France demonstrates the performance of the A330 MRTT in India during the Garuda 22 exercise

Major international military exercises are an opportunity to share the knowledge and experience of participating armies, and to improve the interoperability of forces. It is also the opportunity, sometimes, to feature one or more military equipment, especially when we know that the partner is carrying out consultations in this area. It is therefore not surprising that the Air and Space Force sent to India, during the Garuda 2022 exercise which was held from October 26 to November 12. 2022 on the Indian air base of Jodhpur, beyond 5 planes Rafale and 130 aviators, an A330 MRTT Phoenix tanker aircraft, India being engaged in a vast consultation to acquire 6 of these aircraft in order to modernize and expand its air refueling capabilities currently made up of only 6 IL-78 MKI for a fleet of more than 540 fighter planes, where France, for example, plans to field 15 Phoenix for 225 to 250 combat planes, including the French Navy.

If the exercises carried out by the pilots and planes of the two countries made it possible to deepen the mutual understanding of each other's procedures, as was the case during the 6 previous iterations held alternately in India and France, the Garuda 22 exercise particularly to honor the performances of the MRTT, capable of supplying both Rafale, Mirage 2000 and Western-made Indian Jaguars, as well as Russian-made Su-30 MKIs, and local-made Tejas Mk1s, while 30 aircraft participated in the exercise this year. And obviously, everything was done to convince New Delhi of the interest of acquiring the European resupply ship, including by traveling from France to India alongside the 5 Rafale, in a repeat of the deliveries of Rafale Indians who demonstrated, once again, the performance of the couple formed by the two devices for long-distance power projection. The Phoenix is, in fact, a particularly versatile aircraft, capable of playing the role of an in-flight refueler with a fuel carrying capacity of 110 tonnes, as well as being used for freight transport or even medical transport, with a capacity evacuation of 130 stretchers, as well as to compose these capacities, by simultaneously ensuring the in-flight refueling of the fighters, and the transport of the technical teams and materials necessary for the mission.

Garuda 2022 rafale tejas Su30mki Defense Analysis | Fighter aircraft | Tanker Aircraft
The Rafale French evolved alongside different models of fighter aircraft in service within the IAF during the Garuda 22 exercise, here a Tas Mk1 (foreground) and a Su-30MKI (background)

For New Delhi, the acquisition of new tanker aircraft is a sea serpent that began in the 2000s. EADS (which has since become Airbus) won the first competition in 2009 against the Russian IL-78s, but this was canceled after a year against a backdrop of budgetary tensions, to be relaunched shortly afterwards. In 2013, once again, Airbus imposed itself with the A330 MRTT, and as before, the contract was never signed and the competition canceled in 2016 this time around the restructuring of the Indian defense effort after the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister in 2014. In 2020, faced with the insistent demands of the Indian Air Force to face simultaneously in the west against Pakistan, and in the northeast against China, a new consultation was started , without any formal competition actually being launched. Since then, France has multiplied initiatives to try to convince New Delhi of the performance of the European aircraft already in service with 10 air forces, and also selected twice by the IAF during subsequent competitions, including at the help with original business proposals as a Leasing solution or transformation of a second-hand A330-200 into an MRTT version to reduce costs.

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