For the first time since its inception in 2013, Indian forces will be taking part in the, now popular Blue Flag exercise hosted by Israeli Air Force, beginning today. The exercise will see air forces from USA, Poland, Greece, Italy and for the first time India, France and Germany,taking part.
India would be represented by a 45 member strong contingent including 16 Garud commandoes. The team would work close with the elite ‘Shaldag’ commando unit of Israeli Air Force. According to India’s Ministry of Defence, “This is the first time the Indian Air Force is operating with Israeli AF in a multilateral exercise setting.”
The Garud team, headed by group Captain Maluk Singh, would work with ‘Shaldag’ commandoes to learn and co-operate to exchange ideas regarding special op scenarios during the two-week long exercise.
“We would look to learn and share with them the procedures followed in mutual interoperability, counter- terrorist operations, method of inducting and training people and try and compare to see if a course correction is required at our end,” an Indian officer with the Garud commandos told the media.
When other air forces are fielding their frontline fighter aircrafts, India has decided to send in the C-130J Super Hercules along with the Garud force to train with Israel’s Elite Commando unit-Unit 5101 a.k.a Shaldag commando unit and Unit 669 (Airborne Rescue And Evacuation Unit).
Garud commando training with the 669 concluded earlier on Sunday and they would move to Palmachim Air Force base next week to train with the Shaldag Unit.
Unit 669, initially meant to extract and provide medical assistance to pilots downed across border. Later, their assistance was extended to other arms of IDF.
Shaldag commando unit received international attention when their purported involvement in Operation Orchard, destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor, came into light. They specialize in stealth insertion, counter-insurgency, special recon and airfield/assault zone establishment.
Garud commandoes display similar motives and their co-op with the unit would be of immense experience to the Indian side.
“They are very strong as far as Special Forces are concerned. This is one area we are definitely looking to learn from their experience”, Maluk Singh told PTI.
Throughout the first week, foreign crew would acclimate to the conditions and get to know each other. The next week will see forces engaged in complex aerial scenarios and coalition flights. During some of the sorties, the participants will fly against the “Flying Dragon” Squadron, the IAF’s aggressor squadron, which will simulate enemy forces via “enemy” aircraft, SAM (Surface-to-air missile) batteries and MANPADS (Man-portable air-defence systems).
“The Blue Flag exercise is a significant quantum leap in our ability to hold an exercise and provide our multi-national participants with a quality training experience as performed in Israel,” shared Lt. Col. Nadav, Commander of the 133rd Squadron (“Knights of the Twin Tail”), which operates “Baz” (F-15) fighter jets and is leading the exercise.
Israel will field a “Baz” (F-15) squadron, a “Sufa” (F-16I) squadron and two “Barak” (F-16C/D) squadrons, alongside tactical transport aircraft, helicopters, UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and EL (Electronic Warfare) aircrafts. The US, Hellenic, and Polish air forces arrived with F-16 fighters; the French with “Mirage” 2000D fighters; the Germans with “Eurofighter Typhoon” jets; the Italians with variants of the “Panavia Tornado” multirole fighter.
The Exercise will see more than 100 aircrafts, thousands of supporting staff and military attachés from nearly 40 countries. It is touted as the biggest military exercise IAF has taken part in its history. The Exercise will last from November 2nd-16th, at Ovda Airfield near Eilat.