After a significant refurbishment, which lasted two years, the only French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle set off on a long cruise, the end of which is expected in Singapore. After leaving Toulon, the ship was carrying out exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and operations against the Islamic State, and the next stage of the cruise were joint exercises with the American ship group centered around the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, which took place in the Red Sea. It was an excellent opportunity to carry out exercises for multi-purpose aircraft, which clashed with each other in fake fights and together practiced mid-air refueling missions. In addition, Rafale planes made a series of touch-and-go landings on board the American ship with the rotation of some crews between ships, which allowed them to familiarize themselves with the procedures and practice the cooperation. There was also an exchange of officers responsible for overseeing the landing of aircraft directly from the ship’s deck (landing signal officers), and the whole operation was relatively simple because both ships are characterized by similar equipment.
Rafale in the background
However, exercises planned for May seem to be much more critical. The Indian INS Vikramaditya is to cooperate with the French ship, and the planned maneuvers are to be the biggest in the history of both navies.
The distant voyage carried out by the French ship is, of course, a signal and a sign of the relentless strength of France and shows the global carrier’s ability to operate and influence the world, but from the point of view of industry it seems more important to demonstrate to the Indians Rafale aircraft operating from the aircraft carrier. It can also be assumed that the fresh experience gained by the French practicing with American pilots will at least partially reach the Indians and will be able to help build a more complete picture of the potential that these planes have.
It must be remembered that apart from purchasing a large number of aircraft for the Air Force, India is also interested in acquiring machinery for its aircraft carriers. The MiG-29K aircraft used so far are no longer relevant, and their capabilities do not match the modern battlefield. This cruise and scheduled exercises can not, therefore, be considered as accidental. There are vast sums of money involved, and the potential possibility of unifying the fleet and having a similar machine park in aviation and navy can be a significant saving for the Indian economy. With the possible unification and ordering of such a large number of machines, there will be, of course, local production and at least partial technology transfer, which can further strengthen the economy of India, which has recently achieved a lot of successes, including shoot down the satellite using a locally built missile.
The third aircraft carrier for India
In addition to airplanes from France, only the United States with their Boeing F / A-18E / F Super Hornet aircraft in the latest Block III variant counts for carrier tender. Previously, representatives of Boeing declared that their aircraft are also able to operate from the deck of Indian aircraft carriers, which are not equipped with catapults. In the background of the purchase of planes is the construction of the third aircraft carrier for India, and it will eventually also include new aircraft. The United Kingdom has already submitted its offer by BAE Systems, which built both British Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. The company declares that it can deliver a ship in both a British configuration and a flat deck and catapult variant. The fact that the French aircraft carrier is already at the end of his service and France must start looking for the concept of a new unit adds to the whole story. Due to the successful long-term cooperation between India and France, in the area of warships, in the future, a joint aircraft carrier could be developed together. In such a case, France would not have to use ready-made projects such as British, would achieve a significant reduction in development costs and costs, and India, which has to take into account the growing presence of China in the Indian Ocean, would undoubtedly want to purchase more than one aircraft carrier in the long term.
Photo: U.S. Navy / U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joshua L. Leonard