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Indian pilots to fly Thai F-16s

April 28, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots will fly in F-16 jets of the Royal Thai Air Force as part of an exchange program aimed at boosting defense cooperation between the two countries.

An RTAF F-16B ADF leaving the shelter during Pitch Black. [Photo by Pornpat Muntasoot]

As part of the exchange program, Thai pilots that are part of a 15-member delegation currently visiting India flew in the IAF's frontline Su-30 jets Tuesday and Wednesday at Bareilly, said spokesman Squadron Leader Mahesh Upasani.

It is the first time foreign pilots are allowed to fly in their Su-30s.

A 10-member IAF team which is currently in Thailand would fly in that country's F-16 jets. The team comprises officers of the flying, technical and logistics branches and will visit various airbases and formations in Thailand.

While this is not being called an exercise officially, it is certainly being seen as a prelude to a cooperation agreement with the Thai air force. The teams familiarise themselves with each other's working ethos and culture while getting the unique opportunity to fly aircraft which are not part of their own inventory.

India has always been keen on getting to know the F-16 better. As Pakistan has the plane, they like to assess its strengths and weaknesses.

India is currently looking for 126 fighter aircraft and the F-16 is one of the options along with the F-18, the Mirage-2000, the Gripen and the MiG-29.