Three Rafale fighter jets of the French Air Force, along with an Airbus A400M military transport aircraft, a C-135 in-flight refueling tanker and an A310, will be in Gwalior this week, a report in My Nation has said.
The fighters and and other aircraft will make a stopover at the Gwalior Air Force Base, home to India’s Mirage-2000 fleet, on their way back to France after participating in Exercise Pitch Black in Australia. The Indian Air Force (IAF) had also participated in the exercise, sending four Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters, a Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules and a Boeing C-17 transport aircraft.
According to the My Nation report, during the exchange program at the base, French Air Force pilots will fly the upgraded version of India’s Mirage-2000 aircraft and IAF pilots will take Armée de l'Air Française Rafales for a spin. However, contrary to popular belief, this is not a training mission.
“During the exchange programme plan starting today, the French Air Force pilots would be flying the upgraded versions of the Mirage-2000 aircraft of the Indian Air Force while our pilots would be flying in their Rafale planes. This will give some experience to our pilots till the time our 36 Rafales start arriving in the country,” the portal quoted a source an IAF source saying.
India has signed a government-to-government deal with France for 36 Rafale fighter jets. The fighters will be delivered to the IAF starting September 2019, exactly one year from now. The exchange program with the French Air Force, as the source says, will help IAF pilots gain experience of flying the fighter.
The choice of the air base for the engagement program was also important. Gwalior was chosen not just because it has the Mirage-2000 fleet, but also because the IAF wants the air base integrated with the stations where the Rafale will be deployed - Hasimara in West Bengal and Ambala in Haryana.
According to Livefist, the training architecture being set up at the latter two will be integrated with a similar set up coming up at the Gwalior Air Base for the upgraded Mirage 2000 fleet. The integration of the architecture at the three air bases will help the IAF “fly cooperative simulated missions using both aircraft types on a long list of existing and fresh combat scenarios,” the portal said.
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