France, India conclude Exercise Desert Knight 2021

The French Air and Space Force (FASF) deployed to India to take part in Exercise Desert Knight 2021 – an intense five-day bilateral training operation with the Indian Air Force (IAF), which concluded on January 24.

The exercise began on January 20 at Jodhpur Air Force Station (AFS), which is located in India’s Rajasthan state. It provided an opportunity for both air arms to share best practices and evolve operational concepts, while serving to help enhance the operational capabilities and interoperability between the two.

Ex Desert Knight 21 [French EMA]
A French-operated Airbus A330-243 Phénix Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) conducts training with an IAF-operated Dassault Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi Su-30MKI over India during Exercise Desert Knight 2021. French État-Major des Armées (EMA)

As part of the exercise and France’s wider Skyros mission, the FASF deployed four Dassault Rafale multi-role fighters, two Airbus A400M Atlas tactical transports and a single A330-243 Phénix Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) to the Indian base. The IAF participated with a number of Dassault Mirage 2000, Sukhoi Su-30MKI and Rafale fighters, along with Ilyushin Il-78MKI tankers and an unspecified airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platform.

In a press release issued on January 25, the French Ministry of Defense highlighted that the two air arms worked together to carry out aerial combat missions, as well as air-to-air refuelling operations. It quoted the IAF’s Chief of Air Force Staff (CAS), Gen Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria as saying: “I am sure that our ability to work together will grow exponentially in the years to come. I call for the ever greater development of interactions between our two countries and our two air forces.”

Ex Desert Knight 21 [French EMA]
French and Indian Rafales conduct a formation flight with a pair of IAF-operated Mirage 2000s and a Su-30MKI. The FASF deployed to India in mid-January to take part in Exercise Desert Knight 2021, which concluded on January 24. French EMA

The FASF and IAF share a long history of bilateral cooperation as the two services have come together regularly since 1953. In recent years, the two air arms have notably participated in Australia’s multinational Pitch Black exercise in 2018, along with the biennially-held bilateral Garuda exercise, which was last held at Mont-de-Marsan Air Base (Base Aérienne 118, BA 118) in southwestern France in July 2019.