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In what could be seen as India’s enhanced engagement in the Middle East, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will be holding its first ever joint air exercise with Egypt at the end of October, in which Indian RAFALEs are expected to be pitted against their Egyptian counterparts.

The new IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari announced at his annual press conference after assuming office, “[The] Air Force is scheduled to participate in Ex Blue Flag in Israel and Hop Ex in Egypt later this month.”

The IAF’s C-130J SUPER HERCULES transport aircraft and its Garud Commandos will be participating in Blue Flag with Israel.

While the IAF and the Israeli Air Force have been holding joint exercises since 2017, Egypt will be one more in the numerous international exercises debuted in the past one year. The IAF had its first ever air force exercise with the UAE Air Force, named Ex Desert Flag-6, in the UAE in March 2021. The exercise saw participation from the air forces of France, the US, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE. The IAF, with its C-17, IL-78 and Sukhoi-30MKIs, was not exercising for the first time with the UAE but also with other Middle Eastern powers like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, thereby signalling its deepening of defence ties in the region.

The Indian Ministry of Defence in its statement noted that, “The aim of the exercise is to provide operational exposure to the participating forces while training them to undertake simulated air combat operations in a controlled environment. The participating forces will get an opportunity to enhance their operational capabilities along with mutual exchange of best practices.”