Sandeep Dikshit

Coordination between INS Viraat, Charles de Gaulle

`Firsts' of the exercises include firing on aerial targets, cross-deck operations and participation by IAFThe `Varuna' series of joint exercises began in 2001 and has grown in scope and complexity The IAF will fly its Anglo-French origin Jaguar and Canberra aircraft

NEW DELHI: India and France will step up military interaction by fielding their aircraft carriers together for the first time in exercises off the west coast scheduled to begin on Monday.

Some other `firsts' of the exercises, besides the coordinated operation of INS Viraat and Charles de Gaulle, include firing on aerial targets, cross-deck operations by the Indian Navy's Sea Harrier aircraft from the deck of the Charles de Gaulle, and, participation by the Indian Air Force.

Steady growth

The `Varuna' series of exercises between the navies began in 2001 and has grown in scope and complexity over the years.

The last exercises were held in November 2005 off Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden.

Five Indian Navy surface combatants, one submarine, and different types of shore-based fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft will participate in the exercises.

The Navy will field the guided-missile destroyer, Mumbai; the guided-missile frigates, Gomati and Betwa; the fleet-replenishment tanker, Aditya, and the submarine Shankul. The Indian Air Force will fly its Anglo-French origin Jaguar and Canberra aircraft.

French task force

The French task force comprises the nuclear-propelled aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (with its own air group), two guided missile destroyers, a fleet replenishment tanker Somme, the nuclear-powered submarine Saphir, and, maritime patrol aircraft that will operate from Goa.

In conformity with modern practice, the French task force has one Royal Navy frigate, HMS Lancaster, embedded within it.

Dissimilar Air Combat

One of the major thrust areas will be `DACT' (Dissimilar Air Combat) between the Sea Harrier aircraft taking off from the Viraat, and, the Rafale and Super Etendards of the Charles de Gaulle.

Other aspects include fleet air defence, intermediate and advanced anti-submarine warfare), maritime interdiction operations), visit, board, search and seizure procedures and tactical manoeuvres.