The first part of the Indo-French joint naval exercise, ‘Varuna’ kicked off in the Arabian Sea off Goa coast on Wednesday. The exercise will be conducted till May 10. Despite fire incident, aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is taking part in the drill along with French carrier Charles De Gaulle. Apart from INS Vikramaditya, destroyer INS Mumbai, the Teg-class frigate, INS Tarkash, the Shishumar- class submarine, INS Shankul, and the Deepak- class fleet tanker, INS Deepak, will be participating in this exercise. Indian Navy Ships – INS Kolkata, INS Shakti to Participate in Chinese International Fleet Review on April 23.
Two destroyers, FNS Forbin and FNS Provence, the frigate FNS Latouche-Treville, the tanker FNS Marne and a nuclear submarine of the French Navy, Marine Nationale will be taking part in the exercise. French Rafale and Indian MiG-29K fighters will also be part of the joint exercise. The ‘Varuna’ will be conducted in two phases. The harbour phase at Goa would include cross-visits, professional interactions and discussions and sports events. The sea phase would comprise various exercises across the spectrum of maritime operations. INS Vikrant, First Indigenous-Built AirCraft Carrier to Be Delivered to Indian Navy in 2021: Admiral Sunil Lanba.
The second part of the ‘Varuna’ is scheduled to be held at the end of May in Djibouti. The bilateral naval exercise initiated in 1983 and christened as ‘Varuna’ in 2001, form a vital part of the Indo-French strategic partnership. Having grown in scope and complexity over the years, this exercise exemplifies the strong relations between the two nations, in line with the Joint Strategic Vision of India-French Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region signed by President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the former’s State visit to India in March 2018. Indian Navy to Get 16 Anti-Submarine Warfare Shallow Water Crafts; Defence Ministry Signs Two Contracts With Cochin Shipyard and GRSE.
The Varuna exercise aims at developing interoperability between the two navies and fostering mutual cooperation by learning from each other’s best practices to conduct joint operations. The exercise underscores the shared interests and commitment of both nations in promoting maritime security.
MILAN 2T was developed in 1993 to counter ‘reactive armour’. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and including the three service chiefs will look at the request to procure 5,000 MILAN 2T missiles on January 31. The process to purchase these missiles will be simpler as Trials would not be necessary as it is a repeat order. India tests NAG 190, $500 Million Spike Missile deal in jeopardy.
India used MILAN missiles in the Kargil War of 1999 to destroy the bunkers built by Pakistani soldiers in the mountains. MILAN is a wire-guided missile. The purchase of MILAN 2T missiles will also fulfil the immediate need of anti-tank missiles and these missiles could also serve for another decade. It has a range of over 2 kilometres. India taking a step forward in terms missile technology, Test fires BrahMos.
As per some reports, if the DAC approves the request, then these missiles will be license-produced by the Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) in partnership with a French firm. Currently, the Indian Army has a requirement of 70,000 anti-tank guided missiles and 850 launchers.
Amidst the political controversy over the Rafale deal, the Indian government has made 25 percent payment to the French government for purchasing the Rafale fighter jets. The entire deal is worth Rs 59,000 dollars (Approx). In September 2016, the Indian government signed a government to government deal with the French Government to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation of France.
The Indian Air Force is expected to get the delivery of the first aircraft by September 2019. Meanwhile, the sources told news agency, ANI that the first batch of four aircraft will be delivered in 2020 fully equipped with weaponry.
After coming to power in 2014, the NDA government signed a deal to procure 36 fighter jets in ready to fly condition scrapping the proposed deal of the UPA government to acquire 126 fighter jets, out of which 108 were to be made in India.
Amid political chaos in India over the Rafale deal, the first jet manufactured by Dassault Aviation as per the requirement of the Indian Air Force (IAF) took its first flight in France on October 30. The two-seater variant aircraft is designated as RB 008. According to sources, RB stands for Air Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria as important role was played by him in negotiating the deal. Air Marshal Bhaduria was the Deputy Chief of the IAF during the contract negotiations for procuring 36 Rafale jets.
He is currently serving as Air Officer Commanding-In-Chief of the IAF’s Training Command. India signed Euro 7.87 billion (RS 59,000 crore) Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with France in September 2016 for procuring 36 multi-role fighter jets in fly-away condition.
Meanwhile in September this year, a six-member crew team of the IAF was sent to France to get trained on the Rafale fighter jets. According to media reports, the team was comprised of a fighter pilot, an engineer and four technicians. The crew was trained at the Saint-Dizier airbase in eastern France. The first lot of Rafale jets will be delivered to India in September 2019.Rafale Deal Controversy: A political fight to demoralise our forces
Last time India imported any foreign jets was Russian built- Sukhoi 30 fighter jets in 1997. Almost after 22 years, the country is now procuring the Rafale fighter jets to upgrade its fighter jet sqaudrons. The IAF also issued a request for information (RFI) to acquire 110 fighter jets in April this year, to get rid of shortage of fighter jets. The force received response to the RFI from six global aircraft manufactures – Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab’s Gripen and Russian United Aircraft Corporation’s MiG-35. The entire deal will be of worth Rs $15 billion.
Controversy on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets has not yet died and there have been reports that government is mulling over purchasing 36 more Rafale jets from France. The Congress on one hand accused Modi government of purchasing Rafale jets at higher cost causing a loss of Rs ‘12,000 Crore’ to the country, but on the other hand French government wants India to announce talks for purchasing 36 more Rafale jets. According to the report published in NDTV, French Defence Minister Florence Parly has written a letter to Nirmala Sitharaman on 26th February which indicates that French Government is keen in extending the Rafale deal with India. Indian government has not taken a final decision yet.
Other report published in Economic Times stated that French officials pitched for selling another batch of 36 Rafale fighter jets to India during the talks between Parly and Sitharaman. Parly was in favour of extending the Rafale deal to strengthen defence ties between both the countries.
India will start receiving the first set of Rafale fighter jets from 2019.
France is also pitching on behalf of its defence supplier SAFRAN to develop combat aircraft engine in collaboration with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for India’s Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.
It will be interesting to see how things pan out over the period of time, whether government will purchase another set of 36 Rafale jets and intensifies political controversy or will play safe and avoid further purchase of Rafale fighter jets?