India, France, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) conducted an air exercise over the Arabian Sea on Tuesday. This joint exercise, named ‘Desert Knight,’ took place amid growing global concerns regarding Houthi rebels attacking commercial vessels in the region’s vital waterways. According to an Indian Air Force (IAF) statement, the exercise showcased the deployment of advanced aerial assets and combat jets from the air forces of these three nations.
The IAF deployed a range of aircraft for the drills, including Su-30 MKI, MiG-29, and Jaguar fighter jets, along with AWACS (airborne early warning and control aircraft), C-130-J transport planes, and air-to-air refuelling aircraft, the Indian Air Force stated.
“The main focus of exercise ‘Desert Knight’ was on enhancing synergy and interoperability between the three air forces,” the Indian Air Force emphasised. The exercise was conducted within the Indian FIR (Flight Information Regions), with IAF aircraft operating from various bases in India.
The global airspace is divided into Flight Information Regions (FIRs), each overseen by a controlling authority tasked with ensuring the provision of air traffic services for aircraft operating within its jurisdiction. This exercise coincided with a rise in attacks on commercial vessels by Houthi militants in the Red Sea.
“On January 23, the Indian Air Force conducted exercise Desert Knight along with French Air and Space Force (FASF) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force,” the IAF said. “While the French participation included the Rafale fighter aircraft and a multi-role tanker transport, the UAE Air Force fielded the F-16,” it said in a statement.
The aircraft of the French and the UAE air forces operated from the Al Dhafra air base in the UAE. “The interactions during the exercise facilitated the exchange of operational knowledge, experiences and best practices amongst the participants,” the IAF said. “Such exercises are indicative of the growing diplomatic and military interactions in the region, apart from showcasing the prowess of the IAF,” it added.
The three-nation exercise occurred before India’s Republic Day celebrations on 26 January, in which two Rafale fighter jets and an Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport aircraft from the French Air Force are scheduled to participate. At the same time, a 95-member marching contingent and a 33-member band contingent from France will join the parade. French President Emmanuel Macron is set to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations, marking the sixth time a leader from France has graced this prestigious annual event.