France and India conduct joint naval aviation training around Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier

Two service members of the Indian Navy watch a Rafale fighter arrested landing on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier
French Ministry of Armed Forces

The French Charles de Gaulle carrier strike group and the Indian naval aviation are conducting joint training as part of the VARUNA exercise. 

For its 21st edition, the naval drill, which will last from January 16 to 20, 2023, involves the French nuclear aircraft carrier and its escort, as well as several Indian frigates. Indian MiG-29 fighters, Boeing P-8 Poseidon, and Dornier Do 228 maritime patrol aircraft will conduct joint training with French Rafale fighters and an Atlantique 2 submarine hunter. 

“The objective of VARUNA 23.1 is to prepare the crews of these two nations to face, together, various challenges, mobilizing their anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft capabilities,” the French Ministry of Armed Forces explained in a statement.  

The exercises are to include air defense exercises, surface firings, and underway refueling scenarios. 

“Having grown in scope and complexity over the years, this exercise provides an opportunity to learn from each other’s best practices,” the Indian Ministry of Defence said. 

Last showcase for the Rafale Marine? 

France and India are reportedly finalizing an order for the Dassault Rafale Marine, the carrier-borne variant of the French fighter. The announcement could take place during the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to India scheduled for March 2023, La Tribune reported

The Dassault Rafale was pitched against the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet during the Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters (MRCBF) program. Among the capacities evaluated was the ability to take off by ski-jumping off a ramp. This technique, called Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR), is deployed on the two Indian Navy carriers, while carriers for both the French and US Navies favor a flat deck and a catapult launch system (CATOBAR). 

In early December 2022, several Indian media outlets citing defense sources said the French fighter was found to be a better fit for the navy’s requirements over the US-made jet. 

India has already been using Dassault’s aircraft in its ground-based operations since September 2020, with the Indian Air Force (IAF) flying 36 Rafale B/C. 

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