Since June 2, four Rafale fighters of the French air force’s 3/30 “Lorraine” squadron have deployed at Jodhpur air base, in India, to take part in the bilateral “Garuda” exercise. This is the fifth time the two countries hold this exercise, which will end on June 13.
“Strong friendship”: That is how Gen. Denis Mercier, the French air force chief of staff, described the relations between the French and Indian air forces during his June 9 visit to Jodhpur. “I was impressed to see such close teamwork after the first week of the exercise,” he said. “We want to mix our crews to facilitate exchanges; and I am happy see it is working out so well.”
The French pilots came up against Sukhoi 20s, MiG-21s and MiG-27s; in all, 12 Indian fighters took part. “The Indian Air Force deployed a lot of assets, which it used extensively, thereby demonstrating the importance it assigns to Garuda,” says Lt Col Nicolas Lyautey, 3/30 commander and French director of the exercise.
After the first week of familiarization flights, with visual-range air combat from one-on-one configuration through to 2-on-1 and 2-on-2, Large Force Employment (LFE) operations began in the second week. These included air-defense, escort, ground attack, air interdiction, etc. Many scenarios brought French and Indian crews to prepare together their missions, and to deploy their aircraft in complex and realistic combat scenarios.
This training reinforces interoperability between the two air forces, in an environment that is not subject to NATO operating standards, so providing French pilots with additional experience.