When we were commissioned in the mid-eighties the Osa class Killer Boats were the stuff of legend. They would be nestling together, usually at the Barrack wharf or the Cruiser wharf, and one spoke reverentially about their hallowed past. We also admired their squadron culture which engendered a feeling of loyalty among all Killers and envied the fact that their in-living officers stayed in Command Mess, then the Mecca for all bachelors. However, even then, it was becoming clear that they were getting on in age and, while they were coping with it gracefully, the signs were visible. While the josh was high, obsolescence along with limited sea legs and suboptimal habitability meant that the Navy needed a newer generation of missile boats — one that carried the spirit of the pioneers but were more contemporary in design and warfighting abilities.
The Naval Headquarters paying heed to this need decided on the Soviet Tarantul class missile corvettes as the replacement. These came to be known as the 1241 RE after the project or the Veer class (for a while) in India after the first one to be so commissioned in March 1987. Nirbhik, Nipat, Nishank and Nirghat followed INS Veer in quick succession. It must be remembered that the period between 1985 and 1990 was a particularly important one with regard to our hardware and platforms as the Navy practically had a new inventory. The last two SNFs, the last two G class, the aircraft carrier Viraat, Khukri class, LST M, Magar, the EKM and SSKs, the TU 142s, the 1241 REs and PEs, almost all of them were inducted into the service in this half decade plus. So, it was an exciting time to be in the Navy and to be young in it was very heaven (with apologies to William Wordsworth). Thus, in early 1989, when we were doing our PCT for minesweepers in Kochi many of our course mates were selected as the Commissioning crew of Nishank and Nirghat and as the first change crew for the first three ships.
Suddenly, the “balance of power” had shifted and the REs were the new queens of the ramp. To be selected as their crew was prestigious and we were, understandably, envious. Of course, most of those selected were ‘hotshots’ and it seemed that the best talent was being earmarked for these ships. The earlier OSA class of the 25th Killer Squadron continued to serve with distinction — in fact the last of them were decommissioned in the first decade of this century — but it was clear that it was now the 22nd Killer Squadron or 22 KS where the action was. For officers of my and subsequent generations, it is the Killers 2.0 that have been more visible, more operational and occupying a bigger space in our mindscape. And now, as they too have begun to be retired from service, with few of them decommissioned already, it is perhaps right to doff our caps in tribute to them.
It may seem ironical coming from a man who has never served on the Veer class ships — my closest brush with the REs was when there were galley packets in Vizag of my being appointed as K 22 after my tenure as CO Jalashwa; they were just as quickly dismissed by the originator of the rumours on the grounds that as I had not served on them earlier I was not qualified to be the ‘Kay’. I felt that this Catch-22 situation was unfair and in any case no fault of mine but one has no way of dispelling such gossip or machinations where people on the field plan appointments and transfers blissfully unknown to the P branch. But, on balance, it may be just right that someone who is not a ‘Killer cowboy’ writes about these ships because it would seem impartial and without bias. In the 25 to 30 years that they have served the Navy and nation it would be fair to say that the 22nd Killer squadron ships have a rich catalogue of achievements. While the country has fortunately not seen a full-fledged war since 1971, our volatile neighbourhood has necessitated several war-ready deployments, most particularly during Op Vijay (Kargil) in 1999 and Op Parakram in 2002.
On both these occasions many of my contemporaries were in Command or XOs, so one got a feel of readiness and adrenaline flowing through these ships. I am also sure that on several other occasions in the early nineties when the security situation was fraught, later post-26/11, and more recently in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Pathankot and Uri and our strikes in Balakot, as well as post abrogation of Article 370, when our western neighbour made threatening noises, the ships of this class would have been called to duty and first to respond. In fact, on account of their ideal mix of firepower, habitability, speed and flexibility these ships have been the first responders where maritime security imperatives have necessitated swift and commensurate deployment. One or two REs forward deployed in our areas of interest or ports to render both offensive punch and defensive assurance has provided force multiplier effect to our operational posture. In fact, it can well be said that these ships have played an invaluable part in sustaining peace and to keep the conflict possibilities below a certain threshold. While a latterday historian would undoubtedly ferret out the many and multisplendoured missions and activities of this squadron — there were 16 ships at their peak strength — it would be safe to surmise that they did much else besides providing terrific firepower and quick deployment options. I clearly remember that they were deployed to provide succour and relief in Gujarat after the massive earthquake in 2001 and did a stellar job. Despite their relatively limited sea legs they have also shown our flag at few places and they have been used in SAR/HADR missions too whenever such requirements arose. I vividly recollect the SAR for the Seaking that had crashed off Mumbai in 1990, my ship Alleppey was amongst the earliest at scene of action but one of the REs — either Nipat or Nirbhik — was already there and, in fact, the first one to locate the debris. One of the REs — Prahar — was also involved in the joint Navy-CG operation to capture the pirated ship Alondra Rainbow, in October 1999.
And this is simply a quick and random recollection. While this fact has not been given much credit, I also think that these ships did much for the Navy’s public diplomacy efforts. Since they gave us the options to deploy them at various small and minor ports, whether as part of our operational design or for testing OTR facilities or proving forward basing or for Navy week activities, they, naturally, were visited by government officials, port authorities, local media, citizens and the aam aadmi and thus developed a natural affinity with the ports visited and people there. This furthered awareness about Navy in these far-flung places. There were also several other things that these ships brought into the mix. I can think of three important ones. The first was that they incubated excellence and represented the very best of the Navy at the junior leadership level. To be selected as the CO of a 1241 RE as a Lt Cdr signified that you were the crème de la crème in your batch. Similarly, to be the XO or GO (fresh from Long G at Dronacharya as first appointment) or non-specialist NO or EO or LO on these ships meant you were ahead of the pack. This had a domino effect wherein anyone posted on these ships, even if not the topper variety now aspired and worked hard to get there.
Second, as a consequence of the above, these ships and officers always exhibited high levels of professionalism, derring-do and bonhomie. This peculiar alchemy of professional and personal attributes meant that these ships often punched above their weight be it in fleet exercises or sports fixtures. Despite the small size of their crew and minuscule number of officers, their versatility, josh and fierce sense of exceptionalism earned them many awards and kudos. This was particularly marked during exercises at sea with fleet ships when the station keeping or gunnery exercises or reactionex serials often found these little fellas besting their big bros. This was also seen in sharp focus when the FOCWEF and FOMA often were arranged on opposite sides of tactical exercises and the REs not only provided the latter with firepower but much frisson and chutzpah. Third, this also led to some valuable professional and operational inputs and advances. Most of the senior commissioning crew of the first few boats were those who had earlier done tenures on other Soviet ships. The REs added to their knowledge of the Ruski doctrines, tactics, SOPs.
This, in turn, contributed to the broad stream of understanding Russian Operational Art and consequently into integrating that with our own approach, largely derived from the British. While our tryst with the Russian hardware started in the late sixties, it could be argued that the integration of Russian, Western and Indian platforms, tactics, even traditions reached their peak in the late eighties and early nineties when we had adequate numbers in our inventory from all sources. The REs and their officers played a vital role in this, not least because the sixth ship (Vidyut) onwards were built in Indian shipyards on the Soviet design but with progressive improvements. The REs, thus, contributed a great deal to our Continuing Professional Education. They were also often the launch pads for innovation. The use of IGLA SAM to add to antiair capability is a case in instance and I am sure there are more that those who served on them will recollect. They also happened to be pioneers in network-centric operations in our Navy courtesy the tech innovations carried out by B.S. Ahluwalia, J.T. Mundekel and M.P. Anil Kumar — X officers all — which then worked as the template for the rest of our Navy.
A lot of this spirit and talent was also evident in the many Killer nights or in the fine annual journal ‘First Strike’ or in the conception of Light and Sound Show or in the maintenance of our heritage structures along the Caste Ramparts which was their den or the many in-house talks, seminars and workshops they used to conduct (now alas a fading tradition). And, above everything, the fierce Killer spirit that pervaded them all. It was as though they belonged to a separate breed. I know of at least one crew (Commissioning Crew INS Nirghat) that made it a point to get together every five years or so long after all of them had gone their separate ways. I guess the same spirit, in different manifestations, is present in every crew of every Killer boat from inception to the present. Thus, we can conclude that the Killers 2.0 were not only worthy successors to their illustrious predecessors but have kept the glorious legacy alive and vibrant with their professional excellence, panache, resoluteness and a ‘can do’ spirit that was the envy of their contemporaries in the service. Here is a loving toast, a salute and three cheers from an admiring outsider. And as the REs approach their sunset years, here is hoping that future generations and the next avatar of Killers maintain the brand equity of the Killers and leave behind even more lasting legacies.
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‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’
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.”
SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI
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.
IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT
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.
ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR
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.
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.
IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US
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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