Garuda-VI began at the French Air Force base at Mont-De-Marsan, France, on July 1. Two IAF Su-30MKI jets flying during Garuda-VI in France | Twitter handle of Indian Air Force

The Indian Air Force announced on Friday that one of its pilots flew on a Rafale fighter of the French Air Force during the sixth edition of the Garuda aerial exercises between the two nations.

Garuda-VI began at the French Air Force base at Mont-De-Marsan, France, on July 1. Four Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters are participating in Garuda-VI, while the French contingent includes the Rafale and Mirage-2000 jets. The Indian Air Force will take delivery of the first of its 36 Rafale fighters from Dassault Aviation in September and the jets are expected to reach India next year.

Tweeting from its official handle on Friday, the Indian Air Force informed, “The objective of Indo-France joint exercise is to share good practices & to enhance interoperability & cooperation between the two Air Forces. During the exchange flying, Sqn Ldr Sourabh Ambure flew in the FAF Rafale aircraft.”

On Thursday, the Indian Air Force had announced that a French Air Force pilot had flown on an Su-30MKI. It tweeted, “Indo-France joint exercise gives us a great opportunity to interact, exchange views, experiences & knowledge. A French Air Force Pilot got an opportunity to fly in the Su-30MKI aircraft, during the integration flying training week.”

The Su-30MKI, which was designed in Russia, has previously conducted exercises with the French Air Force. The Sukhoi is a larger and older jet compared with the Rafale. Exercises with the Indian Air Force are expected to help French Air Force personnel familiarise themselves with the flight characteristics of the Sukhoi jet. The Russian Air Force operates a number of fighter jets similar in design to the Su-30MKI.

The first edition of Garuda was held in Gwalior in 2003 and second in Istres Air Force Base in France in 2005. The second edition of Garuda was the first occasion the Indian Air Force participated in an exercise in Europe. The third (2007) and fifth editions of Garuda (2014) were held in Kalaikunda and Jodhpur airbases, respectively. In the fourth edition of Garuda, held at Istres in 2010, Indian and French aircraft refuelled from each other's tankers, highlighting increased inter-operational synergy.