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India, US airforces to start major air exercise in central India
NEW DELHI (AFP) Feb 16, 2004
The United States and India were due to start 10 days of joint air combat exercises over central India Monday in another sign of the two countries' intensifying military relationship

The exercises will involve India's Russian-designed MiG-21s, MiG-27s, MiG-29, Sukhoi-30s and French built Mirage-2000 fighters and the United States' air force's (USAF) F-15 combat jets, an Indian Air Forcespokesman said.

The exercises over the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are aimed at facilitating future joint peacekeeping operations, not for any Indian combat role alongside US forces, press reports quoted IAF officials as saying.

Over the past two years, military ties have warmed between the United States and India, on opposites sides of the fence during the Cold War, and they have held a series of joint operations.

The USAF has brought in 100 personnel for the 10-day exercises besides two C-5 Galaxy heavy transport planes to provide airlift facilities for deployment and supply of combat and support troops, press reports said.

The manoeuvres will help the IAF and USAF sharpen combat skills and get used to each others' operating styles, the reports said.

India traditionally tilted toward Cold War ally, Moscow, which still supplies 70 percent of its military hardware but lately it has been strengthening its military relations with the United States.

They resumed joint military training in 2002 after Washington lifted sanctions imposed on India after New Delhi held nuclear tests in 1998.

Last October, the US and Indian navies held five days of joint manoeuvres in the Arabian Sea, a month after holding week-long joint exercises in the Ladakh region of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, aimed at improving coordination between their special forces.

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