to expand defence cooperation with RAFO and rest of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries. Oman is geographically India’s closest neighbor among the Arab countries in the strategically vital Persian Gulf region. The presence of over 3, 50,000 expatriate Indians and centuries of people-to-.people contact further enhances its importance in India’s security mosaic.
Incidentally, the GCC armed forces meet took place today at Muscat. Oman is the current head of the GCC, so the next year will be important for Bilateral relations along with the GCC.
Added Later:IAF Preparing to Join Anti-Piracy Operations in Gulf
The IAF is gearing up to join future anti-piracy operations in Gulf of Aden and is holding the first-ever exercise with Omanese Air Force this month to get experience in operating fighter aircraft there.
"The IAF may be called upon to conduct aerial surveillance of the swathe of the Gulf of Aden region, where pirates are widening their area of operations fast," IAF vice chief Air Marshal P K Barbora told reporters
Joining the anti-piracy operations would not mean the IAF would unleash an offensive against the sea brigands, but would carry out surveillance of the vast area that the Navy would be unable to cover due to "speed and manpower" constraints, Barbora said.
"With our (IAF) surveillance capability, we can help the comity of nations fighting the piracy menace there. Navy may not be able to cover the area in terms of speed and number of men. It is not necessary that we use our fire power," he said.
Assuring that the fighter aircraft could perform surveillance role too, the IAF vice chief said with the midair refuelling capability, the fighters' endurance levels to fly for longer hours and patrolling the area increased substantially.
The 'Eastern Bridge' air exercise with Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) from October 22 to 29 would focus on achieving jointness and enhancing understanding of operational, maintenance and administrative procedures between the two air forces, he said.
Both India and Oman are the only countries that continue to operate Jaguar air-ground strike fighter fleets and they would bring these jets to the exercise to be held at Thumrait RAFO air base.
Six single-seat twin-engine Darin-I Jaguars of the IAF from 16 Cobras and 27 Flaming Arrows squadrons, based in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, would participate alongside the RAFO Jaguars and F-16s.
The IAF would also take two IL-78 mid-air re-fueller for tanking the Jaguars to and fro from Oman and an IL-76 heavy lift aircraft for carrying the 45 officers and 91 airmen there.
"The bilateral air exercise would be cost-effective in terms of benefit realisation of operational and tactical preparedness over an unknown mixed terrain of land and desert," Barbora said.
Asked if Oman could support IAF's anti-piracy operations by providing "operational turning around" facility by opening up its airbase for maintenance and fuel, the IAF vice chief replied in the affirmative, saying since the two air forces operated Jaguars, it was possible.
However, to another question, he said there was no proposal to have a permanent base there, though RAFO personnel were being trained at the IAF facilities here in India.
The terrain of Oman is very similar to what you will find in Balochistan/Afghanistan.Link
"The exercise will enhance the understanding of operational, maintenance and administrative procedures between the RAFO and the IAF. The bilateral exercise would also be cost-effective in terms of benefit realization of operational and tactical preparedness over an unknown mixed terrain of land and desert," the IAF vice chief, Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, told reporters.
"It would expose our fighter pilots to low flying over unfamiliar terrain," he added.
Asked if through the exercise, the IAF was preparing for anti-piracy operations in support of the Indian Navy, which has deployed its warships in the Gulf of Aden, Barbora said: "We do not know whether we would be called for such operations. But it's better to be prepared."
"In case of a requirement, we can send our fighters for patrolling and surveillance. We can also help our navy in terms of speed and manoeuverability. Such joint exercises would help manifold to come to each other's aid in a short time," he added.
Both air forces will undertake air-to-ground missions, conduct live firing from air to ground and practice integrated training and operations in desert terrain during the joint exercise, for which the IAF would field six single-seater Jaguar fighter bombers while the RAFO would also deploy Jaguars, as also F-16s.