Onboard INS Vikrant: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Monday reviewed India’s maritime security challenges with the top naval commanders onboard the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in the Arabian Sea, amid China’s burgeoning military posturing in the Indian Ocean region.
As the 43,000-tonne steel behemoth, accompanied by a fleet of over 20 frontline frigates, destroyers and submarines, sailed across the high seas, the defence minister, sitting inside the Main Briefing Room of the nearly 262-metre long and 59-metre tall ship, complimented the naval commanders for fiercely protecting India’s maritime interests in the strategic waters.
Before addressing the commanders at the biannual naval conference, Singh, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Anil Chauhan, Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar and other naval commanders witnessed a mega wargame involving Vikrant, the accompanying ships and almost all attack aircraft including MiG-29K deck-based jets.
“It is a historic occasion,” Admiral Kumar said.
The Chief of Naval Staff said all policy decisions, acquisition-related matters and force planning are being discussed at the commanders’ conference.
“The aim of the conference is to review what are the challenges, where we stand, what are the gaps and how we can take things forward,” he told reporters.
The assets which were deployed during Monday’s drills included warships from the Eastern as well as Western fleets.
Officials said the wargame marked the end of the three-month-long Tropex exercise, billed as the largest ever such drill carried out by the Navy, that was launched in December to test the force’s overall operational capability in view of the evolving regional security matrix.
Two prototypes of the naval variant of indigenously-built Light Combat Aircraft also demonstrated their swift landing on the deck of the sprawling aircraft carrier that was commissioned into the Navy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September last.
The decision to hold the first phase of the commanders’ conference onboard INS Vikrant is a “pretty significant move,” a top military official said hinting that it is a power projection in the face of Chinese assertiveness.
Built at a cost of around Rs 23,000 crore, INS Vikrant has a sophisticated air defence network and anti-ship missile systems.
It has the capacity to hold 30 fighter jets and helicopters.
At the commissioning ceremony of the vessel, Prime Minister Modi called it a “floating city” and said that it is a reflection of India becoming self-reliant in defence.
The flight deck of the carrier is equal to almost two football grounds, said an official.
The official said the conference will carry its own significance and relevance in view of the prevailing geostrategic situation in the region.
The second day’s conference will take place in Goa.
The next phase of the conference will be held in Delhi a few days later.
The conference serves as a platform for naval commanders to discuss important security issues at the military-strategic level as well as interact with senior government functionaries under an institutionalised framework.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen Anil Chauhan, Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande and Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari will also interact with the naval commanders to address the convergence of the three services vis-a-vis a common operational environment.
During the conference, naval commanders would also be provided with an update on the implementation of the Agnipath scheme.
The first batch of ‘naval Agniveers’ including the first group of women recruits under the scheme, is scheduled to pass out from INS Chilka in March-end.
The Navy said the commanders’ conference would be a significant one and that it will delve into the challenges facing India in the maritime domain.
“The Indian Navy remains focused on being a combat-ready, credible, cohesive and future-proof force and continues to assiduously execute its mandate as the maritime security guarantor of the country,” the Navy said in a statement Sunday.
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