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India, allies parade warships in biggest-ever naval exercise

06 February 2016

At the Navy's biggest-ever event off the coast of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh today, President Pranab Mukherjee is inspecting ships from 50 countries.

India alone is parading 75 warships for the ceremonial inspection at the second International Fleet Review; 24 international warships have also sailed in.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Manohar Parrikar and the three armed services chiefs are also present with President Mukherjee, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces, on board the President's yacht INS Sumitra to review the ships gathered off the Visakhapatnam port.

The event is designed to display India's naval might and prowess. It brings together 50 countries, 99 ships, 24 foreign warships and 4,000 sailors.

This is the second time an International Fleet Review is being held in India. The last review was held off Mumbai in 2001, in which 29 countries had participated.

The president will also review the Indian Naval air arm. Also featuring will be a fly-past led by Rear Admiral P K Bahl, Flag Officer Naval Aviation and comprising 15 formations of 45 aircraft, including two formations from the Indian Coast Guard.

The list of participating navies includes the US, China, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Canada, Russia, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Peru, Chile, Colombia and Brazil.

With huge crowds expected to gather for the spectacular event, the Navy has made arrangements for galleries to accommodate 20,000 spectators, while another 150,000 can be accommodated on the beaches.

The event is surrounded by grave security concerns, partly because of the deadly terror attack last month at the Pathankot air force base in Punjab, where seven military personnel were killed.

Sources in the Navy say a special concern is the threat of asymmetric warfare - the danger of a terror attack launched from small, fast boats.

"In an event like this, where ships are anchored and not mobile, the main threat would be a boat commanded by a group of people which could be laden with explosives, or a group of desperados to try and embark the ship," said Admiral Sunil Lanba, Commander in Chief of Western Naval Command.

The Navy has formed an elaborate matrix of defence with submarines, maritime reconnaissance aircraft and fast interceptor boats armed with heavy machine guns.

Among the Indian platforms that paraded in front of the high-profile delegation off the east coast was INS Vikramaditya - India's biggest aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, destroyers INS Kolkata, Mysore, frigates - Shivalik, Satpura, and Teg amongst others.

President Mukherjee watched as the Navy's surface, sub surface and aerial platforms performed breathtaking manoeuvres off Visakhapatnam's famous Rama Krishna beach. The Naval helicopters Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, Chetaks performed mock search and rescue missions even as the latest acquisition P- 8i maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew past the Presidential yacht.

The Hawk and Mig- 29 K aircraft too displayed breathtaking manoeuvres,  displaying the skills of the Naval warriors to operate their fighter jets at a pressure six times the gravitational force.

Sailors on board the vessels saluted the Presidential yacht and waved their berets.

Amongst international platforms that paraded in front of the President were platforms from Bangladesh, China, US, Australia, Mauritius, Oman, and the UK, Vietnam besides others.

Close to 4000 sailors participated in the fleet review, the biggest so far in India.

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