New Delhi: In the biggest face-off so far, French Rafale fighter jets will be going up against the Russian MiG 29-Ks for the first time as India and France hold their annual naval war game — Varuna — off the Goa coast.
Both the MiG 29-Ks and Rafale fighters are in the race for a multi-billion dollar contract of the Indian Navy, which is looking to equip its under-construction indigenous aircraft carrier with 57 fighters. Thus, it will be interesting to see how they fare against each other.
Phase one of the bilateral exercises began Wednesday and will continue till 10 May. The drill will also see the capability of Russian radars on board the MiG 29-K jets and the French AESA radar on board the Rafale M, the naval version of the fighter aircraft.
India’s MiGs will be deployed onboard aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya while the French Navy’s Rafales will be flying off the deck of their nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the FNS Charles De Gaulle.
Drill in two phases
The 17th edition of this exercise includes participation of the French Navy’s two destroyers — FNS Forbin and FNS Provence — the frigate FNS Latouche-Treville, the tanker FNS Marne and a nuclear submarine.
From the Indian side, destroyer INS Mumbai, the Teg-class frigate INS Tarkash, the Shishumar class submarine INS Shankul and the fleet tanker INS Deepak will be participating in the drill.
The exercise will be conducted in two phases. The harbour phase will include cross-visits, professional interactions and discussions and sports events. The sea phase will comprise various exercises across the spectrum of maritime operations.
The second part of the Varuna exercise is scheduled to be held at the end of this month in Djibouti.
Navy facing issues with MiGs
Both India and French military authorities will be closely monitoring this exercise because the two fighters will be coming face to face for the first time. They are likely to go for both offensive and defensive operations during day and night.
After having bagged an off-the-shelf contract for the 36 Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force, French firm Dassault Aviation is now eyeing the mega Indian Navy contract.
The Indian Navy is not so happy with MiG 29-Ks due to engine and servicing issues. The Navy is looking to widen the shopping basket. The front runners for bagging the contract are the Rafale and Boeing’s F/A 18 Super Hornet.