French Minister Lecornu to board INS Vikrant on November 27 off Mumbai
While maritime version of French Rafale fighter is in contention of the 26 fighter contract for aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, the last of the 36 contracted Rafale fighters will land at Jamnagar air base on December 13.
French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu will go onboard aircraft carrier INS Vikrant off the coast of Mumbai on November 27 even as the last of the contracted 36 Rafale fighter will land at Jamnagar air base in India from France on December 13 with the help of UAE mid-air refueler.
Minister Lecornu will be on a two day visit to intensify bilateral defence ties and is scheduled to meet his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh on November 28 for talks and is expected to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, his on-board visit to INS Vikrant, the indigenous aircraft carrier, which was commissioned by PM Modi on September 2, 2022, is significant as French Rafale-M is one of the two contenders for the floating airfield. The other contender for the 26 maritime strike fighters for INS Vikrant is US Boeing manufactured F-18 fighter.
India’s other aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is expected to come out of major overhaul by next month with scheduled sea trials and aircraft landings planned off the coast of Karwar immediately after.
While Minister Lecornu went out of his way and protocol to attend the kindling ceremony at Arc de Triomphe in Paris with visiting Army Chief General Manoj Pande on November 16, the French Defence Minister has been directed by President Macron to extend all defence cooperation to PM Modi’s “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” campaign. PM Modi and President Macron had a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the recently concluded G-20 summit with both countries prepared to join hands from seabed to space. President Macron’s diplomatic advisor Emmanuel Bonne is expected to be in India in January 2023 for the strategic dialogue with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
In between the visits of Minister Lecornu and Diplomatic Advisor Bonne, France will be dispatch the last of the Rafale fighter jet to India on December 13. The fighter will be refueled by UAE’s Airbus 330 refueler over Indian Ocean. Although this fighter (sign RB 001) was the first one built by Dassault under the 36 aircraft contract, the aircraft was re-fitted with the new engines and parts as it had been extensively used by the IAF to train its pilots on Rafale fighters in France. This aircraft is fitted with all India specific enhancements and will join the Rafale squadrons based in Ambala in Haryana and Hashimara in West Bengal. With this the French Dassault will complete the deliveries of all the 36 fighters for India.
India and France have deep defence ties for the past decades with the latter now willing to jointly design, develop and manufacture aircraft engines and long range attack submarines in India for strengthening its defence as well as allowing it to export to third friendly countries.