Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighters will participate in the Garuda VI bilateral exercise along with Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) Rafale jets from July 1-12. Four IAF Su-30 MKIs along with an IL-78 Flight Refueling aircraft will participate in the exercise. This is one of the biggest air exercises that is being planned between the two air forces.
The exercise will give a chance to the IAF fighter pilots to operate against the Rafale omnirole jets, 36 of which have been bought by India from France's Dassault Aviation with the first aircraft landing in India in September 2019.
Garuda VI will also involve simulated operational warfighting scenario which will give the fighters of the two air forces to carry out all the offensive and defensive manoeuvres possible. This will enhance understanding of interoperability during mutual operations between the two air forces and provide an opportunity to learn from each other’s best practices.
While the Rafale's range is 3,700 kilometres, the Su-30 MKI can fly for 3,000 km without refuelling. But the Russian-origin fighter is faster at Mach 2.0 (2,120 km per hour, 1,320 mph) against the Rafale's top speed of Mach 1.8 (1,912 kmph).
The Su-30 MKI is armed with a 30 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-1 autocannon and had 12 hardpoints (2 wing-tip AAM launch rails, 6 pylons under-wing, 2 pylon under-engine nacelles, 2 pylons in tandem in the arch between the engines which can be increased to 14 using multiple ejector racks). The fighter can carry ammunition up to 8,130 kg (17,920 lb). On the other hand, the Rafale has 14 hardpoints along with a 2500 rounds/minute NEXTER 30M791 30 mm internal cannon. It can carry weapons up to 9072 kg (20,000 lb).
IAF's C-17 strategic lift aircraft will provide the logistic support to the 120 air-warrior-strong contingent during the induction and de-induction phase. This is the sixth edition of exercise Garuda and will take place at French Air Force Base, Mont-de-Marsan in France. The last exercise, Garuda V, was held at Air Force Station Jodhpur in June 2014.
Participation of IAF in the exercise will also promote professional interaction, exchange experiences and operational knowledge besides strengthening bilateral relations with the French air force. It will also provide a good opportunity for air warriors to operate in an international environment. The team departed from Air Force Station Bareilly and Agra on June 25.
The 36 Rafale aircraft will be a part of two IAF Squadrons, the first of which is the Golden Arrows 17 Squadron.