4th December is celebrated as the Navy Day, each day. On this day 49 years ago, Indian Navy had written a ‘Chapter of Glory and Valour’ on its western front, to be remembered in footprints of time for the future generations to come. Today the Indian Navy is a global force to reckon with, as a regional maritime superpower, building trust and bridges of friendship with its maritime neighbours.
Let us flash back in time, 49 years ago, the golden day our fighting fit Indian navy inflicted heavy causalities on Pakistan, who initiated the war on 3rd December 1971. It was the Day, 3 Vidyut class missile boats escorted by 2 Arnala class Corvettes dared to enter the Pakistan territorial waters to fire Styx SSMs (first time in the Region) to create havoc for the enemy on the midnight of 4th and 5th December. INS Nirghat sank the cruise destroyer PNS Khaibar, loitering north west of Karachi with 222 sailors on board by firing 2 Styx SSMs missiles.
INS Nipat fired its missiles on MV Venus Challenger and its escort PNS Shah Jahan (former HMS Charity), a C – class destroyer. Venus Challenger carrying ammunition for the Pakistani forces, immediately exploded as the missile hit and eventually sunk 40 km south of Karachi. The other missile targeted for Shah Jahan damaged the ship very badly. INS Nipat continued towards Karachi and targeted the Kemari oil storage tanks, placing itself 14 Nautical miles (26 km; 16 miles) south of the Karachi harbour. Of the two missiles fired, one misfired and the other hit the oil tanks. The tanks got burnt and got destroyed completely, causing heavy loss to the Pakistan Navy. INS Veer targeted PNS Muhafiz, an Adjutant – class minesweeper sinking it with 33 sailors on board. After the mayhem it caused, the flotilla returned victorious. A number of Indian Navy personnel were honoured with the gallantry awards for the operation.
‘Operation Python’, a follow – up to Operation Trident, was the code name of a naval attack launched 4 days later on the night of 8th / 9th December. A strike group consisting of one missile boat INS Veer and two frigates INS Talwar and Trishul attacked the group of ships off the coast of Karachi. While India suffered no losses, Pakistani fleet tanker PNS Dacca was damaged beyond repair, and the Kemari oil storage facility was damaged and lost forever. Two other foreign ships stationed in Karachi were also sunk during the attack.
While the Navy on western coast wreaked havoc on the Karachi port, and the ships employed to guard it, another golden chapter was being written by INS Vikrant and it’s flotilla on the eastern coast. Vikrant was deployed towards Chittagong at the outbreak of hostilities. On 4th December, the ship’s Sea Hawks struck shipping liners in the Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar harbours, sinking or incapacitating most of the ships present. Later strikes targeted Khulna and the Port of Mongla, which continued until 10th December, while other operations were flown to support a naval blockade of East Pakistan. On 14th December, the Sea Hawks attacked the cantonment area in the Chittagong, destroying several Pakistani army barracks. Simultaneous attacks by Alizés continued on the Cox’s Bazar. Waves after waves of daring Top Guns of the Sea Hawks and Alizes bombed Dacca, Mongla, Khulna and Cox Bazar to choke the enemy there, ultimately forcing the 93,000 plus strong enemy to surrender for want of any help from the West Pakistan. The crew of INS Vikrant earned two Maha Vir Chakras and 12 Vir Chakras.
After the beginning of hostilities, Indian Naval radio detection equipment identified a submarine lurking about 35 miles (56 km) south – west of the Diu harbour in Gujarat. The 14th Frigate Squadron of the western fleet was dispatched to destroy the submarine. It normally consisted five ships Khukri, Kirpan, Kalveti, Krishna and Kuthar, but at the time of the incident Kuthar’s boiler room was being repaired in Bombay now Mumbai. One reason that may have prompted the decision to deploy two obsolete Blackwood-class frigates against a modern Daphne-class submarine was that the Indian Navy lacked sufficient number of anti – submarine aircraft at that time. In the early hours of 9th December, Hangor picked up two sonar contacts in the area. The sonar and radar transmissions identified them as warships but Hangor failed to intercept them and lost contact when the range increased.
Over the years Indian navy progressed. The year 2020 has been defined by the COVID pandemic, which disrupted and permeated every aspect of life. Tensions along our Northern borders significantly increased the complexities in our security situation. This dual-challenge scenario continues as we speak and the country, collectively, continues to battle the pandemic and tackle security challenges. In these testing times, the Indian Navy aims to stand steadfast as a ‘Combat – ready, Credible and Cohesive force’ furthering the national and maritime interests.
The Indian Navy, in fulfilling the responsibilities to the Nation and its citizens, turned ‘Care-Givers’ during the pandemic. Naval aircraft contributed to transportation of samples and test equipment on numerous occasions. Naval hospital facilities were made available to the civil administrations at various places to cater for increased healthcare requirements. In support of the national effort against COVID, Naval personnel also displayed innovation in manufacture of solutions like indigenised PPE, and healthcare equipment. The Navy undertook its largest ever Non-combatant evacuation under the aegis of Operation Samudra Setu, wherein, nearly 4000 Indian nationals in Iran, Maldives and Sri Lanka were brought back home during the pandemic.
While the natural tendency is to look inwards in difficult times, the Government of India and Indian Navy looked outwards, extending support and succor to our friends and partners during the pandemic. Missions Sagar I and II, involving deployment of naval medical teams, medicines and humanitarian aid to friendly foreign countries across the IOR, received wide-spread recognition, reiterating India’s commitment to the region. Prompt implementation of preventive measures across the Navy aided in minimising the disruptive impact of the pandemic on our operational readiness. Our focus on maintaining combat and mission readiness aided the Navy in deterring any misadventure in the maritime domain, while contributing to the national COVID effort.
Our ‘Mission Based Deployment’ philosophy has enhanced Indian Navy’s presence across the region enabling rapid responses to emerging security challenges. The Indian Navy has established a persistent footprint in India’s areas of interest, including at various choke points in the Indian Ocean Region. Naval deployments also serve as a deterrent to inimical interests, clearly signaling the Navy’s reach, capability and intent. The Indian Navy also remains continuously deployed to curb maritime piracy in the Gulf of Aden. 84 Indian ships have been deployed in the region since 2008.
In addition to anti-piracy, owing to heightened tensions in the Straits of Hormuz, Indian warships also remained deployed in the Gulf since June 2019, to reassure Indian merchant marine transiting the region. Naval ships have escorted 169 Indian Flagged Merchant vessels and 170 lakh tons of cargo under the aegis of Operation Sankalp. Among major, intra-Navy exercises, India conducted the Table-Top Exercise SHIKSHA, wherein contingencies across the spectrum of operations were war – gamed. The pan – Navy war game, Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (or TROPEX in short) is scheduled in early 2021. The exercise will witness participation of all our operational ships, submarines and aircraft, as well as units from the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Coast Guard. As part of TROPEX, India will also be conducting a large scale Coastal Defence Exercise ‘Ex SEA VIGIL’ involving all maritime security stakeholders.
Aligned with the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ – Security And Growth for All in the Region – IN participated in 13 bilateral and multilateral exercises, this year. The most recent exercise, Malabar, with US, Japanese and Australian Navies, contributed to enhanced cooperation and trust. As part of the Government of India’s vision of the ‘Neighbourhood First’, the Indian Navy undertook Joint EEZ surveillance with Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius, as well as Coordinated Patrols (CORPATs) with Bangladesh, Thailand and Indonesia. Indian ships were also deployed to undertake hydrographic surveys for friendly littoral countries, on their request, for about 130 days.
Indian engagement with friendly foreign countries, including under the IONS construct, aim to build collective maritime competence and, include the element of capacity building and capability enhancement. These engagements help improve interoperability, enhance security and reaffirm Indian commitment as the ‘Preferred Security Partner’ in the IOR. On this note, India also organised training of personnel from the friendly foreign countries, which had been held in abeyance owing to the COVID, have been recommenced last month. India also started online training for foreign trainees in specific verticals to restart training effort during COVID.
While India improve operational capabilities and forge closer maritime ties with it’s friendly neighbours and partners, it also continue to be proactive in rendering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. INS Airavat provided succor to Madagascar in the aftermath of Cyclone Dianne in Jan 20. Airavat and Trikand escorted food shipments to Kenya and Somalia through piracy infested waters off East Africa, as part of the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP). The UNWFP, also won the Nobel Prize this year. Nireekshak assisted the Government of Mauritius in salvage operations of grounded Merchant Ship Wakashio. Sahyadri was the ‘On Scene Commander’ for coordinating firefighting, salvage and towing operations of fire stricken oil tanker New Diamond off the East coast of Sri Lanka.
Information is a critical building block towards ensuring comprehensive maritime security. In this endeavour, the Information Fusion Centre at Gurugram, commissioned in 2018, has established itself as the hub of maritime security information in the IOR, through white shipping exchange agreements with 21 countries and 20 Maritime Security centres. International Liaison Officers from 13 countries have been invited, and 3 ILOs have joined the centre, with 3 more likely to join shortly. Induction of new assets and capabilities is being progressed in consonance with the Navy’s long – term perspective plans. In building a future Global Powerful Navy, India remain committed to the vision of ‘Make-in-India’ ‘Atmanirbharata’ in the defence sector. Indian Navy’s commitment to ‘Self Reliance in Defence Production’ is evident from the fact that all 24 ships and submarines commissioned into the Navy over the last six years have been built in India. Further, of the 43 ships and submarines, currently under construction, 41 are being built at Indian shipyards. These include the Aircraft Carrier – Vikrant, which completed basin trials and ready for induction in the Indian navy, P-15B Class Destroyers, P17A class stealth Frigates and Scorpene class submarines.
Amongst these projects, Vikrant is at an advanced stage of construction and will commence sea trials in early 2021. Visakhapatnam, the first of the P 15B destroyers is undergoing trials and is scheduled to be commissioned next year. India is also commissioning the indigenously built Landing Craft LCU L57 in May 20, and ASW Corvette Kavaratti in October. ‘Himgiri’, the second of the seven ships of P17A frigates will be launched in December 2020 at GRSE, Kolkata. Modernisation of the submarine arm is also underway. The delivery of the third Scorpene (P75) class boat, Karanj, is expected by the end of the month, the fourth boat, Vela, is undergoing sea trials and fifth boat Vagir was launched recently.
As regards aviation, India inducted three ALH Mk III, four Chetak, eight Dornier and one P8I aircraft this year. Contracts for procurement of six P8Is, six Kamov 31 helicopters and upgrade of six Heron RPAs are under process and likely to be concluded in 2021. India also signed the LOA for 24 MRH helicopter from the US through the FMS route, with deliveries starting next year. Phase IIA of Project Seabird at Karwar is progressing on track. Construction of eight operational and two refit piers, creation of a full-fledged Naval Dockyard, upgrading of the hospital at Karwar and construction of a Naval Air Station are planned. India has been at the forefront of indigenisation over the past seven decades. Indigenisation of major equipment and systems is being progressed through multiple avenues available in the updated Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020. The Indian Navy also established the Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO) to facilitate closer interaction with industry and provide a fillip to innovation.
India has taken measures towards enhancing opportunities for women officers in the Navy. In this regard, maiden induction of observers into the helicopter stream, appointment to Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) squadron, and induction into Provost specialisation are some of the milestones achieved. Four women officers have also been appointed on ships, and two women officers have been appointed to overseas billets at Maldives and Moscow. In consonance with the verdict delivered by the Hon’ble SC, SSC officers are being considered for Permanent Commission in the Navy. Navy is working towards next generation defence reforms currently underway. Navy support for reforms in Higher Defence Organisation, and on enhancing Tri-Service Synergy is unflinching. It is looking at the establishment of the ‘Maritime Theatre Command’ in the near future, which would further buttress ‘Joint planning and application of force’ in the maritime domain.
India used to be a global maritime power and an India built ship is showcased with pride in the lobby of the Royal Maritime Museum, England.
We will shortly become the 2nd most powerful navy of the world after US and it will have complete supremacy over the entire Indian Ocean till Malacca and Gulf of Hormuz to protect the Indian trade and choke our enemies.