New Delhi, Jan 26: French Army soldiers today created history by marching down the Rajpath during the Republic Day parade, becoming the first foreign military contingent to take part in the celebrations.
Led by Lt Col Paul Bury of the French Army's 35th Infantry Regiment, one of the oldest regiments of France, the 76-member contingent marched before an audience that included President Pranab Mukherjee, visiting French President and Chief Guest Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Forty-eight members of 'The Music of the Infantry', a ceremonial band based in Lyon in France, played two military tunes at the parade as the spectators cheered them.
Talking about the Republic Day, Bury, who has twice served in Afghanistan, has said it was a matter of pride and honour for his men to participate in the celebrations and the march past on the Rajpath. Maj Gen Rajesh Sahai, Chief of Staff Delhi Area of Indian Army, said the parade was evolving, and added that a foreign contingent should be a regular affair.
The French Army's 35th Infantry Regiment traces its origin back to 1604 when it was raised in Lorraine in France. The regiment has as many as 12 battle honours to its credit. It has varied combat experiences, having served in Algeria, Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan among other places.
Meanwhile, the Indian Army also showcased its T-90 'Bhishma' tank, capable of firing missiles, Infantry Combat Vehicle BMP II (Sarath), Mobile Autonomous Launcher of the BrahMos Missile System, Akash Weapon System, Smerch Launcher Vehicles and Integrated Communication Electronic Warfare System.
The marching contingents of the army included horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, the Parachute Regiment, the Corps of Signals, the Rajput Regiment, the Garhwal Rifles, the Assam Regiment, 11 Gorkha Rifles and Remount Veterinary Corps Dog Squad.
The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular fly-past by the IAF. It commenced with the 'Chakra' formation, comprising three Mi-35 helicopters in 'Vic' formation, followed by the 'Hercules' formation comprising three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in 'Vic' formation.
Trailing them was the 'Globe formation' comprising one C-17 Globemaster flanked by two Su-30s fighter planes. Next in line was the fighters, where five Jaguar combat aircraft flew in arrowhead formation, another five MiG-29 air superiority fighter planes called the 'Tridents' flew in Fulcrum style.
Then the breath-taking 'Trishul' formation comprising three Su-30 MKI of No. 24 Squadron flew over the Rajpath, and once in front of the saluting dais, the Su-30 MKI aircraft split upwards, making a Trishul in the sky. The fly-past concluded with another Su-30 MKI carrying out a 'Vertical Charlie' manoeuvre over the saluting dais.