|A contingent of the French Air & Space Force staged through an IAF base on their way to Ex-Pitch Black 2022 in Australia. (Photo: Twitter/@IAF_MCC)|
New Delhi: A French Air and Space Force contingent, including three Rafale jets, was hosted in India during Indo-Pacific deployment on Wednesday, a statement issued by the French Embassy in New Delhi said.
The contingent which was en route to New Caledonia was hosted for a technical stopover at Air Force Station in Sulur town of Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district on August 10-11 during a long-distance deployment from metropolitan France to the Pacific Ocean.
“From 10th August to 18th September, the French Air and Space Force is carrying out a major long-range mission in the Indo-Pacific, code-named Pegase 22. The first stage of this mission aims to demonstrate France’s capacity for long-distance air power projection by deploying an Air Force contingent from metropolitan France to the French territory of New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean in less than 72 hours (10th-12th August). To achieve this unprecedented 16,600-km deployment, the Air Force contingent made a technical stopover in India, at Air Force Station Sulur,” the statement read.
The contingent which comprises three Rafale jets and support aircraft, landed at Air Force Station Sulur on Wednesday evening and flew out in the early hours of Thursday after refuelling, as per the French Embassy.
“The operation demonstrated a high level of mutual trust and interoperability between the French and Indian Air Forces, which has been further boosted by the fact that both Air Forces now fly Rafale jets. It also illustrated the concrete implementation of the reciprocal logistics support agreement signed by France and India in 2018,” the statement read further.
Lauding the IAF’s role in this successful operation, the Ambassador of France to India, Emmanuel Lenain, said: “France is a resident power of the Indo-Pacific, and this ambitious long-distance air power projection demonstrates our commitment to the region and our partners. It is only natural that to carry out this mission, we rely on India, our foremost strategic partner in Asia. My heartfelt thanks to the Indian Air Force for welcoming the French contingent.”
In the following stages of Mission Pegase 22, the French Air Force contingent will take part in the “Pitch Black” air exercise taking place in Australia from 17th August to 10th September. The Indian Air Force will also participate in this multilateral drill, along with Australia, Japan, United States, Germany, Indonesia, Singapore, United Kingdom, and South Korea.
Mission Pegase 22 is a powerful demonstration of France’s capacity for quick deployment in the Indo-Pacific. The mission is also proof that the security situation in Europe has not diminished the French and European commitment in the Indo-Pacific. In this respect, it also aims to strengthen ties with key strategic partners, such as India, and underline France’s support for security and stability in the region.
India and France have traditionally close and friendly relations. In 1998, the two countries entered into a Strategic Partnership which is emblematic of their convergence of views on a range of international issues apart from a close and growing bilateral relationship.