New Delhi: In a first, Indian forces are set to head for Israel to take part in joint military drills that will have significant strategic implications given the list of participants that includes US, France and Germany.
The joint aerial drills are being described as the biggest and most complex ever to be hosted by Israel. While details are yet to be worked out, defence ministry sources confirmed that an Indian Air Force team will participate in the Blue Flag exercise that is being hosted by Israel later in the year. “The participation is confirmed but details on which assets or how many personnel will take part are not yet available,” sources said.
This would mark the first time that India will take part in a multinational military drill in Israel, which has emerged as one of the primary weapons supplier to New Delhi with systems ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to missile protection and small arms.
Reports from Tel Aviv quoting Israeli Air Force officials say that the Blue Flag exercise would involve seven nations besides Israel and could see participation by nearly 100 aircraft from around the world. The other participants include Poland, Greece and Italy.
The Indian Air Force has gained valuable expertise in the past during multi nation drills in the US, having participated in the Red Flag series of exercises. The last exercise was held in Alaska in May 2016 in which India sent four Su 30 MKIs, four Jaguar fighters and two IL 78 mid air tankers.
While it is still unclear if India would sent its fighters for the Israeli exercise, the common platforms being operated by the two nations includes the Heron unmanned aerial vehicle. India is in the process of acquiring a number of more advanced Heron UAVs for an armed role from Israel as well.
Though Israel is a prime weapons supplier to India – it has won major contracts to supply avionics for Russian origin aircraft as well – joint military drills have remained a sensitive topic till now. The two nations discreetly exchange small teams of experts for cross training, including special operations but have not taken part in a joint military drill till now.