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Indian and French air forces to conclude four-day joint exercises

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Indian and French air forces to conclude four-day joint exercises

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The Indian and French air forces will today conclude their four-day bilateral Exercise Desert Knight-21.

These drills are India’s first employing its newly acquired Rafale fighters from France. In 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi aimed to revitalise India’s ageing fleet of aircraft by signing a deal with France’s Dassault Aviation to produce 36 of the “omnirole” aircraft. The exercise concluding today was conducted in addition to India and France’s regularly held Garuda tactical bilateral exercises hosted alternatively in the two countries.

From this exercise, New Delhi intends to gain operational and tactical experience flying its new Rafale fighters. India is currently engaged in a simmering border conflict with China, so the Rafale represents a tactical capability to compete with China and archrival Pakistan in the region. For France, the exercise and arms deal builds on a strategic shift away from China and to the larger Indo-Pacific region. France’s Air and Space Force is currently on its Skyros Deployment, which is intended to demonstrate France’s rapid ability to deploy these forces to remote theatres. As France’s foremost strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific, expect India to seek further opportunities to train in the Rafale and deepen defence cooperation with France.

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