New Delhi, June 6 (UNI) The Indian Air Force is set to further augment its power projection skills -- in beyond visual range (BVR) combat and air-to-air refuelling -- in its second joint fighter exercise with the French Air Force.
After the success of 'Garuda-I' -- the first-ever joint exercise with fighters in India -- at Gwalior in February 2003, the two air forces will hold 'Garuda-II' in France after skipping a year.
The 15-day exercise, at Istres Air Force Base between June 16 and 30, will see the IAF's Su-30s competing against the French Mirage 2000-5, which is one of the four multi-role fighter aircraft the IAF is considering buying.
''Six Su-30s, along with an Il-78 mid-air refueller and an Il-76 transport aircraft, will be flagged off from Bareilly AFB by IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal S K Malik on June 9,'' Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Ops C&D) Air Vice Marshal Sumit Mukherji today told newspersons.
The aircraft will fly to Jamnagar, where they will stay for two days and leave on June 12 for Istres, where they are expected to reach on June 15, after a single stop in Jyanklis (Egypt), he added.
Describing the French Air Force as an extremely ''experienced and capable'' force, AVM Mukherji said that it had had the opportunity to exercise with the US, Singapore, Thailand, Australia as well as the NATO countries.
''We have had a fruitful exchange with them, and look forward to learning from their experience and employment philosophy,'' he said, adding the French also would have their first exposure to the Su-30 and were awaiting it keenly.
Asked if the IAF intended to gain more experience in BVR operations and mid-air refuelling, as the French had demonstrated their prowess in these two procedures during 'Garuda-I' two years ago, the ACAS (Ops C&D) said all these formed part of the learning process of such endeavours.
''Our armed forces have been somewhat insular...just exercising with each other, though our equipment was at par with the best in the world. However, all this changed in the last few years, with increasing military cooperation and exercises with friendly countries,'' he said.
''During Garuda-I, we realised that while we were flying the same aircraft (Mirage-2000) as the French, they were using it in a somewhat different way and getting good results...this formed a part of our learning process,'' AVM Mukherjee later told UNI.
Indian fighter jets to join exercise in France
The IAF will send six Su-30 jets, Il-78 air-to-air refuelling aircraft and 120 personnel to France, according to the spokesman.
This will be the first exposure of the Su-30 jets to French AirForce. The officers will reach Istres on June 15.
The French Air Force will send aircraft including Mirage 2000 jets and C-135FR tanker aircraft.
Sukhoi 30 MKI still being inducted into IAF
"We will induct the Sukhoi 30 MKI into exercises once they get inducted into the IAF at a full flow," said Air Vice Marshal S Mukherji while speaking to media persons today over IAF's upcoming joint exercise with the French Air Force.
He said this on being asked as to why the IAF was inducting only Sukhoi-30 and not Sukhoi-30 MKI for its joint exercises with the French Air Force as well as the United States Air Force (USAF) expected to be held in November.