On June 7th 2010, 6 Sukhoi SO-30 MKI Flankers of squadron nr 8 of Bareilly airbase, 2 Ilushin-78 and 1 Ilushin-76 containing spare-parts and personnel, started their travel to southern France, which led them via Oman and Egypt to the base of Istres (Base Aerienne 125, Istres-le Tube, ICAO: LFMI) on Friday 11TH. During the last stretch of the flight into France, the aircraft were refueled in mid-air by a French C-135F tanker. On Monday June 14th, the exercise started with some familiarization flights. 4 Mirage 2000C aircraft from the EC 2/5 “Ile-de-France” squadron of BA Orange were the French air-guides for the Indian Sukhois. The French and Indian aircraft lined-up at the runway and a single Mirages took off, making a 360 degree circle above the base of Istres. Then 2 Indian Sukhoi’s took off and joined the Mirage for a 3-aircraft formation flight. This was repeated a second time until 4 Sukhois and 2 Mirages were airborne.
At Orange airbase, a similar procedure brought 2 Mirages and 4 F-16s into the air. These combined formation flights flew several times overhead both Istres and Orange airbases to get acquainted to both bases and the French air-traffic regulations. After about 1 hour of flight, the Indian Sukhois entered the landing pattern of Istres, whereby the French Mirages flew a tight landing pattern at this familiar base. The Indian Sukhois flew a very wide landing pattern to get acquainted to the new airbase.
After the first missions were flown, the exercise became more difficult end demanding for the pilots. More aircraft involved, complex missions and scenarios, involvement of air-refueling. During the second week of the exercise, the exercise was incorporated into the recurring VOLFA exercise of the French Air Force, with participation of the latest French fighter the Dassault Rafale from the St Dizier air base.
The Sukhoi 30 MKI is the Indian air superiority fighter with a maximum speed of Mach 2.3, which is delivererd as a construction kit, to be assembled by the Aircraft Industries.
For many years, the French Air Force (Armee de l’Air, AdlA) has an excellent air-cooperation with air forces all over the world. The AdlA is a regular participant in the CRUZEX exercises in Southern America, it cooperates regularly with the Saudi-Arab Airforce; Japan and Taiwain have been visited in recent years. (?)
The French Air Force has a strategic cooperation with the Indian Air Force (Indian Air Force) (which was augmented by the sale of Dassault Mirage 2000’s to the Indian Air Force). The cooperation was initiated by the first combined exercise in 2003 at the Gwailor airbase in India (Garuda I). In 2005 the second Garuda (II) exercise took place when Indian Sukhoi SU-30 Flankers stayed for 2 weeks at the French airbase of Istres. 2 years later, in 2007, the French Air Force flew back to India for a 2 week Garuda III exercise at Kalaikunda.
In 2010, Garuda IV took place in France and saw the participation of another country from Asia, Singapore. The cooperation with the Singaporese Air Force (Republic of Singapore Air Force) dates back for many years, since the end of the 1990’s a training squadron of Singaporese A-4’s is based at Cazaux airbase in southern France. For many years, the Singaporese airforce participated in exercises in France. In 2002 Singaporese pilots participated in the French exercise ODAX at the Colmar airbase where the Singaporese frontline pilots (flown-in directly by commercial airlines from Singapore) flew the A-4S training aircraft, normally based at Cazaux . In 2003 the same recipe was used for the ODAX 2003 exercise, with the A-4’s based at Chateaudun airbase. And in 2004 a Singaporese contingent of F-16s was on exercise at the airbase of Dijon for 2 weeks, during the exercise ‘Western Arc'. For the Singaporese pilots it was the first time to participate in the French-Indian Garuda exercise, which was reformed to a 3 countries exercise in 2010.
Early June 2010, some 180 personnel, 6 Lockheed F-16C/D (block52) of 145 squadron at Changi AB, a Lockheed C-130 Hercules and a Boeing KC-135 started their 4 day journey into France, which led them via India and Quatar on a 11500km flightpath to the base of Orange (BA 115 Orange Caritat, ICAO: LFMO) on Friday June 11th. The next Monday (June 14th), the Garuda IV exercise started in the afternoon with some familiarization flights for the pilots. Mirage 2000-5 aircraft from de EC 1/2 “Cigognes” squadron of BA Dijon were accompanying the Singaporese F-16 during the exercise; and the familiarization flights were flown the first days. French airspace is very dense and the airspace rules are very complex, it was the task of the locals of the ‘Cigognes’ squadron to introduce the Singaporean guests. During the first familiarization flights, groups of French Mirages and Singaporese F-16s did some high level overshoots at Istres airbase to greet their Indian counterparts in this exercise.
On Tuesday June 22nd, a Media was organized at Orange airbase and the flightoperations could be witnessed from a close distance. The mixed flightline contained 6 Singaporese F-16s and 5 French Mirage 2000-5s, whereby the French Mirages flew 3 missions and the Singaporese F-16s flew 2 missions
The Lockheed (General Dynamics) F-16D is used by the Singapore Air Force as air superiority fighter and as ground attack fighter.
Goals and lessons learned
The goals for this 3-countris exercise were to fly many combined missions in order to train the cooperation of the 3 nations.
As France is the only NATO partner, no NATO tactics and procedures were used during the exercise and the participants had a lot of autonomy to plan and perform their missions.
Participating in night flying operations as part of Exercise Garuda also translated into another milestone for the RSAF team. It was the first time the F-16D+ conducted night operations over European air space.
The photos below were supplied by the French Air Force (SIRPA.AIR)