A US Defence portal has reported that Pakistan Air Force exchange pilots were trained to fly the Rafale fighter jets of the Qatar Air Force.
The AIN Online reported in February that Pakistani pilots were trained on board Rafale jets in November 2017. This was a year after India signed a deal with France and Dassault Aviation to buy 36 Rafale jets.
However the French ambassador in New Delhi Alexandre Ziegler, tweeted that the portal’s report was “fake news.”
I can confirm that it is fake news. https://t.co/3XpPnfPqUc
— Alexandre Ziegler (@FranceinIndia) April 11, 2019
The AIN Online in it’s report said, “Qatari personnel will be trained at Base Aérienne 118 Mont-de-Marsan in southwestern France, Rochefort, and the Joint Intelligence Training Institute in Strasbourg. The first batch of pilots trained for Qatar in November 2017 were Pakistani exchange officers. Escadron de Chasse 04.030 was established at Mont-de-Marsan as the Qatar Rafale Squadron on Oct. 1, 2017. The Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, visited the Qatari Rafale Squadron at Mont-de-Marsan on July 6, 2018, accompanied by French defense minister Florence Parly.”
However, the Print quoting IAF sources reported that the initial information received suggested a batch of Pakistani technical team was in France on behalf of Qatar only “a few months back”.
“It is wrong to say that pilots were trained in 2017. Initial information is that there were no Pakistani pilots who were trained by the French government. Even if they were, it would have been done in the last one year,” said the source.
“Additional information will be sought from Dassault Aviation and the Air Attache in France.”
Quoting Top French sources ThePrint further reported that all the pilots who are being trained on the Rafale jets for Qatar Air Force hold official Qatari passports. But, unlike India, Pakistan allows dual nationality. So, it is quite likely they retained their Pakistani passports too.