Indian Pilots Fly Rafale Jets At Indo-French Joint Exercise. Indian pilots flew Rafale jets during the Indo-French Garuda-VI exercise

Mont-de-Marsan, France: With the first delivery of the Rafale fighter jet to New Delhi just a couple of months away, Indian pilots flew the aircraft in France this week, at a tactical exercise between the two countries, held at Mont-de-Marsan. The Chief of Staff of the French Air Force described the pilots of the two countries flying the jet as "amazing".

"It was amazing... After two or three flights it feels very comfortable and the feedback I've gotten from the squadron says ''Wow.'' It's a combat-proven aircraft and the interface is very is nice and clear so it eases the pilot... I think it's a mix between a very good, experienced pilot and very good aircraft which matched so well," General Philippe Lavigne told reporters on Friday.

The tactical exercise, Garuda-VI, was held from July 1 to July 12 and falls under the global framework of bilateral cooperation between India and France. It is alternately held in the two countries.

"The Garuda exercises are placed in a larger context of very strong, robust, growing, dynamic, strategic partnership between India and France," India's Ambassador to France Vinay Mohan Kwatra said while highlighting that defence is an important pillar of the India-France strategic partnership.

"We have flown close to 400 hours, out of which, 100 hours were on the Indian aircraft and 300 hours were contributed by the French aircraft," Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria said.

"Where we have reached, we ended this exercise with a large force engagement and a very complex planning scenario wherein Rafale and Su-30s flew together against a representative adversary and very realistic scenario. To reach here, the two Air Forces did two weeks of exercise together," he added.

The Indian Air Force Vice Chief himself took a sortie on the Rafale aircraft at the French Air Force's Mont-de-Marsan air base earlier on Friday.

Manufactured by France-based Dassault Aviation, the Rafale is a twin-engine multi-role fighter jet that is nuclear-capable and versatile enough to engage in both air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks, with Meteor and Scalp missiles, respectively, making it one of the most feared fighter jets in the continent. In addition, with the on-board Electronic Warfare (EW) system, the Rafale can also perform reconnaissance and radar jamming roles.

The first Rafale is expected to land in September. Thereafter, 35 Rafale jets will be delivered one by one, a French minister said in June. These jets represent a much needed boost of modernity to the Indian Air Force (IAF), which still flies Russian-made MiGs that were first inducted in the 1960s and should have been retired by the mid-90s.