Indian Navy on extensive western deployment

A squadron of four ships is on an extensive tour of ports in the Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The ships will also conduct major exercises with Russia, the UK and France.

S hips from the Indian Navy’s western fleet are on a four-month long deployment, with engagements planned with navies of countries on the route to and from the Baltic Sea.

The advance ship, the Indian guided missile frigate INS (Indian Naval Ship) Beas left Mumbai on April 27, 2009 and reached Djibouti on May 4, leaving port on May 7, after conducting with their navy, what is known as a Passage Exercise (PassEx) It reached Port Suez on May 10, and Port Said on May, 11.

It then headed west in the Mediterranean Sea, reaching Algiers on May 17, and conducted a PassEx with the Algerian Navy till May 20, where it conducted logistics training exercises at sea.

It then headed straight to the North Sea, reaching Rotterdam on May 26 and conducted a PassEx with the Royal Dutch Navy, departing on May 29.

The INS Beas is scheduled to reach St. Petersburg on Wednesday, June 3 and will stay till Sunday, June 7 conducting exercises with the Russian Navy. The Indo-Russian naval exercise INDRA-2009 was cut short in January this year due to unavailability of the full complement of the Russian Navy. The Indian Navy has earlier conducted combined anti-piracy operations with the Russian and French navies in the Gulf of Aden, which included the participation of the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov that has since been replaced in the region by the Admiral Panteleyev, which is also an Udaloy Class Anti Submarine Destroyer.

“Engagement with the Russian Navy is considered significant as it has recommenced naval procurement. During the days of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Navy was seen as the filter of procurement choice for the Indian Navy, as their procurement was robust and of high quality. Now since they have started buying again, we want to know what they’re buying, how it works and how well it performs,” one senior naval officer told StratPost.

It will then reach Bremerhaven on the following Friday, June 12 and participate in a PassEx with the German Navy till June 15, then arriving at Portsmouth on June 17 when it will rendezvous with the rest of the deployment that will reach there the same day.

“Being in touch with the German Navy is important too. Germany is a major manufacturer of naval platforms and equipment. They make submarines, torpedoes, gyros etc. It’s smart to see what others have, especially since this could be of interest to us,” says the officer.

The other three ships include the guided missile destroyer INS Delhi, the guided missile frigate INS Brahmaputra of which the INS Beas is a sister ship and the supply tanker INS Aditya.

These three ships slipped their moorings in Mumbai on May 13, 2009 and reached Jeddah on May 22, leaving on May 25 after conducting joint exercises with the Royal Saudi Navy.

The ships then sailed to Massawa in Eritrea were berthed there from May 21 to May 24. “This is part of a well-thought out plan of balancing maritime interests in the region. The Saudis, Yemenis, Ethiopians and Eritreans don’t really like each other that much. Tensions could lead to a vacuum in the area. So the Indian Navy visits Eritrea and the Indian Army visits Ethiopia,” says the senior naval source

After reaching Port Said on May 28, the deployment split up with the INS Brahmaputra reaching Haifa in Israel on May 30 and conducting a PassEx with the Israeli Navy. “Israel has obviously become quite important to us in recent times. The INS Brahmaputra also carries the Israeli Barak system,” the source tells StratPost.

The INS Delhi and INS Aditya, on their part, reached the Turkish Naval Base at Aksaz on Sunday, May 31 to conduct a PassEx with the Turkish Navy till Wednesday, June 3. “Engagement with the Turks has become significant because of their strong ties with Pakistan. We’re just there to see if we like each other and want to engage. If not, well, nice meeting you,” he says.

The three ships will rendezvous on June 4 and again splitting up will head towards Tripoli (June 7-June 10) and Naples (June 8-June 11). “Fincantieri is building a couple of our tankers. We’ll be engaging with the Cavour AC,” says the officer.

They will then rendezvous on June 12 and then head to the UK reaching Portsmouth on June 17 staying till June 20.

The four ships will then participate in the joint Indo-UK naval exercise Konkan from June 20 to June 25, to be held south of the British Isles in the Atlantic. The British Royal Navy will field two guided missile frigates, the HMS Westminster and the HMS Lancaster, a nuclear-powered submarine (SSN) HMS Trafalgar, two Royal Fleet Auxiliaries (RFAs) (supply ships) the RFA Fort Rosalie and RFA Mounts Bay. The Royal Navy will also field ship-borne rotary wing aircraft, the Merlin and Lynx in addition to assets of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Fleet Air Arm, which will include the Nimrod and Hawk aircraft.

“The Royal Navy has this interesting concept of RFAs. These ships are not part of the navy and are manned by a mixture of civilian and naval personnel,” points out the naval officer.

Konkan 2009 will include drills involving special operations, especially focusing on EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) diving, surface warfare and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) operations. “The British are very, very good at ASW operations. They’re probably better at it than the US Navy. So it’s always good to be part of an exercise where you can see them do their thing. Also, those seas have different waters, different hydrologies and different shipping densities. So it’s a good learning experience practicing our own tactics there as well as engaging with the British,” he says.

The Indian Naval Ships will then head to Brest in France, docking there from the June 27 to June 30, after which the four ships will participate in the joint Indo-French naval exercise Varuna, which will end on July 4.

The French Navy will field the Primauguet, the Le Henaff, the nuclear-powered submarine (SSN) Emeraude, Atlantique, Nimrod, Lynx, Super Etendard and Rafale aircraft.

The squadron will then split up heading to Lisbon (July 8-July 11) and conducting a PassEx with the Portuguese Navy, to Tangier (July 9-July 12) and conducting a PassEx with the Moroccan Navy, and to Malaga (July 9-July 12) holding a PassEx with the Spanish Navy.

The squadron will rendezvous on July 12 to split up again and visit Athens (July 18- July 21), Alexandria (July 19-July 22) and rendezvousing again at Port Said on July 22 after a PassEx with the Egyptian Navy. After Port Suez on July 23, the squadron will reach Salalah in Oman on July 30 and conduct a PassEx with Oman, heading for Mumbai on August 2 to reach their home port on August 6.

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Follow Saurabh Joshi on Twitter @ http://www.twitter.com/saurabhjoshi Saurabh is a journalist based in New Delhi, India who has worked in print, television as well as internet news media. Besides defense and strategy, his past assignments have included reporting from Kashmir, coverage of terror strikes as well as election coverage from all over India. He has a Bachelors degree in Journalism (Honors) as well as a law degree (LLB), both from the University of Delhi.
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