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Next batch of the French fighter jets which are expected to arrive in India soon will be flagged off by the Chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal (ACM) RKS Bhadauria.
The Air Chief left on Monday on a five day visit to France and according to sources, “The next batch of Rafale fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) will be flagged off by him.”
The next round of delivery of these jets will have around 4 fighters and they will be going to Squadron No 17 Golden Arrows based at Ambala. And, with the arrival of these Rafales, the first Squadron will be complete.
Indo-French Military Cooperation
According to an official release by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) during his visit from April 19-23, the Air Chief will also be holding meetings and discussions with senior military leadership of France. Visiting operational facilities and airbases is also in his travel plans. Sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online “During his meetings in Paris the Air Chief will also be talking about the Mid-air refuellers for the IAF. The IAF has been looking at both the US based Boeing Company’s KC-46 tanker, a derivative of the Boeing 767 passenger aircraft and the Airbus A330 MRTT (multi-role tanker transport) aircraft.”
The plan is to lease these Aerial refuellers which are a critical ‘force multiplier’ for most air operations.
Last February Gen Philippe Lavigne, Chief of Staff, French Air and Space Force (FASF) visited India in February 2020.
The visit of ACM Bhadauria is expected to further enhance potential avenues for strengthening the level of interaction between the two Air Forces.
Indo-French Air Force Cooperation
According to the Indian Air Force there has been a significant operational interaction in the recent past.
Both the IAF and FASF have been engaged in the bilateral air exercise series ‘Garuda’. And also hop exercises, the last being Ex Desert Knight 21 held at Air Force Station Jodhpur in January 2021.
And as has been reported earlier, in March 2021, the two have also participated in Ex Desert Flag hosted by UAE Air Force along with other friendly countries.
Update on the number of Rafale fighter jets in IAF
So far around 14 aircraft have arrived in India and are based in Ambala. And soon the second squadron based at Hasimara in West Bengal will get operationalized.
Next month the French company Dassault Aviation will deliver around nine fighter jets. “The delivery of these fighter jets by the French company is on time. Despite the global pandemic of COVID-19 and total lockdown, the company has delivered the aircraft on time and as per the delivery schedule,” a top official told Financial Express Online.
India has signed a contract for 36 fighters from France at the cost of Euro 7.87 billion.
India and France Bilateral Cooperation & Military Drills
Last week the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was in Delhi and had held talks with his counterpart Dr S Jaishankar. The focus of the talks between the two leaders was on identifying ways to further strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, including the India-France-Australia Trilateral mechanism and addressing emerging challenges in the maritime and space domains.
European Union and Indo-Pacific
On Monday, April 19, 2021, the Council of the European Union put its stamp of approval on an EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. The EU’s intention is to reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions in this region of prime strategic importance for the Union’s interests.
Also Read: India’s Indo-Pacific Supremacy: Use of military power for economic equilibrium
What is the aim?
At a time of rising challenges and tensions in the region the aim is to contribute to regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development.
The Indo-Pacific region spans from the east coast of Africa to the Pacific island states.
And the EU’s long term focus according to an official statement is on upholding democracy, respect for international law, human rights, and the rule of law and.
The EU has announced its plans to continue developing partnerships in the areas of security and defence, focusing on maritime security, malicious cyber activities, as well as disinformation, emerging technologies, terrorism, and organised crime.
According to the statement, the Council on Monday has tasked the High Representative and the Commission to bring out a Joint Communication on cooperation within the Indo-Pacific by September 2021.
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