Swarnim Vijay Varsh 2021
Indian Navy conducted a maiden Operational Demonstration ‘Op Demo’ on the Hooghly River in Kolkata on 20 March 2021 as part of the Swarnim Vijay Varsh 2021 celebrations. The event showcased the maritime prowess of assets and personnel that serve from the high seas and operate along the coast. Honorable Governor of West Bengal Shri Jagdeep Dhankar was the Chief Guest of the event. The opening of the Op Demo was marked by a high speed ‘Steampast’ by four armed Navy Patrol Boats on the Hooghly. Coast Guard (CG) Air Cushion Vehicle (ACV) displayed its unique manoeuvres by gliding over the surface of the river. It was followed by two Waterjet Fast Attack Craft (WJFAC) that sailed down the river executing precise navigational manoeuvres and anchored mid-river. The demo touched the skies by formation flying by a Sea King and Chetak helicopter, later Chetak undertook ‘Search and Rescue’, demonstrating rescue of a drowning person from the river. The helicopters further displayed helibatics for the audience. A Marine Commandos (MARCOS) team displayed its skill of undertaking fast airborne insertion into occupied territory, they dropped down from a Sea King onto a Gemini Assault Watercraft and demonstrated a simulated clandestine beach assault. Then Sea King performed swift extraction by a method known as STIE (Small Team Insertion and Extraction), in which the commandos latched on to a special rope underslung from the helicopter and were flown out hanging onto it. Chetak displayed final aerial act by performing vertical replenishment and transferred a Memento from the river to the seating area which was presented by Vice Admiral AB Singh to the Chief Guest. This was followed by final high-speed salute by the Naval Patrol Boats and a performance by the Navy Band. ‘Sunset Ceremony’ concluded the Op Demo wherein the naval ensigns at Babu Ghat and on the naval ships anchored mid-river were lowered, the ships fired flares into the sky illuminating their silhouettes.
Indian Navy’s ‘Cobras’ turn 60
The Dorniers from six squadrons spanning east and west coast both are the lynchpin of the navy’s short-range shore-based surveillance. Every day this aircraft takes off from the base, its radar sweeping the seas to keep an eye on India’s maritime adversaries. As per an official, the aircraft has no non-flying day. The oldest of the fleet, the Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 310 ‘The Cobras’ is celebrating its diamond jubilee on March 21 2021. It is the navy’s most decorated unit, having three unit citations from the chief of naval staff and numerous other awards of best squadron in its honor. The squadron boasts of the remarkable feat of being the only aircraft squadron across three services to have participated in all of India’s wars and low intensity conflicts since 1961.
The French-built Alize anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft served for three decades until 1991 when it would scout for Chinese posts after the 1962b border war. It served overland during the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars. During Operation Cactus in 1987, the aircraft foiled a coup in Maldives by attacking a merchant ship fleeing with the coup leaders and hostages.
The celebrations will be a low key affair due to the pandemic. On March 21, the Dornier aircraft will perform a flypast on the INS Hansa, naval air station Dabolim, Goa. Marine commandos will jump with the national flag and a ‘Bara Khana’(armed forces community feast where officers and crew dine together) will be organized. The 310 Squadron was one of the two squadrons embarked on the Indian Navy’s first aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. The other one, INAS 300 ‘White Tiger’ was commissioned in the UK in 1959. The squadron was commissioned on March 21 1961 at Heyres on France’s Mediterranean coast by India’s Ambassador to Paris, Nawab Ali Yavar Jung.
The squadron took part in Operation Pawan between 1987 and 1991 where they would track and destroy LTTE vessels. In 1988 alone aircraft carried out a rocket strike against rebels escaping in a hijacked vessel MV Progress Light. In 1991, the Alize’s were retired and replaced by the shore-based Dornier do-228s as maritime reconnaissance and electronic warfare aircraft. The Dornier is fitted with a belly-mounted Israeli Elta EL/M-2022A radar that enables the aircraft to run day and night imagery intelligence gathering missions. Naval dorniers flew overland missions during the 1999 Kargil War and Operation Parakram in 2001, when their sensory suite identified enemy radar sites across the border. The Cobras account for largest quantum of flying hours except the bigger Boeing P8-I Poseidons. Along with being navy’s surveillance workhorse, the squadron also harbors advanced airborne electronic sensors. Various updated variants like that of the Elta M-2022 radar and in near future it may be equipped with indigenously built Defence Research and Development (DRDO)’s Uttam AESA radar.
SCO’s Joint anti-terrorism exercise
A joint anti-terrorism exercise of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will see participation of India, China and Pakistan. The eight-member bloc announced the decision to hold joint exercise named “Pabbi-Antiterror-2021” on March 18 during the 36th meeting of the Council of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Apart from these three the other members of SCO are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In the meeting the member states also approved of the draft program of cooperation for 2022-2024 to counter-terrorism, separatism and extremism. A statement from RATS mentioned that the member nations have agreed to cooperate in identifying and suppressing channels financing terrorist activities. Headquartered in Tashkent, RATS is a permanent organ of the SCO with the objective of promoting cooperation between member states against terrorism, separatism and extremism. The SCO is an economic and security bloc in which added India and Pakistan as permanent members in 2017. Times and again India has raised the issue of state sponsored terrorism in an oblique reference to Pakistan. India has also urged the world to join hands against terrorism and do away with defining good terrorism and bad terrorism.