INDIA. Mumbai: The 19th edition of the Indian and French Navy bilateral three-day exercise ‘Varuna-2021’ began with high tempo-naval operations, including advanced air defence and anti-submarine exercises, intense fixed and rotary wing flying operations, in an Arabia sea on Sunday.
From the Indian Navy’s side, guided-missile stealth destroyer INS Kolkata, guided-missile frigates INS Tarkash and INS Talwar, Fleet Support Ship INS Deepak, with Seeking 42B and Chetak integral helicopters, a Kalvari class submarine and P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft, are participating in the exercise, an Indian Navy spokesman said.
The French Navy is represented by the Aircraft Carrier Charles-de-Gaulle with Rafale-M fighter, E2C Hawkeye aircraft and helicopters Caïman M and Dauphin embarked, Horizon-class Air defence destroyer Chevalier Paul, Aquitaine-class multi-missions frigate FNS Provence with a Caïman M helicopter embarked and Command and supply ship Var.
The Indian side is led by Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar, Nau Sena Medal, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet, while the French side is led by Rear Admiral Marc Aussedat, Commander Task Force 473.
The nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle with a displacement of 42,500 tonnes carries a crew of 1,200, 15.4% of whom are women, and an air wing consisting of 20 Rafale marine jets, two E-2C Hawkeye aircraft, and several helicopters. Its 75-meter deck with catapult launching enables the launch of Rafale marine jets in less than 3 seconds every 30 seconds, the French embassy statement said.
Besides “Charles de Gaulle”, “one multi-mission frigate, Provence, one air defence destroyer, Chevalier Paul, and one command and supply ship, Var” are also part of the drills, it said.
The French aircraft carrier and its strike group have been in the neighbourhood for weeks; Charles de Gaulle arrived in the Arabian Sea in mid-March for operations relating to Afghanistan and has held dual operations with the United States aircraft super carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.
The three-day exercise will continue till April 27 and will include: tactical manoeuvres, surface, and anti-air weapon firings, underway replenishment, and other maritime security operations. Units of both navies will endeavour to enhance and hone their war-fighting skills to demonstrate their ability as an integrated force to promote peace, security, and stability in the maritime domain.
On completion of exercise Varuna-21, to consolidate accrued best practices and enhance interoperability, the Indian Navy’s guided-missile frigate INS Tarkash will continue to exercise with the French Navy’s Carrier Strike Group (CSG) from April 28 to May 01. During this period, the ship will take part in advanced surface, anti-submarine, and air-defence operations with the French CSG.
Varuna-21 highlights growing bonhomie and showcases increased levels of synergy, coordination, and interoperability between the two friendly navies. These interactions further underscore the shared values as partner navies, in ensuring freedom of seas and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order.
Started in 1983, Indo-French naval cooperation plays a key role in the two countries’ joint vision for a “free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific,”. It was given its present name in 2001.According to the two navies, the two strike groups, which are conducting dual operations, are cooperating at levels of integration that has been “rarely achieved in the past”.