The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) have completed the Exercise Eastern Bridge IV joint air training at Air Force Station Jamnagar in Gujarat, Arabian Aerospace reports.
The RAFO has deployed five Block 50 F-16C/D fighters from No 18 Squadron at Thumrait for the exercise while the IAF has deployed it Sukhoi Su-30MKI multirole air superiority fighters, MiG-29 multirole combat jets, 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.