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Desert Knight-21 Exercise: Here's all you need to know about Indo-French Air Drill

Arfa Javaid

Indian Air Force (IAF) and French Air and Space Force kickstarted a five-day bilateral air drill involving Rafale fighter jets near Rajasthan's Jodhpur. CDS Bipin Rawat will undertake a sortie in the French Rafale fighter on day two of the drill. 

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Desert Knight-21 Exercise: Air Drill between India and France

1- Duration: The five-day joint air drill between India and France started on 20 January 2021 and will end on 24 January 2021 and is named as Desert Knight-21.

2- Timeline: 

Day 1: On 20 January 2021 (first day of the drill), four French Rafale jets landed in Rajasthan's Jodhpur after flying for almost four hours from Djibouti airbase using their A-330 multirole tanker transport aircraft which also landed there.

Day 2: On 21 January 2021, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat will undertake a sortie in the French Rafale fighter for almost an hour. 

The CDS  General Bipin Rawat would be briefed about the wargames and bilateral military drill to enhance interoperability between the air forces of the two nations-- France and India. 

3- Participation:

French Air and Space Force Participation: It is participating with its Rafale, Airbus A-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRtt), A-400M Tactical Transport Aircraft and around 175 personnel. 

Indian Air Force Participation: It is participating in the air drill with its Mirage 2000, Su-30 MKI, Rafale, IL-78 Flight Refuelling Aircraft, AWACS and AWE&C Aircraft. 

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4- The exercise indicates the growing interaction between the two premier Air Forces.

5- At present, the French detachment for Ex Desert Knight-21 is deployed in Asia as part of their SKYROS Deployment and will ferry in forces to Air Force Station Jodhpur. 

6- As measures to further the existing cooperation, the two forces have been gainfully utilising available opportunities to conduct 'hop-exercises'.

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In September 2020, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has inducted and operationalised eight Rafale fighter jets. In the year 2016, 36 jets were contracted from France in a 7.87-billion euro deal. 

As part of Indo-French Defence Cooperation, six editions of air drill 'Garuda' were conducted, the latest being in the year 2019 at Air Force Base Mont-de-Marsan in France.

The French Air and Space Force deployment while ferrying to Australia for Ex Pitchblack in 2018 was hosted by Indian Air Force (IAF) at Air Force Stations Agra and Gwalior for exercise with fighters and MRTT aircraft. 

The Desert Knight-21 Exercise is unique as it will include the fielding of Rafale Fighter jets by both sides. It also indicates the growing interaction between the air forces of the two nations-- India and France. Amid the air drill, the two forces will also exchange ideas and best practices to enhance interoperability. 

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