BHARAT RAKSHAK MONITOR - Volume 3(5) March-April 2001

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International Fleet Review 2001

Mrityunjoy Mazumdar


In keeping with its theme of Building Bridges of Friendship, the Indian Navy's (IN) International Fleet Review was definitely about building bridges of friendship with over 30 visiting navies, 19 of whom sent their warships to Mumbai. In a rare spectacle, 24 visiting warships, and over 55 Indian naval and CG vessels anchored off Gateway of India, Mumbai's landmark, to celebrate India's 50th anniversary as a republic. It was also a successful diplomatic exercise as Australia renewed its defense ties with India. 5 navies sent two vessels each: Malaysians with KD Jebat & Tan Pusumah, the French with FNS Dupleix and SSN Perle, the Omanis with RNOV Al Najah and Qahir Al Amwaj, the Kenyans with KNS Shujaa and Nyayo and the Russians with Admiral Panteleev and Admiral Vinogradov. The following navies sent one ship each: USA (USS Cowpens), UK (HMS Cumberland), South Africa (SAS Drakensburg), Bangladesh (BNS Ali Haider), Indonesia (KRI Tongkol), Iran (IRIS Alvand), Singapore (RSS Endurance), Thailand (HTMS Bang Pakong), Mauritius (CGS Vigilant), Sri Lanka (SLNS Sayura), Australia (HMAS Darwin), Morocco (Al Arrhamani), Poland (ORP Wodnik) and Japan (JDS Amagiri). Delegations arrived from Israel, Qatar, Iraq, Nigeria, China and several other countries. Pakistan was not invited.

Culminating in over 2 years of intensive and meticulous planning by Western Naval Command, under the direct command of Flag Officer Maharashtra Area, the 5 day event was run with clockwork precision. Prior to the actual fleet review, members of the media were given unprecedented access to photograph this eclectic collection of warships and even board a large number of visiting and Indian ships. For several days, a number of ferries would take photographers along the lines of ships anchored off Mumbai. A maritime seminar with "Maritime power challenges in the 21st century" as its theme was organized on the 15th of Feb, which was well attended by visiting naval delegations discussed conceptual papers. An otherwise serious seminar, it was not without its moments of levity, when a hydrographic commander decided to wax poetic about stealth presence missions with survey ships, to be possibly armed with nuclear weapons much to the amusement of the audience and chagrin of the organizers. The underlying message was that India was no longer aspiring to be a regional power, rather it wished to be recognized as THE regional power in the Indian Ocean Region and that maritime security in the region could only be achieved through co-operation with common goals like regional SLOC security against piracy, SAR and other similar activities. The highlight of the seminar was the presentation by the US speaker, who dazzled overwhelmed everyone with typical American hi-tech aplomb, using multimedia to its best effect.

Security was very tight especially after the USS Cole bombing and the IN acquired several speedboats for this occasion. These were crewed by marine commandos and were seen patrolling all around the anchored ships. A rehearsal of the President’s review took place on the 16th followed by the actual review on the 17th..A band concert was held in the evening of the 16th and bands from India, USA, Russia Pacific Fleet, Bangladesh Navy, Sri Lanakan Navy and France Navy band 'Badad Delann Bihoue" played. The SLN band had some interesting dancing going on while the French carried away the show with their unique sound, which were largely bagpipes pipes instead of the traditional percussion instruments. The finale was great as all the bands and groups of school children sang the theme song " it’s a small world after all".

The 17th was the day of the actual presidential review by Shri KR Narayanan, President of India. In the age old tradition inherited from the Royal Navy, the President of India, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, reviews the navy once during his tenure. There have been 7 other reviews held in the past, the first in 1953 and the last in 1989. This time, however, is the first time that international navies have participated. In contrast to some other reviews, presidential reviews in India are conducted somewhat differently from some other navies where ships steam past the reviewing ships. Instead, the presidential column of four ships led by the presidential yacht, INS Sukanya, cruised past several rows of anchored ships, which are dressed overall and whose crew cheer the president. The presidential column was flanked by several of the aforementioned speedboats crewed with Marine Commandos (MarCos) with arms at ready. A mobile column of missile boats and ASW ships, with the crew manning the rails and cheering the president, also sailed past at 18 knots. At the conclusion of the review, about 50 aircraft from most of the IN Fleet Air squadrons flew over the Sukanya. Harriers from the Navy's 300 White Tigers squadron did their spectacular bomb-burst maneuver while dropping flares. However, bad visibility was the only downer on this otherwise spectacular and grand event. Unfortunately, for the people of Mumbai, a hazy day conspired to limit what they could see from the shoreline.

At sunset, the Beating the Retreat ceremony was done at the Gateway of India, in front of the majestic Taj hotel complex. All of the visiting naval delegations, heads of the armed forces and other VVIP, VIPs attended this event. Security was extremely tight and the general public was kept far way from the vicinity. Sharpshooters could be seen atop the skyscrapers along the shoreline. Once again, the bands played one by one and together for the finale. It was noticeable that the Iraqi naval delegation did not applaud when the US band played as the US was bombing Iraq at the time. Which was definitely not in keeping with building bridges. But some bridges are harder to build than others. When dusk fell, all the ships anchored off the Gateway of India and lit up in groups. Later in the evening, a flare/fireworks show took place. This was truly a treat as lighted silhouettes of warships could be seen as far as the eye could see.

The big event of the 18th was the city parade along Mumbai marine drive. This time the weather was clear. All of the visiting naval contingents along with Indian navy, Indian army, NCC and sea Cadet Corps and other groups marched along the marine drive, and Mumbai was out in force to witness this event. The naval bands followed this. Once again, French band carried the day with their distinctive sound. At the same time, the naval air arm was conducting demos of SAR techniques with Chetak helicopters, after which a Seaking Mk42C carrying MarCos did a demo. The Marcos rappelled down from the helo onto a RIB, laid explosives on a target, and then were picked up by the helo all within a span of 2 minutes, after which the target blew up. Microlights flew overhead while colorful enterprise class sailboats from the naval sailing club then sailed past. After this came the flypast by Chetaks, and all of the naval aircraft from the previous day. The IAF also had their MiG-29 and a display by the Su30. The finale of the show was a thrilling display by the IAF's Surya Kirans display team. This 9 aircraft formation thrilled the crowds below with their spectacular maneuvers while streaming the tricolors of the Indian flag. Members of the naval officers wives association, wearing beautiful blue saris, volunteered their time and did an outstanding job as hostesses at these various events.

Also on the 18th, all of the visiting ships were brought alongside and their crews went on liberty. The 18 and 19th were for ship visits and liberty for the visiting ships crews. So for a few days, the people of Mumbai were treated to the sight of sailors from all over the world as they mingled with each other and shopped at Mumbai tourist spots. An American lady sailor caught up with her Russian sailor friends whom she had met at Vladivostock and there was no doubt some bridging going on between the two of them.

Some interesting tidbits. Singapore's RSS Endurance is commanded Endurance which is commanded by a LTS SS Chopra, a Sikh born in a Punjabi village. The Indians found this to be most interesting and probably somewhat confusing. The USS Cowpens opened up her CIC and Aegis screens to the media, all were impressed by what they saw, especially the map of India, and the map of Mumbai! The Cowpens also brought along officers of Indian origin, who were the object of much attention amongst the Indian naval officers at the maritime seminar. The Russians conducted a press conference on board the Vinogradov , which was graced by Admiral Kuroyedov, Commander of the Russian fleet and Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Konev. Yet they said nothing at all of substance other than there are so warships in the IOR and who and what are they defending against?

The IN took the group of foreign media aboard the Viraat, Aditya, the Bramhaputra and the Kirch to showcase indigenous ships. At each of these ships, we were treated to wonderful snacks, mementos and a somewhat abbreviated ship tour due to time constraints. The Viraat is finishing up a 2 year refit and has been fitted with the Israeli Barak system. Capt. Rusi Contractor commands her and her XO is Cdr. Poddar. The Aditya is a locally built Fleet Tanker that was commissioned last year. Her CO is Capt. Vimal Narayan and her XO is Cdr. K.C.M. Giri. The Bramhaputra is a missile frigate that is almost completely indigenous, albeit tubular looking what with all the guns and missile tubes on her deck. She is commanded by Capt. P Chauhan, who would have done very well as a PR guru in another life. Last ship we visited was the Kirch, commanded by Cdr. A.K. Mahadevan. The Kirch is the 2nd of the Kora Mod Project 25A ship. She is armed with an Oto 76mm SRGM and carries a heavy armament of 16 Kh-35 Urans. She was built by GRSE and MDL and comissioned on 22 January 2001.

The next highlight of the event was on the 20th, when three Passex were carried out for photo opportunities. Most of the attending were grouped into three groups. The media were then taken embarked upon designated ships and were actually taken aboard helos for photo ops. This author was on the frigate, INS Gomati which was the lead ship for a group of Type 1241RE Tarantul missile boats from K21 (21 Missile Sqn) and the RSS Endurance, KNS Nyayo and IRIS Alvand. Needless to say, this was a very interesting experience taking off from the ship, watching the sailors man the rails, pipe passing ships and saluting the commodore of K21, which was the senior ship in the group and eventually landing. Two Chetak choppers flew off the Gomati and maintained visual contact with each other It was a late in the evening when the ships returned to harbor and it was a most interesting exercise watching the bridge crew navigate a large frigate at night. Mumbai harbor is a very crowded lace and navigating a warship in the proximity of so many anchored ships and heavy traffic was a very interesting exercise and demands a lot of skill. Visual sighting, using well known landmarks like the Taj Hotel tower and Prongs Reef, to plot the bearing and course of the ship is conducted by the minute as a backup to electronic navigation aids like radar.

Finally, all good things must come to an end. Having witnessed this grand spectacle, the memories of which will last for a long time, it is interesting to see the IN come of age and become a player on the international stage. It is indeed one of Asia's most powerful navies. The event also highlighted the IN diplomatic skills at bringing together potentially adversarial navies like Iran and the USN. The political outcome of this event will take some time to materialize, but there is no doubt that in the near future, the IN will play a larger role in the IOR, with the cooperation of the regional navies. On a personal note, many bridges of friendship were built as the writers and correspondents met each other, and met many wonderful people and made many new friends. I left Mumbai with fond memories of the event. It was hard being back on land, for a few days after the event the ground kept rolling and pitching.


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The Carrier

Viraat R22 showing off her new sensor suite just before the review. Notice the contrast in size with the vessels from No.44 Ferry Boat Sqn tied up alonside (left). The boats were used to ferry crew and media between ships and shore.

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The Destroyers

Rajput class destroyers, Rajput D51 and Ranvir D54, on the day of the review (left). Detail of rear SAM launcher with Rz-13 missiles. Families of the crew were on the ships too (top left).

The Mumbai D62 is the newest of the Type 15 destroyers (top right). She commissioned earlier in the year. She has more advandced sonars
than her sister ships. She may be distinguished from the Mysore by her
different SATCOM antenna from her sisters. Both her sisterships Delhi D61 and Mysore D60 (bottom right) also participated in the review.

The frigate Bramhaputra F31 drops anchor near the row of Rajput class destroyers (left).

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The Submarines

The French nuclear submarine, the FNS Perle, was the highlist of the show. Here she is entering harbor (top left). To her port side is the French destroyer FNS Dupleix. Singapore's RSS Endurance is astern of the Dupleix. The Kursura class submarine Kraranj S21 (top right). Notice that unlike other vessels of her class, S21 has three sonar domes. This is because she is  is used a trials platform for the ATV 's command systems including the 'Pachendriya' and 'Rani' radar equipment. Sindushastra S64 next to the tug Balram (bottom right). Shalki was the first Indian built Type 209/1500 SSK (bottom left).

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The Visitors

The Moroccan frigate Al Arrhamani at anchor (left).

The Bangladeshi frigate BNS Ali Haider dressed for review and the Iranian frigate IRIS Alvand at anchor. Alvand appears to be in very good shape despite being 30 yrs old. Note the Chinese built C802 missiles. This photo was taken from F21's Chetak helo from 321 Sqn, which deploys several flights aborad many ships (Top: right and far right respectively).

The Gomati F21 and IRIS Alvand piping each other during Passex (right). This photo was tken from F21s Chetak helicopter.

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The Australian frigate HMAS Darwin dressed for review (left). Her visit
signified the resumption of military relations with Australia. HTMS Bang Pakong (right).Royal Thai Navy's Chinese built Type 053H Jianghu frigate.

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The Malaysian KD Jebat & and Mauritiuan CGS Vigilant (far left and left) .Jebat is the newest unit of the Lekiu class. She is armed with VL Seawolf SAM.The Japanese destroyer JDS Amagiri brought relief supplies for victims of the Bhuj
earthquake (right).

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The Omani corvettes RNOV Al Najah and Qahir Al Amwaj (left). The South African auxiliary, SAS Drakensburg (top right)  with Oryx helicopter of 22 Sqn SAAF. In a first for the SANDF, the pilot of the Oryx is the first woman to fly a helo from a South African naval ship  She brought relief supplies to the victims of Bhuj.
The Sri Lankan OPV SLNS Sayura (bottom right). The Sayura is the ex-INS Saryu, a Sukanya class OPV.

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The Russian Udaloy Class destroyers. Admiral Panteleev and Admiral Vinogradov tied up alongside after the review on 18th February (left).This marks the first deployment of Russian Pacific Fleet units to the Indian Ocean in several yearsThe Kenyan KNS Shujaa (right). This was the Kenyan Navy's furthest ever deployment.

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INS Prahar K98 passesthe RSS Endurance during Passex (left). The Ticonderoga class crusier USS Cowpens, with INS Magar in the background (right). The Cowpens' CIC was a big hit with visitors.

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The Frigates

 

INS Ganga F22, second of the Project 16 frigates (left). The second Indian Leander INS Himgiri F34 (top right). The INS Taragiri F41 one of the Modified Leanders  (bottom right).

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INS Brahmaputra F31 is the IN's newest Project 16A vessel, armed with 16 Uran SSMs. (left). Another shot of the F31 with a Super Dvora in the foreground

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The Corvettes

 

K42 Nipat, Type 1241RE missile boat of 221 Division of 21nd Missile Vessel Squadron (K21), nicknamed the Killers.  She was part of a mobile column of 8 ships steaming past the presidential ship column (top left). INS Vijaydurg K71 last remaining Durg (Nanuchka) class vessels (below left).

 

Three views of the INS Kirch, the newest Project 25A frigate. The ship in the fourth shot is the Kuthar P46, a Project 25 ship armed with P-22 SSMs(right).

 

INS Kora P61, the first of the Project 25A corvettes, armed with 16 Urans (bottom left). INS Agray P36, 1241PE anti-submarine ship of 23 Patrol Vessel Sqn (above).

 

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The Auxiliaries

 

The Indian Navy's new fleet tankers Aditya A59 (top) and Jyoti A58 (bottom). A59 was built at GRSE, Calcutta and commissioned in 2000. A59 was acquired from Russia in 1995

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P51_small.JPG (8836 bytes) INS Subhadra P51, part of the presidential column, seen here with media and guests. Note the Ajanta EW antenna atop the mast (left). INS Porbandar M62, SMN class (Natya) minesweeper of 19 MCM Squadron, Western Fleet (right). Six are based at Mumbai.
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INS Magar, LST(L). Built by GRSE, Calcutta, she can carry 15 Vijayanta MBT and several other vehicles (left). Survey ship Nirdeshak and Marine Acoustic Research Ship Sagardhwani (right).

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The Coast Guard

CGS Sarang (left), an advanced OPV built at Goa SY. The CG is a very professional service, perhaps in part because it is small. Dorniers from the CG Air Sqn No. 750 (left). The CG now has two female aviators flying Dorniers. A line up of CG and naval ships (below).

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Naval Aviation

Kiran Mk1 and Mk2 from the 551A 'Phantoms' Squadron (left). Seen here are two of three mighty Tu-142Ms, which flew in from Arrakonam, near Madras. These planes are being upgraded with new EW suite, sensors, comms equipment and other weapons (right).

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nas315_small.JPG (3799 bytes) Seaking 42B of 330, 336 sqns and 42C from the Marine Cdo Flight. 42B is used for Asuw and ASW roles while Mk42C is used for commando transport roles (right). Il-38 are also being upgraded, much like the Tu-142's (left). NAS330-336_small.JPG (5288 bytes)
nas310_small.JPG (3992 bytes) The Navy's 310 Cobras Sqn used for IW  roles. These Dorniers are now painted gray instead of the standard blue and white (left).A single Ka-25 from 333 Sqn and 3 Ka-28 from 339 Sqn (right). nas333-339_small.JPG (4160 bytes)

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PASSEX

Lookout on the Gomati. Regarless of all of the electronic navigation aids, there is no substitute for a set of Mk 1 eyeballs looking through a pair of binoculars. Note the 7.62 mm light machine gun. These are used for close in defensive work and for detonating mines if necessary. Four of these LMG are mounted on the bridge wings (left).

Naval ships traditionally pipe each other when passing. A sailor pipes and an officer salutes. The junior ship salutes the senior ship. Seniority is by rank of seniormost officer on board (right).

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passex3-1_small.JPG (16626 bytes) A line of missile boats, RSS Endurance, IRIS Alvand and KNS Shujaa behind the INS Gomati. Note the AK230 gun mount. passex3-2_small.JPG (14737 bytes)
passex4-2_small.JPG (11386 bytes) Missile boat going past the Gomati. Note the missile launchers on the foc'sle of the Gomati. passex4-1_small.JPG (10786 bytes)

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A Chetak from Sqn 321 being stowed aboard the Gomati. The Gomati, as shot by the author, from the chopper (right). More shots from the chopper, below.(left to right) viewfrom-helo1-gomati_small.JPG (7112 bytes)

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All photos by Mrityunjoy Mazumdar, Bharat Rakshak. Do not reproduce without permission. Bharat Rakshak wishes to thank the Indian Navy and the organizers for offering unparalled media access and making this feature possible.

Copyright Bharat Rakshak 2001