Intensified simulated Indo-French naval exercises on the Arabian Sea
Panaji, April 2: A string of simulated intensified war exercises, involving the Indian Air Force (IAF) for the first time, took off today as part of the eighth edition of Indo-French bilateral naval exercises code named 'Varuna-06' off Goa coast in the Arabian Sea.
''These exercises are unique. For the first time, the aircraft carriers of both the navies, INS Virat (India) and nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle of France, would engage in interoperability,'' said Rear Admiral Anup Singh, Flag Officer Commanding Westren Fleet.
The IAF was asked to fly a 'strike mission' at sea in order to gain maximum benefit towards jointmanship between the two forces, also for the first time.
The French Air Force however, would, not participate in the ongoing exercises, as it had already done such exercises along with India on INS virat the French naval base at in Djibuti off the Gulf of Eden last year. It could do such exercises from a land base.
''These joint military exercises involve a lot of costs. But it benefits in terms of rich experience the Indian defence forces gain,'' Mr Singh quipped in response to a question about the expenditure involved in such annual exercises.
Five ships of the Western Naval Fleet are participating in these exercises under the command of Rear Admiral Anup Singh with his French counterpart Rear Admiral Xavier Magne in-charge of the French Task Force 473.
The last two days of the exercises will witness a 'war at sea' wherein the two forces would carry out various tactical manoeuvres simulating wartime conditions, he added.
French Ambassador to India Dominique Girard, in presence of commanders of both the Indian and French naval task forces, would witness the simulated war exercises, besides interacting with both the Navies. The exercise is part of an effort to further strengthen the bonds between the two countries, besides fostering maritime goodwill by promoting peace and stability in the region.
Led by INS Virat-borne Sea Harrier fighters, Sea King and Chetak helicopters, the Indian Navy is represented by the guided missile destroyer INS Mumbai, and the guided missile frigates INS Gomati and INS Betwa. While the former has Sea King helicopers on board, the latter two carry the anti-submarine variant of the Chetak helicopters.
The fleet replenishment tanker INS Aditya and the stealth SSK submarine INS Shankul with maritime aircraft Dornier and TU-142, operating from ashore, also form part of the Indian team.
Led by Charles de Gaulle with her ingtegral Rafale and Super Etendard aircraft, the French forces comprise the guided missile destroyers Mlontcalm and Cassard, the replenishment tanker Somme, the nuclear submarine Saphir and maritime patrol aircraft Atlantique.
The French Task Force has also a Royal Navy frigate Lancaster as part of the French multi-national element.
''The major focus in the ongoing exercises is 'dissimilar Air Combat Training' (DACT) between the Sea Harriers, Raffales and the Super Etendards. Numerous air combat sorties are planned to help the Indian and French pilots to work up jointly and integrate with each other in air defence and counter air operations,'' Mr Singh said.
Other exercises include anti-submarine manoeuvres involving ships, helicopters and shore-based patrol aircraft, interdiction operations, visit board search and seizure (VBSS) procedures and tactical manoeuvres.
''The confidence and expertise gained during these exercises, since 2001, would allow swift ingtegration with each other in case of any requirement at sea.'' Commandant of the INS Virat Captain S P S Cheema said.
The Indian Ocean Region, he added, has many strategic sealines of communication, which are vital to emerging economies of countries of the region. With enhanced interoperability achieved through such joint exercises, they could address issues of piracy, disaster relief, search and rescue in the region.