The might and long reach of the Indian Navy that moves on to be a blue water force was on display before the nation at the Presidential Fleet Review undertaken by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil off the Mumbai coast on Tuesday.
Sailing on INS Subhadra, the designated presidential yacht, President Ms. Patil had a glimpse of the punch and power the Indian Navy has acquired since the first edition of the review in 1953 when President Rajendra Prasad was saluted by crew of 25 warships, 7 yard craft and one merchant vessel. On Tuesday crew aboard 81 warships including the country's only aircraft carrier INS Viraat signed off the 10th edition doffing off their caps in honour of the dignitary.
The show started amid hazy conditions but the weather could not take the sheen away from the impressive sight of warships lined across a strip of 20 square nautical miles leading Ms. Patil to acknowledge: “it is, indeed, a majestic sight to see our Navy's ships, submarines and aircraft in their entire splendour...today, the Indian Navy is one of the most capable in the region and with its well thought out modernisation plans, is destined to grow even further''.
Addressing the gathering at the end of the 120-minute display that also saw participation by aircraft of the Indian Navy and the Coast Guards, its vessels and representative ships of the Shipping Corporation of India and the Sea Cadet Corps Ms. Patil expressed confidence that the fleet would meet any challenge that may threaten the maritime security of the country in future.
“The Indian Navy has grown in strength and stature over the last decade. The launch of the nuclear submarine Arihant, and induction of the indigenously built Shivalik Class frigates are an reflection of the capability of our shipyards and technological competence of our personnel. The Navy, today, is poised to achieve new milestones with the imminent induction of the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, the Kolkata Class stealth destroyers, the follow-on frigates of the Talwar Class, the indigenous ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) Corvettes and an impressive number of submarines and aircraft. Today, the Indian Navy is one of the most capable in the region and with its well thought out modernization plans, is destined to grow even further'', she said.
The Presidential Fleet Review is a tradition that Indian Navy inherited from the Royal British Navy and reminding of the link was aircraft carrier INS Viraat, known in its early avtaar as HMS Hermes that was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1987, some 28 after the British first inducted it into service. While the aircraft carrier was one of the last of the vessels from the British era on display, at the other of the spectrum were indigenously built ships of Shivalik and Shardul class that took part for the first time in the review.
INS Deepak and INS Shakti, the two latest fleet tankers built in Italy and inducted into service recently show the long legs of the Indian Navy designed as they are to provide fuel, water and logistic support to blue-water combatants marked their presence by sheer size.
The aerial power of the maritime forces came up for display with 20 helicopters and 22 aircraft including the latest fourth generation fighter MiG29K that would go aboard the second aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) currently being readied in Russian shipyard for scheduled delivery by end-2012.
Besides the conventional challenges for a country that depends heavily on sea for its trade, Ms. Patil also mentioned of the emerging threat from piracy that has led the Indian Navy to take an active role in anti-piracy missions since 2008.