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Posted on May 21, 06:54PM | IANS
New Delhi, May 21: Ahead of finalising a multi-billion contract with French firm Dassault Aviation for 126 Rafale combat planes, the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, left for France Monday on a four-day official visit to explore ways to expand bilateral military relations.
During the visit, he is scheduled to call on new French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Édouard Guillaud and French Defence Technology and Procurement Agency Director General Ingenieur General de l'Armement Laurent Collet-Billon, and French Air Force chief General Jean-Paul Palomeros.
The leaders will discuss a wide range of bilateral issues on the ongoing defence cooperation between India and France, a release from the Indian Air Force headquarters said here.
"The visit aims at expanding the already robust bilateral military to military ties between the two countries and it would see the IAF chief visit, Cognac, Istres and St. Dizier airbases of the French air force," the release said.
At St. Dizier, Browne would be visiting a Rafale Squadron to get a first hand impression of the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) selected by the IAF, as also to see Rafale's production facilities at Merignac.
Besides, he will also oversee the progress of the various projects being carried forward as joint ventures between the two countries, such as the Maitri quick reaction surface-to-air missile and the upgrade programme for the Mirage-2000 combat plane fleet.
He would also be interacting with the IAF's project management team members for the Mirage-2000 upgrade project.
"The visit is significant, as it is the first high-level official visit from India to France after the new government has taken office," IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Gerard Galway said.
French air force chief General Jean-Paul Palomeros had been on a bilateral visit to India in September last year, when he had also visited some of the IAF's airbases including Jaisalmer in Rajasthan and Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh.