Varuna-2021, the 19th edition of the joint naval exercises between India and France, gets under way in the western Arabian Sea

Published : April 26, 2021 09:54 IST

The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is docked at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on March 25. Photo: MUMEN KHATIB/AFP


The 19th edition of the “Varuna” naval exercises between India and France got off to a start with large-scale drills on April 25 in the western Arabian Sea. This edition of the combat readiness war games between Indian and French warships will see the participation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Navy for the first time, making it a trilateral naval exercise. India and France have been holding these exercises since 1993.

Taking part in the exercises are INS Kolkata, the Indian Navy’s guided missile stealth destroyer; INS Tarkash and INS Talwar, guided missile frigates; INS Deepak, fleet support ship, with its complement of Sea King 42B and Chetak integral helicopters; a Kalvari class submarine; and the P8I long range maritime patrol aircraft. Officials said INS Vikramaditya, the Indian Navy’s sole aircraft carrier, will not join the exercise since it is currently under maintenance.

The French naval assets in Varuna-2021will be led by the Charles de Gaulle, the French Navy’s aircraft carrier with its complete complement of 20 Rafale marine combat fighter aircraft; two E2C Hawkeye twin-turboprops, the all-weather, carrier-capable tactical airborne early warning aircraft; and Caïman Marine and Dauphin embarked helicopters. The nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle, with a displacement of 42,500 tonnes, carries a crew of 1,200, 15.4 per cent of whom are women. The aircraft carriers’ 75-meter deck with catapult launching facilities enables the launch of Rafale aircraft in less than 3 seconds every 30 seconds.

Sailing along with the Charles de Gaulle will also be the Chevalier Paul, the French Navy’s Horizon-class air defense destroyer; FNS Provence, Aquitaine-class multi-mission frigate with a Caïman marine helicopter; and Var, the Durance-class command and replenishment tanker/supply ship.

While the Indian side is being led by Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet (FOCWF), the French side is led by Rear Admiral Marc Aussedat, Commander, Task Force 473.

On completion of Varuna-2021, INS Tarkash will continue to exercise with the French Navy’s carrier strike group (CSG) from 28th April to 1st May 2021 in order to consolidate accrued best practices and enhance interoperability. During this period, INS Tarkash will take part in advanced surface, anti-submarine and air-defence operations with the French CSG.

The exercises are an important cog in the Indo-French naval cooperation and plays a key role in the two countries’ joint vision for a “free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific” and a rules-based international order.