THE first bilateral air force exercise involving fighter aircraft from India and Singapore has started in the airspace over western India.
The exercise, codenamed Sindex, began yesterday at the Indian Air Force's Gwalior Air Force Station, and is due to end on Oct 27.
Four Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) single-seater F-16Cs and two double-seater F-16Ds - used for strike missions at night - will be pitted against an array of Indian Air Force air defence fighters.
These are the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30, MiG-27 and MiG-29 as well as French-made Mirage 2000 interceptors.
Though India and Singapore have held joint naval manoeuvres for 10 years, Sindex is the first joint air exercise to be staged since India and Singapore inked a Defence Cooperation Agreement in New Delhi last October.
In an interview with The Straits Times in July to mark SAF Day, Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said discussions were underway for Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) servicemen to train on Indian soil in camps run by the SAF on long-term leases.
Gwalior is home to the Indian Air Force's Tactics Air Combat Development Establishment, which helps Indian fighter pilots hone their war-fighting skills.
An air exercise between India and the United States in February this year raised eyebrows among defence watchers after American F-15 Eagles - which form the backbone of the US Air Force fighter strength - reportedly 'lost' aerial duels with Indian warplanes.
The RSAF warplanes at Gwalior had just concluded a 15-day air exercise in France with the French Air Force and have been away since mid September.
A Ministry of Defence statement said a pair of KC-135 tankers supported the F-16s during their journey from France to India, which took three days.
The ministry said Sindex 'marks another milestone in the growing defence cooperation between the two countries'.
It said the exercise is 'a valuable opportunity' to train with the Indian Air Force because air operations will be conducted in 'realistic and challenging conditions'.
Sindex will promote friendship and understanding between the two air forces, and enhance their ability to fly with one another.