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S Jaishankar visits Israel's Ovda Airbase to meet IAF contingent taking part in 'Blue Flag' exercise

JERUSALEM (PTI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday visited Israel's Ovda Airbase to meet the Indian contingent participating in the biennial Blue Flag exercise involving Air Force missions from eight countries, that aims to share knowledge and combat experience to improve operational capabilities.

A total of 84 Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel are taking part in the exercises along with five upgraded Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft. They are the latest updated technological version of the French-built aircraft, equipped with advanced avionics and weapons systems.

"Visited the Ovda airbase to meet the @IAF_MCC participants at Ex Blue Flag - No 1 Sqn "TIGERS". Delighted to see the mutual respect and chemistry between Indian and Israeli Air Force professionals. Defense and security are key pillars of our relationship," Jaishankar tweeted.

The US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Greece and Israel are the other nations participating in the exercises, which will for the first time see the participation of F-35 aircraft.

India had also participated in this biennial event in 2017 with the focus then on boosting special operations capabilities, including search and rescue operations under different conditions and cross border counter-terrorist operations.

A 45-member Indian contingent, including 16 Garud commandos, had then participated in the exercises. The Indian Air Force had sent C-130J Super Hercules aircraft along with Garud commandos then.

The Blue Flag drill is a bi-annual exercise designed to strengthen Israel's military cooperation internationally.

Israel is among the top arms suppliers to India with sales ranging from Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) and Searcher, Heron and Harop UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to Aerostat and Green Pine radars, Barak anti-missile defence and several types of missiles and laser-guided bombs.

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