After Rafale, IAF’s Su-30MKI Fighters Get Mid-Air Refueled By Emirati Air Force In Growing India-UAE Military Ties

Ahead of Indian PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE on June 28, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra stated that the bilateral relationship between India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is “dynamic, robust and widespread.”

The relationship between the two countries has indeed scaled new heights after the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) came into force last month, paving the way for duty-free access to each other’s markets.

The India-UAE trade pact is expected to take the two-way trade volume to $100 billion in the next five years from $60 billion.

As part of growing India-UAE ties, the UAE Air Force provided mid-air refueling to the Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF) while they were on their way to Egypt for the Tactical Leadership Program.

The Tactical Leadership Program is a global hub for advanced pilot and crew training to enhance the operability and efficiency of the Allied Air Forces.

While confirming its participation in the exercise, the IAF stated that the exercise provided a platform to demonstrate the reach and capability of the IAF in the backdrop of the current geopolitical scenario.

UAE Air Force’s MRTT (multi-role tanker transport) aircraft refueling IAF’s Su-30 MkI – Via Indian Air Force

To thank the UAE for its refueling support, the IAF took to Twitter to say “IAF (Indian Air Force) deeply appreciates the in-flight refueling provided by UAE Air Force MRTT (multi-role tanker transport) aircraft which assisted the IAF Su-30 MkI formation to seamlessly undertake nearly 6 hours non-stop ferry while proceeding to Egypt for the Tactical Leadership Program”.

The Sukhoi Su-30MKI is a multi-role combat fighter aircraft with an unrefueled range of about 3,000 kilometers. With two refuelings, the Su-30MKI’s in-flight refueling system has a maximum range of 8,000 km.

The UAE Air Force has also participated in mid-air refueling for the Indian Air Force on previous occasions.

In January 2021, the UAE Air Force’s Airbus multi-role transport tanker twice refueled the three Rafale fighter jets on their non-stop eight-hour flight from Bordeaux-Merignac base in France to Ambala Air Force Station in India.

The refueling assistance provided by A330 MRTT tankers is symbolic of the deepening military ties between India and the UAE in the fast-paced and changing geopolitical environment.

Booming India-UAE Ties

On June 28, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the UAE after he participates in the G7 Summit to express his condolences for the loss of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Kingdom’s former ruler and President.

This visit will also mark the first meeting between PM Modi and the new head of the state Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

File Image: Su-30MKI that Indian Air Force operates

“On my way back to India, I will make a brief stopover in Abu Dhabi, UAE, for a meeting with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, on June 28 to convey my personal condolences on the passing away of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the former UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi,” Modi said in a statement.

The UAE is one of India’s largest trading partners, a gateway to the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the gulf nation is the biggest investor in India among these countries.

India and the UAE signed a comprehensive strategic cooperation agreement in 2017 that propelled the bilateral relationship to an entirely new level.

At one point, the UAE also showed interest in India’s indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft LCA Tejas. In 2018, the UAE indicated an interest in India’s Tejas but nothing noteworthy happened after that.

The Emirati Defense minister Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi Al Falacy was on an official visit to India at the time and toured the facilities of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), The Economic Times had reported.

However, it remains unclear why the Emirati side did not follow up after initial interest.

On May 25, India and the UAE agreed to look for new sectors to establish joint ventures to improve collaboration in the defense industry in the 11th India-UAE Joint Defence Cooperation Committee in New Delhi.

The two sides also concentrated on considerably broadening the scope and complexity of the current joint exercises between their respective military services. The next meeting of the JDCC is expected to be held in UAE in 2023.