Friday, January 7, 2011

India, France to begin Varuna-2010 naval exercise

An armada of the Indian and French navies comprising aircraft carriers, submarines, destroyers and frigates will get together in the Arabian Sea on January 7 to kick start the seven-day bilateral naval exercise called Varuna 10.

"The scope of the Varuna-2010 includes the entire gamut of maritime operations ranging from aircraft carrier operations, anti-submarine warfare operations and maritime interdiction operations exercises," Commander PVS Satish, spokesperson of the Indian Navy, told newspersons on Thursday.

INS Viraat, a refurbished aircraft carrier, two indigenous frigates -- INS Godavari and INS Ganga -- and the Shishumar-class submarine INS Shalki will represent the Indian side. The air element will comprise the Sea Harrier fighter aircraft as well as fixed and rotary wing aircraft. The French navy will be represented by ships from the French Carrier Strike Group, designated Task Force 473 and mainly based at Toulon, France. The task force includes the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle, destroyers FNS Forbin and FNS Tourville, supply ship FNS Meuse, and nuclear-powered submarine FNS Amethyste.

The Charles De Gaulle will be carrying its complement of fighter aircraft Rafale and Super Etendard, airborne early warning aircraft E2C Hawkeye, and integral helicopters.

"The harbour phase of the exercise is scheduled from January 7 to 11 and the sea phase will be conducted in the Arabian Sea from January 11 to 14," said Satish. India and France have been conducting such joint naval exercises since 1993, christened Varuna in 2001.

The last edition of the exercise, Varuna-2009, was conducted off Brest in northwestern France to coincide with the overseas deployment of Indian naval ships to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

"The understanding and confidence gained through such exercises has helped develop SOPs (standard operating procedures), particularly for cooperation in anti-piracy operations, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations," said Satish.

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