Visakhapatnam: India`s lone aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, may be over 50 years old, but the latest refit that it went through in 2009-10 has made it a potent warfare platform of the 21st century and this was showcased to Defence Minister AK Antony when he boarded the vessel off Visakhapatnam as part of a large maritime exercise on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Antony, accompanied by navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma and Eastern Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, got a glimpse of INS Viraat`s potential to serve the Indian Navy till the end of this decade when it dodged fighter jets attempting to attackit in the high seas during the Tropex, as the exercise was called, in the Bay of Bengal.
INS Viraat demonstrated the power of a networked force when it beamed live feeds of data, satellite images and other technical battlefield awareness inputs for the benefit of the naval personnel managing the battle scenario, as part of the theatre-level annual exercise.
This platform was used by the Indian Navy to direct its warships for sea battles and for optimal use of the on board weapons of the battle ships.
Its complement of maritime fighter jets, the upgraded Sea Harriers, proved their lethality, having obtained range extension in the form of midair refueling and beyond visual range missile capabilities.
The 28,000-tonne Centaur class warship`s air defence capabilities were tested by the Indian Air Force`s potent Su-30MKI, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar combat planes, which flew out into the sea to take on the battleship for the first time ever, even as the warships were operating in a multi-threat scenario.
During the exercise, Antony witnessed first-hand the potency of the upgraded Sea Harriers, Sea King choppers and Chetaks helicopters, particularly in the networked environment.
All the air operations were directed by an Indian Air Force airborne early warning and control system (AWACS).
A critical part of anti-missile defence was the demonstration of the surface-to-air missiles (SAM) that successfully intercepted a fast, low flying, surface-to-surface missile that was targeting INS Viraat. This demonstration was done at night.
Among the sophisticated operations of the Indian Navy was its commandos or Marcos demonstration on board INS Viraat when they did a precision landing on the flight deck using combat free fall technique.
He also witnessed a successful launch of the BrahMos supersonic long-range anti-ship missile from on board INS Ranvir, a Rajput class destroyer, in an affirmation of the quality of the indigenous weapons development.
Over 40 surface combatants of various classes, submarines and a large number of aircraft, including unmanned aerial vehicles participated in the exercise.
Antony also went on board INS Shivalik, one of the newly inducted stealth frigates of the navy, from where he witnessed a coordinated operation ny it with INS Shakti, a tanker inducted four months ago.