New Delhi: Moving a step towards consolidating the Quad, the Indian Air Force is set to send its Su-30MKI fighter jets to Australia for its maiden participation in the multilateral air Exercise Pitch Black 2018.
At least four to five front-line combat aircraft and one C-17 transporter will fly to Australia in July for the three-week-long air exercise between July 27 and August 17.
This will be India’s maiden participation in the biggest air combat training programme in the southern hemisphere involving several other air forces, sources told DH.
In 2015, India and Australia had agreed on the IAF’s participation in the multilateral war game.
Following a bilateral meeting between the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar and his Australian counterpart Kevin Andrews, the two sides gave a public statement on India’s presence at Pitch Black 2016.
The IAF, however, couldn’t make it because of certain operational issues.
In January this year, Australian Defence Industry Ministry Christopher Pyne confirmed India’s participation at Pitch Black 2018 while giving a lecture at the National Defence College in Delhi.
Taking place once in every two years since 2006, the drill began with Singapore, Thailand, the UK and the US and grew to include France and Malaysia in 2008.
New Zealand participated for the first time in 2010, followed by Indonesia in 2012.
The United Arab Emirates also took part in 2014, followed by Canada, Germany and Netherlands in 2016.
The manoeuvres — practised largely in vast stretches of northern Australia — is to learn more about offensive counter air and defensive counter air combat in a simulated environment.
India-Australia strategic relations are slowly on the rise. The two navies began their annual maritime exercise in 2015 and a second edition took place in 2017.
New Delhi, however, didn’t permit Canberra to be part of the Malabar multilateral naval exercise involving the US and Japanese Navy.
India’s decision earned a rare praise from China. India, Japan, Australia and the US are believed to have formed a Quad to tackle a rising China in the Indo-Pacific region. But only sketchy official details on the Quad are available from any of these nations.