‘Frenemies’ Rafale, F-16 Fighter Jets ‘Prove Their Mettle’ To ‘Bomb’ ISIS Positions In Joint Military Drills

The French Air and Space Force employed two of its Rafale fighter jets in an attempt to “attack” the Daesh or the Islamic State in the eastern Iraq region recently.

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This combat was part of a joint simulation training undertaken by French and Iraqi fighter planes under the illustrious ‘Operation Chammal’.  The training was conducted under Iraqi air control. France is known to share a strong and definitive strategic relationship with Iraq.

The French military presence in Iraq focuses on two major areas of shared concern — military training/cooperation and opposing the ISIS actors that continue to operate from the region.

It is since the bomb attack outside a synagogue in Rue Copernic in 1980 that France has been building up its strategic commitment to counterterrorism. This position has been repeatedly cemented by French President Macron too, as he vowed on Twitter recently this year, “in our fight against Islamist terrorism, we will never give in”.

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India has purchased 36 Rafale jets from France, which are being delivered in batches. While these combat aircraft will be mainly used to tackle Chinese and Pakistani threats, their use in counterterrorism missions can’t be ruled out as well.

Rafale-F16 drills
A French Air Force Rafale and an Iraqi F-16 take part in a joint counterterrorism drill. (via French MoD)

Minister of State for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France Jean Baptiste Lemoyne has remarked in the past, “Every single initiative to fight terrorism is welcome because it is a threat to every country in the world… So, everything that can be done to unite efforts is welcome.

It’s (terrorism) a global challenge like climate change. We will be closely looking at this initiative”.

Rafale, a multi-role aircraft produced by France’s Dassault Aviation, might just be a part of the ideal weaponry to launch air-to-ground attacks on terrorist hubs. Rafales have been employed successfully in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, and against the Islamic State in Syria.

The Indian Air Force’s 2019 Balakot airstrikes changed the geopolitical equation and projected India as an emerging global power willing to go the extra mile to combat terrorism.

The IAF used its multirole, single-engine Mirage 2000 for the Balakot airstrikes in 2019. This precision strike aircraft was also manufactured by the French aircraft firm Dassault Aviation.

The Mirage 2000 had been operational with the French Air Force since 1984 and had been selected by Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Greece, India, Peru, Qatar, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates ever since.

The France-Iraq Joint Drills

The training exercise cited above was conducted between two Rafales of the French Airforce and four Iraqi F-16s. The Rafales took off from the Projected Air Base (PAB) in the Levant to undertake this simulated military practice.

The training was based on the Blue versus Red type scenario. The F-16 of the Blue Force was supposed to protect a combat area in eastern Iraq while the Rafale of the Red Force was supposed to act in the offensive.

Commander Lindsay, leader of the Rafale patrol, said, “This training allowed us to observe our ability to work together in all stages of a mission, from coordination to execution to debriefing.”

A French Air Force Rafale takes off from a base in the Middle East. (file photo)

France is a key contributor to the international coalition committed against Daech. “It provides the local forces with substantial support, in particular, to improve knowledge of the situation on the ground and to strike at the residual nuisance capacities of the terrorist group, which is contained at an insurrectional level,” according to a statement issued by the French defense ministry.

Launched on September 19, 2014, Operation CHAMMAL represents the French component of the international operation INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR) bringing together 80 countries and organizations, the ministry said. 

The international coalition is constantly adapting its system to the Levant and France is continuing its efforts in the region because the fight against terrorism continues. Operation CHAMMAL is now focused on its “support” pillar and has 600 soldiers working within OIR headquarters or on air and sea deployments, it added.

Currently, Egypt, India, and Qatar are Rafale’s international operators while Croatia is in the process of obtaining 12 second-hand Dassault Rafale fighters and Greece has ordered 12 secondhand and six new-build examples.

On the other hand, the US-made F-16s are used by Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, South Korea, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, USA, Venezuela.

The Rafales have often been compared with F-16 especially by the Indian and Greek media (as both New Delhi and Athens are operating / about to operate the French jets against F-16s of Turkey and Pakistan)

— Written by Anshruta Banerjee/EurAsian Times Desk