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In a first, IAF’s heft on full display in multinational exercise on Egyptian soil

IAF aircraft touch down in Cairo for Exercise Bright Star 2023 (All images courtesy: Indian Air Force)

Nearly four months after they carried out joint trainings at one of the Egyptian air bases, the fighter jets of Indian Air Force have touched down in Cairo once again, this time to participate in biennial multilateral tri-service exercise ‘Bright Star’ for the first time.

One of the oldest military-to-military engagements in the Middle East region – the first Bright Star exercise was held in 1980 as a result of the Camp David Accords signed in September 1978 – as many as 8,000 personnel from 34 countries are taking part in this year’s manoeuvres which begin this week.

This edition of the exercise which focuses on regional security and cooperation besides promoting interoperability in irregular warfare scenarios, is one the largest in many years and includes forces from Saudi Arabia, Greece and Qatar besides the United States of America.

“The Indian Air Force contingent will consist of five MiG-29, two IL-78, two C-130 and two C-17 aircraft. Personnel from the IAF’s Garud Special Forces, as well as those from the Numbers 28, 77, 78 and 81 Squadrons will be participating in the exercise. The IAF transport aircraft will also provide airlift to approximately 150 personnel from the Indian Army,” the Defence Ministry stated in a statement Sunday.

Exercise Bright Star

Calling the IAF contingents to flying exercises abroad as “no less than diplomats in flight suits”, the ministry mentioned that the objective of the exercise is to practice planning and execution of joint operations.

“Besides leading to the formation of bonding across borders, such interactions also provide a means to further strategic relations between participating nations,” it added.

IAF’s maiden participation in the exercise not only provides a unique opportunity to showcase its reach and capability in the current geopolitical scenario but also acts as another catalyst for closer coordination between India and Egypt on a host of strategic issues.

A high degree of professional trust has existed between the two Air Forces since the 1960s when Group Captain Kapil Bhargava, an IAF Test Pilot, test flew the Egyptian prototype of the Helwan HA-300 with Test Pilots from the EAF.

This year in particular has seen India massively strengthening defence cooperation with the African nation which holds a commanding presence in the Red Sea — the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.

India-Egypt military relations are on the rise which was evident during India’s 74th Republic Day parade when a military contingent from the Egyptian Army marched down the Kartavya Path for the first time.

India Egypt Relations

It was also the first time that the President of the Arab Republic was invited as a chief guest for the parade.

During their discussions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Egyptian President Abdeh Fattah El-Sisi vowed to not only enhance defence partnership but also showed their readiness to counter the rising terror and extremist ideology in the region.

“At one side of the Arabian Sea is India and on the other side is Egypt. Strategic cooperation between the two countries will help in promoting peace and prosperity in the entire region,” said PM Modi after the meeting.

A few days before the Egyptian president’s landmark visit, the special forces of the Indian and the Egyptian Armies engaged in two-week drills in the deserts of Rajasthan during their first-ever joint ‘Exercise Cyclone-I‘ to bolster interoperability in desert terrain while undertaking counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, raids and other special operations.

As India continuously grows its capability to manufacture advanced cutting-edge technologies and systems in the defence sector under the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative, Egypt is one of the several countries which has maintained its interest in acquiring made-in-India Tejas fighter aircraft for its air force.

India Egypt
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in New Delhi this January (File image courtesy: PIB)

The Egyptian President has said that his country takes pride in the close historical ties it has with India and is keen to deepen military and defence ties.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande too have visited Cairo in recent times with an aim to further enhance India-Egypt defence relations.

Keeping up with its outreach with Africa and regional unity under PM Modi’s vision of Security and Growth for all in the Region (SAGAR), India hosted army chiefs, representatives of chiefs and participants from a total of 25 nations from the African continent, including Egypt, during the second edition of joint military ‘Africa-India Field Training Exercise’ (AFINDEX-2023) held in Pune in March.

On Monday, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Defence, Aden Bare Duale arrived in New Delhi on a three-day visit during which he will not only hold talks with Defence Minister Singh but also visit Indian shipyards and defence industries in Goa and Bengaluru.

“The visit is indicative of the importance India attaches to its relations with African nations,” said the Indian Defence Ministry today.

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