New Delhi, April 19
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on Monday left for France, a visit billed as a “significant step” in further enhancing mutual cooperation.
“The visit of Chief of Air Staff (CAS) from April 19-23 will enhance potential avenues for strengthening the level of interaction between the two Air Forces,” the Indian Air Force said.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria is scheduled to hold talks with the senior military leadership of France and visit several operational facilities and air bases.
“The visit of CAS will be a significant step in further enhancing mutual cooperation,” the IAF said in a statement.
Gen Philippe Lavigne, Chief of Staff of French Air and Space Force (FASF), visited India in February last year.
Last week, sources had said there is a possibility of Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria flagging off a batch of five-six Rafale jets from the Merignac airbase in the French port city of Bordeaux for India.
Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafales, was scheduled to send six Rafale aircraft to India by the end of April.
The arrival of the new batch of aircraft will pave the way for the IAF to raise a second squadron of the Rafale jets. The new squadron will be based in Hasimara airbase in West Bengal.
The first Rafale squadron is based at the Ambala air force station. A squadron comprises around 18 aircraft.
India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.
Dassault Aviation has delivered 14 jets to the Indian Air Force so far. The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29 last.
The cooperation between the Indian and the French air forces have seen a gradual expansion in the last few years.
Both the air forces have been carrying out the exercise series ‘Garuda’. PTI