3 Rafale fighters of French Air and Space Force make strategic stopover in IAF base
The French Air and Space Force showcased its ability to carry out long-distance air power projection by deploying a contingent from metropolitan France to the French territory of New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean in less than 72 hours, covering a distance of 16,600 km.
Image: Rafale fighter jets of the French Air and Space Force contingent
A French Air and Space Force contingent, including three Rafale aircraft, stayed for two days at the Sulur Indian Air Force station in Tamil Nadu on August 10-11 while they were on a long-distance deployment to the Pacific Ocean.
Also Read: From the IAF vault: Story of Sikorsky S-55, the first IAF helicopter
As part of its long-range mission -- codenamed Pegase 2022 -- the French Air and Space Force demonstrated its capacity for long-distance air power projection by deploying a contingent from metropolitan France to the French territory of New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean in less than 72 hours to cover a distance of 16,600-km.
Besides Rafale jets, support aircraft were also in the contingent. These aircraft took off on August 11 morning after refuelling en route to New Caledonia.
It should be noted that the two countries had signed a reciprocal logistics support agreement in 2018.
Image: French soldiers board their aircraft at IAF base in Sulur, TN
Apart from France, India has such reciprocal military logistics pacts with Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the United States.
French Ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain appreciated the Indian Air Force's efforts in carrying out a successful operation and said: "France is a resident power of the Indo-Pacific, and this ambitious long-distance air power projection demonstrates our commitment to the region and our partners. It is only natural that we rely on India, our foremost strategic partner in Asia, to carry out this mission."
"My heartfelt thanks to the Indian Air Force for welcoming the French contingent," he added.
Further, the French Air Force contingent will also proceed to participate in the 17-nation 'Pitch Black' air exercise to be organised by their Australian counterpart from August 17–September 10.
The Indian Air Force will also be participating in the multinational drill, along with Australia, Japan, the United States, Germany, Indonesia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and South Korea.