By Capt DK Sharma
President Ram Nath Kovind, the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, will award the President’s Colours’ to Indian Naval Aviation in recognition of the yeoman service rendered by Naval Aviation over the past seven decades. The ceremony is scheduled on September 06 at INS Hansa, Goa. The historic occasion reaffirms position of Naval Aviation as a critical arm of the Indian Navy.
The texture of ‘Battle at Sea’ is fast changing with the rapid advancements of technology. Surveillance of the large ‘Area of Interest/ Area of Responsibility’ (AOI/AOR) is a daunting task and the naval air arm today is well equipped to undertake the task. Providing battle space transparency, aviation platforms are primarily the first responders to any situation. Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya with the integral complement of MiG-29K’s and Air Early Warning Kamov (KM 31) along with shore based Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft have completely integrated into our operational ethos, successfully deploying during recent heightened tensions in 2020. Looking forward, the modern fleet of ship-borne helicopters, carrier-based fighters, maritime reconnaissance aircraft and remotely piloted aircraft systems make Naval Aviation a key and potent element of the IN’s operational assets.
In pursuit of being the ‘Preferred Security Partner and ‘First Responder’ in IOR, the Indian Navy has met regional commitments which has strengthened diplomatic ties with friends and partners in the lndo-Pacific. Maintaining high operational readiness through Covid-19, naval aviation has played a key role through deployments across our Areas of Interest.
The liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971 was a ‘watershed moment’ in the history of the IN. The aircraft carrier, Vikrant was effectively deployed on the eastern seaboard. The carrier-borne aircraft played a crucial role in the eastern sector where the IN achieved a complete blockade of East Pakistan. Over 291 combat missions were flown by the carrier air wing which played a major role in the liberation of Bangladesh. Additionally, helicopters from Western Naval Command were part of the longest coordinated ASW operation off the coast of Kathiawar. Naval aviation has been awarded with one Mahavir Chakra, six Vir Chakras, one Kirti Chakra, seven Shaurya Chakras, one Yudh Seva Medal and a large number of Nao Sena Medals (Gallantry)over the years, highlighting the commitment of the arm to the nation.
Naval aviation has not just proved its mettle in war, but has also been at the forefront of numerous Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. It has provided relief to our countrymen as well as crucial assistance to numerous countries of the IOR and beyond. Natural calamities like the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004and numerous cyclones including the recent cyclone Tauktae in May 21 are perfect examples where Indian naval aircraft coordinated with ships under extremely challenging conditions to save invaluable lives. During the COVID 19 pandemic, air assets were a key instrument of India’s COVID outreach, delivering assistance to our maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region.
Indian Naval Aviation came into being with the acquisition of the Sealand aircraft in 1951 and commissioning of Naval Air Station Garuda in 1953. Consolidating over the years, the Navy today has 24 squadrons and numerous ashore and afloat Flights. Today, Naval Aviation has become a truly balanced all round force capable of operating across the full spectrum of naval operations. The Navy also has the distinction of operating Aircraft Carrier since 1961. The Indian Navy today, is on the cusp of inducting the Vikrant, the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier.
(The author is an Indian Navy Veteran and former spokesperson of the Indian Navy, Ministry of Defence. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)
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