Exercise Report : Garuda IV - France 2010
Giampaolo Tonello reports on the fourth edition of exercise Garuda between France and India, joined by Singapore this year.
Exercise Garuda IV
Since 2003 when the first edition was held at Gwailor Air Base – India, between French Air Force Mirage 2000s of Esquadron de Chasse 1/12 (Fighter Squadron 1/12) and Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage 2000s, MiG-27s and MiG-21s from 1st and 7th Squadron, both nations have realized the real instructive value of holding an exercise between the countries, because of the use of different tactics and procedures. This is why today we speak of Garuda IV – the fourth edition of the exercise, and the first in which also Singapore took part.
Garuda II was held in 2005 at BA125 Istres/Le Tube and saw the participation of six Indian Su-30K Flankers and a mix of French Mirage 2000C and Mirage 2000-5F fighters from various squadrons. In 2007, Garuda III was again in India, but this time at Kalaikunda Air Base. French Mirage 2000C fighters and also Mirage 2000D two-seat fighter-bombers flew missions with the Indian Mirage 2000s, MiG-27s, and Su-30MKI variants replacing the interim Su-30K.
Since January 2010, rumours began to appear on the internet about a new Garuda exercise in France. Immediately I marked this on my agenda as a priority appointment, at least if the rumours proved to be true. After some time it evolved to more than just a rumour and there was also the possibility of the participation by Singapore with some F-16s. Finally Garuda IV was held from 14 to 25 of June, 2010.
After the exercise was officially confirmed, I immediately sent a request to SIRPA AIR to request access to any potential media day. After some time, they replied that they were going to hold a media day on June 22nd at BA115 Orange. This was a bit disappointing to me as the Indian Su-30MKI detachment was not deploying to Orange. Six F-16D Block 52+ from 145 squadron of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and five Mirage 2000-5F from Dijon's EC 01/2 deployed to BA115 Orange/Caritat, while the six Su-30MKI from Indian Air Force 8 Squadron, and eight Mirage 2000C from the Orange-based EC 02/5 deployed to BA125 Istres/Le Tube. Fortunately the dispatch was speaking of Indian presence at Orange on the media day, and this made me happy.
During this exercise many different kind of mission were flown. Some air to air ones (over the south of France sea) like WVR (Within Visual Range) and BVR (Beyond Visual Range), Strike Attacks (in the centre of France), COMAO and Cross Refuelling. This last type of mission was possible because the French C-135FR/KC-135R and Indian IL-78MKI tankers are using the hose-and-drogue refuelling system.
Both the Asian detachments had arrived in France on June 10th after a long flight with some minor problems. The Singapore F-16s transitioning through Qatar encountered a sandstorm. One of the three Indian IL-78MKI tankers supporting the Flankers on their journey suffered a problem with one of two refuelling pods. The tanker returned to India, leaving two tankers for the journey, which delayed the refuelling operations a bit. The last air refuelling was completed with the help of a French tanker, so the cross refuelling mission was already tried in advance and in a real situation! The RSAF F-16s were supported by their own KC-135R tanker with the flying boom.
BA 115 Orange Visit
As Orange is a “spotter friendly” base, me and some friends left home early for Orange and after a nine hour drive from Italy we arrived on the evening of Sunday 20th. Our plan was to spot the aircraft from outside the fence on Monday, before entering the base on Tuesday for the media day.
Unfortunately on Monday morning the Mistral was blowing from the north, nicely clearing the sky, but it was so strong with even stronger blasts that the exercise missions were cancelled for the day. Nevertheless we waited all day long at the fence, hoping they were going to start up in a few seconds...
The next day the wind was still strong, so we entered the base hoping this day was a flying one as the strong blasts were gone, and so it was! However the Su-30MKI did not land at Orange, only a couple of them made an overshoot over the base. It was sufficient however to get a good look at these beasts of fighter planes! Another disappointment was that I did not get to see the participating EC 02/5 Mirage 2000Cs either, apart from one 2000B two-seater.
Some French Rafales (both from the Marine and Armee de l’Air) also took part in the exercise at some point, but not presented themselves during the media day. It seems the Rafale participation was limited and only “promotional” as Dassault is a contender in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition of the Indian Air Force for 126 fighters to replace the ageing MiG-21 fleet. Another contender is Lockheed Martin with the F-16IN proposal, an advanced F-16 variant similar to the participating RSAF Block 52+ fighters.
In the end, even though I had hoped to get to see the Su-30MKI on the ground for a closer look, the trip had been really successful, thanks to the great efforts of the BA115 personnel to whom our gratitude goes. We especially would like to thank Jean Patrick “ICE” Vermare.
Report and photos by Giampaolo Tonello ( view portfolio )