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President Kalam reviews India's naval prowess

February 12, 2006 16:52 IST

President A P J Abdul Kalam on Sunday reviewed the Indian Navy's fleet and witnessed its operational prowess in the port city of Visakhapatnam, also the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy.

Dr Kalam embarked on the presidential yacht - INS Sukanya - to review the fleet after an impressive 21-gun salute and guard of honour by 150 sailors at the Visakhapatnam harbour.

The Presidential Fleet Review is held once during the tenure of each Indian President since 1953. Incidentally, this is the 9th PFR and the first to be hosted on India's eastern coast. The earlier 8 reviews took place on the western coast off Mumbai. Vizag naval base is the home to India's submarine fleet.

The Eastern Naval Command showcased India's maritime prowess, comprising around 50 Naval ships and 55 aircraft, including aircraft carrier INS Viraat, Talwar-class missile frigates, Delhi-class missile destroyers, Godavari-class frigates, stealth frigates, three submarines, naval sea fighters and helicopters like TU-142 maritime patrol planes, Sea Harrier jets, Sea King and Kamov helicopters.

The President, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, stood on the deck of Sukanya, which went past ships lined up in four columns off the Ramakrishna beach.

Ten warships followed the Presidential yacht on its two-hour inspection trip.

As the Presidential yacht passed between the rows of warships, the crew lined up on the upper decks in white ceremonial uniforms and doffed their caps in unison. A mobile column of nine smaller warships and two submarines then made its way past Sukanya. The review culminated with a flypast featuring 40 naval aircraft.

Apart from naval vessels, a limited number of Coast Guard ships and merchant vessels also participated in the review. The sail training ship INS Tarangini, which recently circumnavigated the globe, was a special attraction at the event.

Later in the afternoon, the President witnessed Operational Prowess Demonstration of the Navy. The demonstration of three-dimensional prowess of the Navy was conducted for the first time amidst public view. Lakhs of people congregated at the 5-km stretch of Ramakrishna beach to witness the breath-taking demonstration.

Major feats included power gliding by the naval personnel, 'bombing' of 'enemy ship' by marine commandos using Gemini boats aerobatics by Sagar Pavan Kiran jets that crisscrossed the horizon trailing colours and sky diving by naval personnel.

The Naval band performed the "Beating the Retreat" and later in the evening all the ships were illuminated.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the three services chiefs - Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash, Chief of Army Staff General J J Singh and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi, and foreign dignitaries were among those present on the occasion.

On Monday, Dr Kalam will become the first president to make a sortie in a submarine. Traveling in a Russian-made Kilo-class vessel, Kalam will witness the intricacies of submarine operations, including the simulated launch of torpedoes. Later, he will present the President's Colours to the Eastern Fleet in recognition of its services especially during the 1971 war in East Pakistan.

The fleet review is a long- standing tradition observed by major navies. It is a ceremonial event where the President witnesses the navy's strength and reaffirms his faith in its ability to safeguard the nation's maritime interests. The Navy decided to stage the review at Visakhapatnam this year to showcase the growing strategic and economic importance of the eastern coast and the country's 'Look East' policy.

Syed Amin Jafri in Visakhapatnam