air craft military Aircraft Military

India’s Frontline Fighter Jets Shift from Russian Sukhois to Rafales; Head to France for First Multi-Nation Wargames

India Deploys Rafale Fighter Jets to France for Multi-Nation Air Exercise; Signals Shift in Combat Aircraft Line-up

In a significant move, India is dispatching its Rafale combat jets to France to participate in a multi-nation air exercise. This marks the first instance where the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighters, inducted in 2020, are flying overseas to engage in a ωɑɾ game hosted by a friendly foreign nation’s air base.

Replacing the Russian-made Su-30MKIs, the French-origin nuclear-capable Rafale has emerged as India’s primary “frontline” fighter. Previous bilateral and multilateral wargames, spanning the last 15 years, only witnessed the participation of Sukhoi combat aircraft from India’s side. The decision to deploy the Rafales to France for the wargames signifies a strategic shift in India’s combat aircraft lineup against its archrivals China and Pakistan.

Four versatile Rafale jets have flown from India to the French Air and Space Force (FASF) Mont-de-Marsan air base as part of the IAF’s contingent for the ‘Exercise Orion 2023.’ They will join air force contingents from the United States, United Kingdom, and various NATO nations, including Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain.

“This will be the inaugural overseas exercise for the IAF’s Rafale aircraft,” stated Wing Commander Ashish Moghe, the IAF’s spokesperson. “Participation in this exercise will further enhance the Indian Air Force’s operational philosophy by incorporating best practices from other air forces,” Moghe added.

NATO’s Exercise Orion 2023, commencing on April 17 and lasting approximately three weeks until May 5, will witness the IAF’s Rafales joining a contingent of 165 airmen and officers, accompanied by two Boeing C-17 Globemaster heavy cargo aircraft and two Russian Ilyushin IL-78 midair refuelers.

Exercise Orion 2023, France’s largest exercise involving friendly foreign nations and NATO allies, will see the participation of approximately 12,000 personnel from NATO countries during its second phase. The exercise will focus on defensive operations across land, air, sea, and cyberspace, as stated in a NATO statement.

According to the French armed forces ministry, Ministre De Armees, Orion 2023 is based on a scenario developed by NATO to address different stages of modern conflict and will be conducted on an unprecedented scale in recent decades. It aims to train the French armed forces within a multinational joint forces framework, refocusing their various branches and administrative levels on a joint, multi-domain exercise in a contested environment.

The exercise will also encompass an inter-ministerial perspective extending beyond purely military aspects. One of the key training themes of Orion 2023 will be the coordination of assets and effects across the entire spectrum of operations to counter hybrid strategies.

Through this exercise, France aims to demonstrate its role as a significant force for equilibrium, committed to defending its own interests and capable of effectively participating in crisis response actions initiated by the Alliance. It positions France as one of the few European nations with expertise in operational planning and conducting large-scale military exercises, as stated by Ministre De Armees.

India’s tryst with the Rafale jets began in 2016 when it ordered 36 of these 4.5-generation fighters from France for nearly US$8 billion. This followed the cancellation of a previous tender for 126 combat planes in 2015, where Dassault Aviation’s Rafale had emerged as the winner in January 2012.

The contract award faced significant delays, but due to operational requirements of the Indian Air Force, Prime Minister Narendra Modi intervened and reduced the order to 36 jets for an emergency purchase. The first batch of Rafales arrived at the Ambala airbase in India’s northern state of Haryana in October 2019 and were inducted into an IAF squadron in September 2020.

In 2022, France’s Dassault Aviation completed the delivery of all 36 Rafale combat jets, which have been divided into two squadrons of the IAF. One squadron, comprising 18 Rafales, is stationed in Ambala to defend Indian skies in Kashmir and Ladakh, while the other is stationed in Hashimara to defend Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

During the ongoing military conflict against China in eastern Ladakh since April 2020, India deployed its Rafale jets for patrol missions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), testing their capabilities in operational situations for the first time.

Wing Commander Moghe also confirmed that the Rafale jets are now India’s frontline fighters, a role previously held by the Su-30MKI air superiority fighters. The last overseas air exercise involving the Russian-origin Su-30MKIs took place in January 2023 during ‘Veer Guardian 2023’ with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. Prior to that, in August 2022, they participated in ‘Exercise Pitch Black 2022’ in Darwin with the Royal Australian Air Force.

Even during the February 2019 air strikes on Balakot in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, in response to a terror strike in Pulwama, India utilized the Su-30MKI jets in a support role to divert the attention of the Pakistan Air Force’s Lockheed Martin F-16s while the main attack was carried out by the Rafale’s sister combat jet, the nuke-capable Mirage-2000.

Among the seven types of combat aircraft in the IAF’s inventory, only the Mirage-2000, Su-30MKI, and Rafale are capable of delivering nuclear ωeapons, representing a key element of India’s nuclear triad under its 2003 nuclear doctrine. Currently, the IAF operates 270 Su-30MKI jets, an Indian variant of the Russian Sukhoi’s Su-30 combat aircraft, distributed among 12 combat squadrons.

Related Posts

Cutting Ties: Turkey’s Solo Journey to Supercharged F-16s – Enhanced Radar, Advanced Missiles, and Independent Upgrades

The situation regarding Turkey’s acquisition of F-16 Fighting Falcon jets undergoes weekly fluctuations. It is probable that Turkey will internally enhance the fighters. Here’s What We Know: In…

Unleashing the VENOM: F-16 Fighter Jets Transformed into Cutting-Edge Experimental Drones

The US Air Force is seeking 1,000 guided unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to complement sixth- and fifth-generation fighters. In preparation for this endeavor, the Air Force plans to…

Next-Generation Dominance: US Navy’s Secretive F/A-XX Fighter Program to Supplant F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with $11.554bn Investment

The U.S. Navy is seeking over $11 billion by fiscal year (FY) 2028 for the development of the F/A-XX aircraft. This is the first time the service has…

Falling Short: US Air Force’s Critical Test Failure of Hypersonic AGM-183A ARRW Missile on B-52H Stratofortress Nuclear-Powered Bomber

On 13 March 2023, the US Air Force carried out another trial of a hypersonic missile. It has been discovered that the trial resulted in a lack of…

Mission Compromised: Shocking Revelation – Less than 30% of US F-35 Lightning II Fifth-Generation Fighters Combat-Ready

The Ministry of Defence is facing recurring issues with its fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II jets. Only a fraction of the aircraft are fully operational. Here’s What We Know:…



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *