France and India come closer after Rafale deal, to conduct largest-ever air exercises

  • Indian Air Force (IAF) will participate in the sixth edition of Varuna exercises with French Air Force (FAF) from July 1-14.
  • It is set to be the largest-ever air exercise conducted between the two countries
  • It is important for IAF as Rafale fighters are set to arrive in India this year.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) will be in France from July 1-14 to participate in its biggest joint air exercise with the country. The Air Force’s contingent for the exercise is named the Garuda Contingent.

This is the sixth edition of the air exercises between IAF and the French Air Force (FAF). It is an important opportunity as IAF can gain experience in operating its current fleet of Sukhoi SU-30 fighters with the Rafales.

Indian government had ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, and the first delivery is expected this year.


The Garuda contingent will include a large number of its own assets including 10 Sukhoi SU-30 fighters, an Ilyushin IL-78 aerial refuelling tanker, an Ilyushin IL-76 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and 150 Indian Air Force (IAF) officers.

Indo-French defence cooperation on high

The Indian and French Naval forces also took part in the Varuna naval exercise in May. The naval exercise were also the largest-ever they took part in.

Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and French aircraft carrier FNS Charles de Gaulle, were the highlights of the exercise, which was conducted in two phases.

In 2018, India and France signed a strategic pact allowing each others navies and naval facilities. The pact also allows them to open up naval bases for warships.

Garuda is the name Indian Air Force uses for its bilateral air exercises with France. Indian army conducts military exercises with France under the name Shakti.

The fourth edition of the Varuna exercises took place in 2014 in Jodhpur, India. The event was attended by French Air Chief General Denis Mercier.

Indian Army is setting up ‘Integrated battle groups’ along the Pakistan border which will be self-sufficient to fight a war