French aircraft carrier headed for drills with Indian counterpart, “largest bilateral exercise ever”

FS Charles de Gaulle (F 91) sails in formation with US destroyer McFaul, cruiser Mobile Bay, and Danish frigate Niels Juel in the Red Sea, April 15, 2019. Photo: US Navy

French Navy aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle and its carrier strike group are set to sail to India where they will be joined by Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and other units for what was described as the largest naval exercise between the two countries ever.

The drill, which is scheduled to start early May, was first reported by the Times of India, citing Indian defense ministry sources.

The bilateral engagement is part of the longstanding Varuna exercise, which was first organized between the two countries in 1993. The last time the exercise was held off the coast of France was 2017.

As reported, in addition to the carrier, India will deploy diesel-electric submarine INS Shankul, destroyer INS Chennai, frigate INS Tarkash, tanker INS Deepak and P-8I and Dornier aircraft.

France will be represented by air-defense destroyer Forbin, FREMM frigate Provence, ASW frigate Latouche-Tréville, nuclear attack submarine Amethyste and tanker Marne.

The French aircraft carrier is currently deployed on operation Clemencau 2019. The operation started early March and will see the carrier and its strike group operate in the eastern Mediterranean, the Gulf of Aden, the northern Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf, before reaching their final stop in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue 2019 which starts late May.

French Navy units are scheduled to be joined by Royal Navy, US, Italian, Australian, Portuguese and Danish Navy units at various stages of the deployment.

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