Chief of the Air Staff RKS Bhadauria is expected to receive next batch of five or six Rafale jets from the Merignac airbase in the French port city of Bordeaux for India on his official visit to France from April 19 to 23, according to sources. Bhadauria will meet top French military officials and visit operational facilities and airbases. The visit marks the continuity of India’s growing bilateral defence cooperation with the French Air and Space Force. Bhadauria’s visit is expected to further cement the ties between the two Air Forces and will enhance potential avenues for strengthening the level of interaction.
The visit comes months after Gen Philippe Lavigne, Chief of Staff, French Air and Space Force (FASF) visited India in February 2020. The IAF Chief is scheduled to hold extensive talks with Chief of Staff of the French Air Force Philippe Lavigne on ways to further expand cooperation between the two forces, sources said.
The two Air Forces have seen significant operational interaction in the recent past. The Air Forces of the two countries engage in the bilateral air exercise series ‘Garuda’, as well as hop exercises, the last being Ex Desert Knight 21 held at Air Force Station Jodhpur in January 2021. IAF and FASF also participated in Ex Desert Flag hosted by UAE Air Force along with other friendly countries in March 2021.
Bhadauria’s visit is being seen as a significant step to further enhance the mutual cooperation between the two countries.