India is going to deploy its new Rafale fighters against French Rafales for a joint exercise called “Desert Knight” at Jodhpur this week, in the first such high-voltage combat manoeuvers for the omni-role jets since they were inducted by the IAF last year.
The Rafales will also make their debut at the Republic Day parade this year. Two of the 4.5-generation fighters will be among the 15 fighters, five transport aircraft, 21 helicopters and a vintage Dakota that will take part in the flypast on January 26. The showstopper will be a Rafale that will undertake the “Vertical Charlie” manoeuver by tearing into the sky directly over the Rajpath.
Till now, IAF has inducted eight of the 36 Rafales, which are also capable of delivering nuclear weapons, under the Rs.59,000 crore deal inked with France in 2016. Another three are slated to touch down in India by the end of this month. All 36 will be delivered by end-2022.
The aim of the Desert Knight exercise, in which India and France will deploy fighters, transport planes and mid-air refueling aircraft from January 20 to 24, “is to provide operational exposure and share best practices towards enhancing combat capabilities”, officials said on Monday.