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The 50th anniversary of the Harpoons also marks the 50th anniversary since the last war.

Commodore G Prakash (Retd)



April 17, 2021, marks the Golden Jubilee of one of the most important Air Squadrons of the Indian Navy, the Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 330. With the commissioning of this Squadron on 17 April 1971 at INS Garuda at Kochi, six brand new Seaking Mk 42 helicopters that had arrived from the UK a few months before the 1971 war, got a formal unit. On that occasion, the Squadron also got its official Crest, duly approved by the President of India. The Crest shows a writhing shark that symbolises an enemy submarine, in the last throes of its painful demise, with a blood laden harpoon impaling it. The surprised shark looks up to see its killer, but sees only the menacing golden wing of the Fleet Air Arm attached to the head of the harpoon. Fittingly, the Squadron and the people who serve there are referred to as Harpoons.


I had the privilege of becoming a Harpoon in 1990 and I was lucky to be there at the right time in history. The world’s most lethal multirole helicopters (MRH) then, the Seaking Mk 42Bs, had just replaced their older cousins, the ones that came in 1971, and there was an unbelievable air of invincibility at sea, centred around the mother squadron, INAS 330. With more Seakings available on the Godavari class ships, each of which carried two Seakings, the Arabian Sea was reduced to a pond. The new Seakings, rightly called Flying Frigates, were real force multipliers. Today as INAS 330 reaches its 50th birthday, there are too many great memories for a large number of people to cherish. Memories of personally experiencing virtually every major element of warfare at sea.

The most exhilarating memories are of hunting submarines. This is done best, hovering about 50 feet above the waves, even on rainy, moonless nights. Hunting, done in complete darkness, straining every nerve to recognise weak metallic echoes from a submarine, through the dull noise of the huge helicopter seeping in through our tight-fitting helmets, gazing at various electronic displays, manipulating many controls, communicating within the aircraft and with the rest of the Fleet in short spurts and all this, with the promise of sure disaster, in case something went wrong with the aircraft. With shared danger of this kind come, memories galore, of brilliant friendships and lifelong bonding too. Being there, during the most golden period of the squadron in its fifty years, was a rare fortune.

But milestones in history have limited use if they are treated only as occasions for reliving the glories of the past and revelling in them. Milestones are better used for reflection, for learning from the past and for using the lessons of the past for charting the way ahead. Here is an attempt at that.


Beginnings are important. The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) was a small coastal force for seaward defence duties. The larger role of defending India, was looked after by the Royal Navy (RN), with RN Fleets at Trincomalee and Singapore and a small squadron at Bahrain. So, Indian Officers in the RIN had limited experience in the larger aspects of maritime warfare. To complicate matters, the small RIN had to be apportioned between the new born Indian and Pakistani navies. This included personnel too, thus further diluting the indigenous naval talent available at independence. Senior indigenous naval leadership, capable of high-level policy making was absent in 1947, as under the British, Indians had started becoming Officers of the executive branch only in the 1930s. Naturally, we had to depend on the British for advice in the beginning. That was a peculiar situation. It was akin to a freshly divorced husband advising his ex-wife on living her future life well. The ex-husband was sure to protect his interests. The British as a country was no different. They did try to palm off some of their not-so-great platforms to us, for commercial gains.

But several British Officers on loan to the IN showed integrity. For instance, Commodore D.W. Kirke, the Chief of Naval Aviation, whose opposition enabled IN to acquire the brand new French ASW Reconnaissance Alize for Vikrant, over the old and difficult to maintain, British Garnett. This was one of the first episodes of an amazing capability that India has shown since independence, the ability to take autonomous strategic decisions, based purely on its own interests. Many times have India surprised those who sat smug, assuming that they had India in their pocket. Perils of taking old civilisations for granted perhaps. But bridges too are never burnt. Just when someone is upset at a lost business opportunity, there would be a purchase from them, to bring cheer. Wisdom of old civilisations, perhaps. Big ticket deals are never easy for any government. Goodwill has to be spread around, mainly as cash. 

The helicopter story for Vikrant, which starts with the smaller ones for Search and Rescue (SAR) was no different. The British tried to sell their Dragonfly, but India chose the French Alouette. The Dragonflies were older in technology, more difficult to maintain and more expensive than the ultra-modern French Alouettes. True to form, this didn’t prevent IN from getting the next big thing, in fact one of the most important elements of airpower at sea, MRH, from Britain. They had the 10 Ton Seaking Mk 42s, the most capable Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopter in the world then. The Seakings were so new, that they entered service with the IN, almost immediately after they entered service with the RN.


Post WW-II, the world was seeing frenetic efforts at developing ASW. The terrible losses German submarines had forced on the Allied Forces during the two World Wars was not the only reason. With the Cold War getting colder and the USSR basing their offensive capabilities majorly on submarines, the ASW situation was getting serious. Ironically, the credit for making the most reliable helicopter went to a Russian, Igor Sikorsky, whose ‘S 6A’ helicopter won him glowing accolades at a military competition held at Saint Petersburg in 1912. He was just 23. In 1919 he became a US citizen, founded the Sikorsky Corporation and went into making one of the most successful series of helicopters in the world. Talk of nations attracting talent. Westland Helicopters Limited (WHL), UK, bought a licence from Sikorsky and began to produce one of the most successful maritime helicopters in the world. Talk of nations buying the right technology and turning it into a great business model.

With the US loaning a submarine, USS Diablo, to Pakistan in 1963, IN had a new enemy to think of. That this came immediately after the 1962 debacle was bad news. Two years later, when Diablo, renamed Ghazi, claimed some diabolic action off the Saurashtra coast in the 1965 war, there was reason to take notice. To quote Admiral GM Hiranandani, the erstwhile official historian of the Indian Navy, ‘the acquisition of new French Daphne class submarines by the Pakistan Navy increased the urgency of acquiring Anti-Submarine helicopters. In 1968, a proposal was made for acquiring 12 Seakings. Sanction for the acquisition of six Seakings was accorded in 1969 and in 1970 an order was placed for their delivery in 1971. Concurrently an order was also placed for the acquisition of the MK 44 homing torpedoes.’ Talk of buying the best, to cater for the worst.


Catering for the worst, is more than just buying the best. There are many more aspects to it. As per Adm Hiranandani, after acceptance trials in the UK, our helicopters were utilised to train our aircrew in the UK. The first batch (of crew) returned to Kochi in April 1971. On arrival, all access to the Seakings and their documentation was restricted on a ‘need to know’ basis, (never a great idea when war looms). The second batch, after tactical training at the British Naval Air Station at Culdrose, reported directly to Mumbai in October 1971, two months before the war started.

ASW helicopters are best employed from ships, as an integral resource deployable at will. But when they arrived in 1971, they could have operated only from Vikrant, because the world itself had not got around to operating helicopters from smaller ships. Vikrant having been earmarked for operations on the East Coast where submarine threat was assumed to be lesser than on the West coast, the Seakings remained ashore. That PNS Ghazi finally met her end outside Visakhapatnam harbour, ostensibly while lying in wait for Vikrant, is an eternal reminder of the perils of assumptions and even careful assessments about enemy intentions in war.

When Naval Headquarters at Delhi signalled the likelihood of a pre-emptive Pakistan strike on 14 October, four Seakings were moved from Kochi to Mumbai. However, the use of the Seakings was defensive and lustreless. Official Naval history has this to say. ‘Due to their newness and shortages of technical equipment, they were not utilised to their full potential during the 1971 War. It took another two years for the Seaking’s potential to be fully realised.’ In the war per se, Pakistani submarine threat was assessed to be serious off the Gujarat coast and FOC in C West decided to deploy the 14th Frigate Squadron along with the Seakings operating from Mumbai to eliminate the submarine threat off Diu. The Seaking helicopters were to operate in the southern sector of the search area closer to Mumbai and thereby have longer Time on Task.’

As it turned out, we lost INS Khukri to a submarine in the area. It emerged that the Seakings could have been better utilised operating from Diu but they were considered to be defenceless if attacked by Pakistani aircraft. The Navy asked itself many questions and found honest answers for future use. One among them was that ‘since the Daphne class submarine›s anti-ship capability was known to be superior to our ASW capability, should the ASW operation have been launched at all?’ Happily, ‘the consensus was that in war, it is unacceptable to let an enemy submarine threaten you on your doorstep – it has to be hunted.’ That is an eternal lesson for those in the field, for those who control operations from shore, for those who build and run navies and for those who provide for the whole enterprise. The man in the field will fight with what is at hand. It is everyone’s duty to enable him in doing his job.


Between May and October 1971, the Seakings were used to train aircrew and ground crew. Meanwhile, the Tactical School (now Maritime Warfare Centre) at Kochi studied Seaking’s capabilities and limitations, for promulgation of preliminary Tactical Instructions. While promulgating these instructions, NHQ consulted the crew available in India, which was the first group of crew that had received only familiarisation flying at UK. As this group had only limited information of operational use, the preliminary evaluation was to prove misleading. Further, the Tactical School’s Seaking books were given high security classification, causing the people who mattered, remaining ignorant of the aircraft’s potential.


With four wars in the first 27 years of existence, the government and the armed forces had learnt good lessons. The government became aware of the importance of ensuring strong military capabilities, balancing the money available, with the myriad requirements of an impoverished country emerging from colonialism. Unavoidable gaps in military capability had to be bridged through other means like diplomacy and foreign policy. The result was there for the world to see. The 1980s saw a virtual explosion of naval capabilities and this reflected on the Fleet Air Arm too. The mighty Seaking Mk 42Bs, were an important part of that great capability surge in the Indian Navy.

In the decade after the 1971 war, the Indian Navy carefully charted out options for all round upgradation of military equipment, and some much-required indigenisation. In the field of MRH, it was to be a two-pronged approach. For indigenisation, HAL was to first make a smaller MRH to develop skills and confidence. A larger one could follow later. Meanwhile, to meet operational needs, some MRH were to be imported. The choice fell again on Seakings. But this time, there was a difference. As I have written elsewhere, the aircraft was to be equipped with state-of-the-art Weapons, Sensors, Communication systems, Navigation systems and most importantly, a Tactical Mission System (TMS) to integrate everything so that operating them becomes humanly possible. The mix was eclectic. Air to Surface Missiles (British Sea Eagle), Torpedoes (Italian A244S), Depth Charge Mk 11 (Indian), Radar (British), Dunking Sonar (French), ESM (Italian), Sonobuoy System (British), Tactical Air Navigation System (British), V/UHF & HF Communication systems (USA) and a British TMS.

This was the first time anyone was attempting to integrate this stupendous mix of capabilities into one helicopter. The best part was that this entire architecture was designed by India, to be executed by WHL.

The 42Bs arrived in India between 1988 and 1990 through possibly the best ever induction process. The planning, placement of a core team in UK for almost five years, extensive training of over thirty air crew and adequate ground crew in UK, timely creation of infrastructure in India, preparation of training facilities and material, and subsequent utilisation of the core team from UK on their return to India, were without blemish. The golden decade that followed, was natural.


India’s nuclear test in 1998 brought on US sanctions. The linkages of globalisation created echoes of it elsewhere too. Maintenance support for which we were dependent on the British, was now unavailable. Unfortunately, the indigenous development of a good MRH had also faltered. The Fleet Air Arm had to re-adjust. The Harpoons now had the tough job of continuing to fly their aircraft, using every trick in the book. It was more than just tricks in the book. There was much raw courage too. A mature service also did its best to make things as comfortable as possible.

True to form, the man on the field did his best, with what was at hand. The Harpoons experimented, adapted, reoriented, added on several equipment, unlearnt some lessons and continued to remain operationally credible. They continued to execute some incredible Rescue Missions, picking up distraught people from stricken ships, burning platforms, sinking boats, flooded areas and high-rise buildings. They delivered supplies to disaster hit areas and continued to provide service beyond their logical capabilities. The rich pedigree of the Harpoons motivated them to continue to shine.


After two decades of straining to perform their classical role, the Harpoons are poised at the threshold of yet another beginning. Later this year, they expect to receive the third wave of MRH in their history, 24 MH 60 R helicopters from the US, again, from the Sikorsky family. While the $3 billion India will pay for these helicopters is big, even bigger, is going to be the operational gains for IN. As the Harpoons are poised to receive their new birds, there are several questions to be asked to ensure that old lessons are not lost sight of. Have the good aspects of the induction of the 42Bs been replicated? Have provisions been made to avoid the mistakes made with the utilisation of the first lot? Have we put a plan in place for the indigenous development of a MRH that can soon join the new MH 60Rs? That is critical, as the real need for MRH is much beyond the 24 contracted for.

No friendship is permanent. What is white today, can turn black tomorrow. Meanwhile, the enemy is busy proliferating submarines. There is not much time left, for a carefully considered reorientation. But here, we miss a great teacher. War. The 50th anniversary of the Harpoons also marks the 50th anniversary since the last war. That calls for much study of history. Meanwhile, the Harpoons continue to remain sharp, ready to surprise lurking sharks, whatever the odds.

Commodore G. Prakash, Nau Sena Medal, served the Indian Navy for 35 years. A specialist in aviation and anti-submarine warfare, he has held several command and staff appointments at sea and ashore. He has been speaking and writing on military and strategic affairs for long. He is available at gp1064@gmail.com.

With four wars in the first 27 years of existence, the government and the armed forces had learnt good lessons. The government became aware of the importance of ensuring strong military capabilities, balancing the money available, with the myriad requirements of an impoverished country emerging from colonialism. Unavoidable gaps in military capability had to be bridged through other means like diplomacy and foreign policy.

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit



The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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