Kolkata: F-16 fighter jets are skimming across the skies over West Bengal yet again after a break of nearly two years. These F-16s are of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) that have arrived at the Air Force Station Kalaikunda in the state for the 11th edition of Joint Military Training (JMT) with the Indian Air Force (IAF).
While RSAF has sent its F-16 jets, IAF is participating with Su-30 MKIs, Jaguars, Mig-29s and LCA Tejas. For now, both air forces are operating separately. The bilateral phase will commence from Wednesday when aircraft from both sides will engage in advanced air combat simulations. The bilateral phase will continue till November 18.
“This edition of JMT will last for six weeks. It will be yet another opportunity for authorities from Singapore to see the Tejas close up. Singapore is one of the countries that has expressed interest in the Tejas. The RSAF pilots are taking full opportunity of the firing and bombing ranges near Kalaikunda. The bilateral phase will be more interesting when the aircraft will operate together, both in mock combat and joint operations,” a senior official said.
An air base like Kalaikunda is extremely crucial for a country like Singapore that lacks space for exercises. AFS Kalaikunda offers an air-to-air firing range over the Bay of Bengal and a ground range at Dudhkundi. Both IAF and RSAF aircraft will fire air-to-air missiles, rockets and cannons at mock targets over the sea.
At Dudhkundi (a few km from Kalaikunda), they will be dropping bombs and firing air-to-ground missiles. There are facilities at Dudhkundi to check for accuracy.
Apart from the RSAF, AFS Kalaikunda has hosted the United States Air Force, Royal Air Force and French Air Force. Joint exercises with the air forces of friendly countries were not possible at Kalaikunda for two years due to the pandemic. Such exercises also do a lot for the local economy as the supply of commodities like foodstuff goes up and additional temporary manpower is required for non-core activities.