New Delhi: Amid an ongoing controversy on the Rafale deal, French Navy Chief Vice Admiral Christophe Prazuck would be in India on a three-day visit to discuss ways to further strengthen military ties between the two countries.
The visit, scheduled from January 7th to January 9th, is taking place when the Indian Navy is looking forward to buying 57 multirole fighter planes for operations from the aircraft carrier, while Rafale being one of the contenders along with Boeing of America and Saab Gripen of Sweden.
“Vice Admiral Christophe Prazuck, Chief of the Naval Staff, French Navy would be in India and hold meetings with his naval counterpart Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba,” Indian Navy officials said.
The French Navy operates the Rafale plane from its aircraft carrier. They had used them for conducting airstrikes in Afghanistan, Libya and other conflict zones.
The French government has asked India to acquire additional Rafale combat aircraft for both the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy along with the 36 planes that will start arriving in the country by the year 2020.
More than a year ago, the Indian Navy had invited foreign vendors to carry out simulation trials to see if the planes could operate off the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.
The French Rafale, Swedish Saab Sea Gripen, Russian MiG-29K and American F-18 are the contenders for the over Rs one lakh crore mega deal of the maritime force.
Aircraft manufacturers, including the French Rafale and American F-18, had taken part in the trials and were asked to provide more inputs on their respective plane’s capabilities to be able to take off and land at the Vikramaditya.
The trials were held at INS Vikramaditya’s home-base in Karwar in Karnataka.
The Indian Navy has a fleet of 45 MiG-29s imported from Russia and they are operating from the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya.
The Rafale jet deal controversy has been on the boil over the last a few months. The Congress and other opposition parties have been alleging irregularities in the high-profile deal, which the ruling BJP has denied outrightly.