India-France bilateral Exercise 'Desert Knight-21' to kick-start from Tomorrow: A report

The Air exercise between Indian Air Force and France Air and Space Force named 'Ex-Desert-21' will kick-start from tomorrow, Wednesday in Jodhpur. The Ex-Desert 21 will include French Rafales for the first time alongside IAF Su-30 MKIs, near the Indo-Pak border.

By Rohit Sindhu, Updated : Jan 19, 2021 19:17 IST
India-France bilateral Exercise 'Desert Knight-21' to kick-start from Tomorrow: A report
IAF FASF Joint Exercises from tomorrow- Image courtesy- Twitter

India-France bilateral exercise Desert Knight-21, Jodhpur: IAF (Indian Air Force) and FASF (French Air and Space Force) are preparing for a joint air exercise which is going to begin on Wednesday, January 21. The Air exercise is taking place in the midst of an ongoing Indo-China border conflict. This exercise is seen as a direct response to Pak-China Shaheen (Eagle)-IX exercise which took place in December last year.

The main aim of this exercise is to boost joint cooperation between two airforces. Both the countries will be deploying their frontline fighter jets, tanker aircraft, and transport aircraft as well.

According to defense sources, France FASF to take part with Rafale, Airbus A-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport, A-400M Tactical Transport aircraft & approx 175 personnel. IAF aircraft including Mirage 2000, Su-30 MKI, Rafale, IL-78 Flight Refuelling Aircraft to take part.

Both FASF and IAF have brought in Dassault Rafales for this exercise and IAF is also expected to test the backbone of IAF the Sukhoi Su-30mki against the newly acquired, highly capable Dassault Rafale. India placed an order for 36 rafales in 2016 out of which 8 have been received till date, while 28 are still on order. This is the first time India will be deploying Rafales in an Air exercise that too are pitted against experienced French Pilots who have thousands of flying hours on this state of the art aircraft.

In this way, IAF will get to learn a lot more about the operational capability of this aircraft in a simulated scenario against a highly reputed FSAF.
The point which has to be noted is that although this exercise is taking place just after the Pak-China Shaheen exercise.

The main aim of this exercise is to provide operational exposure to IAF, whereas Shaheen exercises were conducted to Increase interoperability between PLAAF & PAF in case of a joint confrontation with IAF. In simple words Shaheen exercises were conducted in a much broader context and it can be very much a cause of concern for IAF whereas in the case of 'Ex-Desert-21' it's just a routine exercise that IAF conducts frequently with its allies.

Now talking about the Sino-Indian confrontation, we all know that PLAAF is slightly more capable in terms of the quality of its equipment, whereas in terms of its size it's much larger as compared to IAF. This is the main reason the IAF pilots have to maintain a qualitative edge against PLAAF pilots in terms of their skills. The 'Ex-Desert 21' exercise will certainly help them achieve that, because FSAF is highly trained as well it regularly conducts exercises with other NATO countries.

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Rafale is a far more capable aircraft in comparison with other aircraft of IAF such as Sukhoi Su-30, Mig-29k, HAL Tejas, and Mirage 2000. Rafale even outperforms Flankers, J-10s which are currently being used by PLAAF. So overall this exercise will help IAF pilots maintain their qualitative edge over PLAAF pilots.

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