More than 150 Indian Air Force (IAF) officers will participate in the Garuda VI exercise with Armée de l’Air (French Air Force). The IAF announced that four Su-30MKI fighters, two C-17 transport aircraft and one Il-78 aerial refuelling tanker would depart from the Air Force Station at Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. The sixth edition of the bilateral exercise between the Indian and French Air Force is planned to set off at Mont-de-Marsan French Air Force Base. The last exercise, in 2014, took place here in Jodhpur.
The Il-78 would be involved in refuelling during the long journey to the French Air Base. The C-17s will carry equipment, spares and personnel for the maintenance of the Su-30MKI fighters during the exercise.
To put in context, the Su-30MKI, designed in Russia, is statistically speaking the most important fighter jet used by the IAF. Nearly 250 Su-30MKI fighters are presently serving within IAF ranks.
The Garuda exercise is largely conducted to enhance inter-operational capabilities between the two air force contingents. Air Commodore M. Ranade is of the view that these exercise help “learn lessons of best practices that each air force has to offer”. The Garuda VI is said to be one of the biggest air exercises planned between the two countries’ air forces.
Garuda VI is slated to convene on July 1 up until July 14. The Garuda series of exercises have been held alternatively in India and France since 2003. While the Indian Air Force and Navy have held exercises with the Rafale in the past, the sixth edition of Garuda is of greater significance owing to the arrival of 36 Rafale fighter jets in September.
The Garuda has been a cornerstone in the bilateral relationships between the two nations. The first edition of Garuda was held in Gwalior in 2003 and second in Istres Air Force Base in France in 2005.
The second edition of Garuda was the first exercise the Indian Air Force participated in Europe. The third (2007) and fifth editions of Garuda (2014) were held in Kalaikunda and Jodhpur airbases, respectively. In the fourth edition of Garuda, held at Istres in 2010, Indian and French aircraft refuelled from each other’s tankers, highlighting increased operating synergy.
The Rafale is a contemporary design than the Su-30MKI and consists more state-of-art electronics, weapons and design features to reduce its detection by radar. It is ironic that the basic aspect in mind while designing the Rafale was essentially a need to contain the Soviet Union’s MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters, the latter provided the blueprint for the Su-30MKI design.