The Indian Air Force (IAF) is priming its jets for simulated war games in Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia, in exercises spreading over more than a month that will see at least four Su 30 MKI fighters, a C-130J special operations aircraft and a support C 17 transporter carry out military maneuvers.
In Australia, the IAF will participate, for the first time, in the mega `Ex Pitch Black’ exercise which will involve over 100 aircraft from nine nations, officials aware of the programme told ET. Seeking to maximise resource utilisation, the IAF will engage in maiden aerial war games with Indonesia and Malaysia before and after the Australia drill.
The exercise with Malaysia, which will field its Su 30 MKM fighters, has a personal touch of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Indian leader had suggested to his Malaysian counterpart in January this year that air force fighters on the way to Australia could stop by for a joint war game. The suggestion was readily taken up by Malaysia, which has traditionally trained with the Indian Air Force on both the Sukhois and the MiG 29s. Indian fighters will also stop by Indonesia for bilateral exercises which have been in the plans since January last year.
The two nations have sharply stepped up military engagements over the last few months, with Modi’s visit in May elevating bilateral relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”. The two nations signed a new defence pact for dialogue and consultation on strategic issues and cooperation among the three armed forces during the visit.
In February, Indian Army Special Forces conducted a bilateral exercise in Bandung, while at present two Indian warships are at the Port of Makassar for joint drills.
In Australia, Indian Sukhoi-30 jets will face off with Rafales, F18s, Gripens and F16s at one of the largest air exercises in the region.
These four aircraft, incidentally, are in contention for a mega ‘Make in India’ deal for fighter jets, tenders for which are expected to be issued this year. The other two contenders are the MiG 35 and Eurofighter.
At ‘Ex Pitch Black’, where India has been an observer in the past but is sending assets for the first time, over 100 aircraft are expected to participate.
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