Exercise Garuda-VI was a unique, fascinating and timeless learning experience for the IAF contingent. The operational lessons learnt by IAF during this exercise will assist IAF in adding more teeth to its overall war fighting capabilities.
|The Author is Former Deputy Chief of the Air Staff and Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Central Air Command, IAF|
Indian Air Force (IAF) and Armée de l'Air Française [French Air Force (FAF)] participated in Exercise 'Garuda-VI', a bilateral Indo-French large force employment warfare exercise, hosted by FAF at their airbase in Mont-de-Marsanfrom 1 to July 12, 2019. The last exercise, Garuda-V was hosted by IAF at its airbase in Jodhpur in June 2014. IAF contingent comprising of 134 airwarriors, four Su-30 MKI fighters, one IL-78 flight refuelling aircraft along with two C-17 Globe Master strategic lift aircraft departed for the exercise from India on June 25 and after successful completion of the exercise returned to India on July 19, 2019. C-17 aircraft flew the air warriors, ground equipment and the logistic support for the contingent during its induction for the exercise and later for its de-induction after the exercise. FAF had deployed Rafale, Mirage 2000 and Alpha Jet fighter aircraft, E-3F Sentry AWACS, C-135 flight refuelling aircraft, C-130 and CN-235 transport aircraft.
Exercise Garuda-VI was one of the biggest air exercises between IAF and FAF
Exercise Garuda-VI was one of the biggest air exercises between IAF and FAF. The exercise was very well planned and conducted in two phases, to provide excellent exposure tothe participating forces in an international operational environment. During the exercise, both IAF and FAF flew 1 versus 1 and 2 versus 1 visual air combat exercises followed by Large Force Engagement (LFE) air combat missions, both by day and by night, in near realistic environment and exchanged best practices towards enhancing their operational capability. The exercise aimed topromote professional interaction and interoperability between IAF and FAF through exchange of operational knowledge and experience besides strengthening bilateral relations between the two air forces.
The operation of Su-30 MKI along with Rafale during this exercise would have provided excellent visibility of the formidable combined capabilities of the Su-30 MKI and Rafale when operating together
IAF got an opportunity to operate the Su-30 MKI both against and alongside the multi-role Rafale of FAF in simulated operational war fighting scenario which helped enhance understanding of interoperability during mutual operations between the two Air Forces and learn from each other's best practices. IAF Su-30 MKI also got an opportunity to refuel from C-135 flight refuelling aircraft of FAF. IAF maintenance crew maintained 100 per cent serviceability of all assets during the exercise, thereby ensuring that all missions were flown on all days as per the plan. Exercise Garuda-VIwas a unique, fascinating and timeless learning experience for the IAF contingent. The operational lessons learnt by IAF during this exercise will assist IAF in adding more teeth to its overall war fighting capabilities and assist in achieving better jointness with the friendly air forces.General Philippe Lavigne, Chief of Staff of the FAF and the IAF Vice Chief interacted with participants of both air forces during the closing ceremony of Exercise Garuda-VI on July 12, 2019.
India had realised the advantages of IAF's participation in international air exercisesand the importance of continued engagementwith air forces of friendly foreign countriesat onset of the 21st century. Since then, IAF has actively participated in many multi-lateral and bilateral operational exercises hosted by various countries, wherein collaborative engagements were undertaken with the best air forces of the world and large numbers of operational and interoperability related lessons were learnt during these exercises.
The operation of Su-30 MKI along with Rafale during this exercise would have provided excellent visibilityof the formidable combined capabilities of the Su-30 MKI and Rafalewhen operating together. Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria, IAF Vice Chief,after flying a LFE mission in the Rafale on the last day of the exercise said that "Once the Su-30MKI and the Rafale start operating together, it will be a potent combination against our adversaries". The IAF Chief had earlier stated that if IAF had had the Rafale on February 27, 2019 then Pakistan would have suffered heavy losses during their retaliatory strike post Balakot. The Indian pilots must have got an insightinto the mission planning and debriefing systems associated with the Rafale aircraft and its squadron. In view of the impending induction of Rafale in IAF shortly, the opportunity to operate Su-30 MKI together with Rafale during the exercise would have provided many useful lessons and inputs towards expediting the induction and operationalisation process of the Rafale aircraft in IAF.