For the first time in 75 years since the inception of the Indian Air Force (IAF), the skies above Bengal will be set ablaze by the spectacular display of fiery Mirage 2000-05, considered one of the best multi-role combat jets in the world, as the French Air Force (FAF) tangos with its Indian counterparts at Kalaikunda air base next week.
Ex-Garuda 2007 - the third in the series of joint Indo-French air exercises - will begin on February 7 and continue for a week, as part of the ongoing International Defence Cooperation.
While the FAF contingent would include Mirage 2000D, Mirage 2000-5 and AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System), the IAF would join the fray with Sukhoi 30, Mirage 2000, MiG 27 and IL 78 flight refuellers.
Ministry of defence spokesperson in Kolkata, Wing Commander RK Das said the joint air exercise was a platform to understand each other's air operations, logistic management, maintenance activities and administration practices.
The IAF had conducted its first joint exercise with the FAF at Gwalior in February 2003, he said.
"With that as the foundation, we also tangoed with the US Air Force, the Royal Air Force, UK, the Royal Singapore Air Force and the South African Air Force. The forthcoming exercise will be a value addition," Das said.
According to ministry of defence sources, the Indo-French joint exercise comes at a time when India is looking forward to buy Mirage 2000-5 fighters from France.
The air exercise at Kalaikunda will showcase these multi-role jets. The Mirage 2000-05 has been among the top choices of the IAF and features on the defence ministry's priority list. It is closely competing with the French Daussault Rafale and the Swedish Grippen Saab.
Eastern Command sources say, with every joint exercise, the IAF enriches in experience and is better prepared for future operations at an international level.
"IAF pilots have earned a name as good pilots. When deployed on UN missions abroad, they are rated amongst the best in the world.
After the induction of IL-78s, IAF jets have also been deployed on foreign shores and took part in many multinational air exercises, making air forces of other nations show keen interest in exercising with the IAF," an official said.
Email Drimi Chaudhuri: firstname.lastname@example.org