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Oman continues to build bridges with India

Posted 25 September 2017 · Add Comment

The Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) has completed the latest in a reciprocal series of joint exercises with the Indian Air Force (IAF). Jon Lake reports.

For Exercise Eastern Bridge IV, the RAFO deployed five Block 50 F-16C/D Air Defence Fighters from No 18 Squadron at Thumrait to Air Force Station Jamnagar in Gujarat, India.
The Omani F-16s exercised with IAF Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG-29 fighters, MiG-27 fighter-bombers and SEPECAT Jaguar maritime strike aircraft.
The Eastern Bridge series of exercises began in October 2009, when India and Oman were the last operators of the SEPECAT Jaguar, and when six Indian Jaguars, crewed by pilots from ‘Flaming Arrows’ and ‘Cobras’, at Gorakhpur, deployed to Thumrait.
For Eastern Bridge II, six RAFO Jaguars deployed to Jamnagar in October 2011, where they worked with IAF Jaguars and MiG-29s.
Eastern Bridge III, in October 2013, saw a return to Oman, and six IAF Jaguars from No 6 Squadron deployed to Masirah, where they exercised with RAFO Jaguar, Hawk and F-16 aircraft.
Eastern Bridge survived the retirement of the Middle East Jaguars in August 2014, with the RAFO F-16 force picking up the mantle.
The RAFO views Eastern Bridge as an important tool in maintaining its operational effectiveness and readiness.
Eastern Bridge IV marked the second exercise in India, and the RAFO F-16 contingent arrived in Jamnagar on January 14 prior to the start of the exercise two days later. This was the first time that RAFO F-16s had participated in an exercise outside the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
The Omani contingent was led by RAFO commander, Air Vice Marshall Mattar Bin Ali Al Ubaidani, a former Jaguar pilot, who met his opposite number, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force, who was himself a former frontline Jaguar pilot.
Though Oman was the first Gulf Cooperation Council country to establish a regular series of bilateral exercises with the Indian Air Force, the success of Eastern Bridge has led to a similar series of exercises between the Indian Air Force and the United Arab Emirates Air Force and Air Defence.

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