New Delhi: The sea phase of maiden bilateral tri-service exercise ‘Konkan Shakti 2021’ between the UK and Indian Armed Forces commenced off the Konkan coast in the Arabian Sea on October 24, after completion of an exhaustive harbour planning phase.
All participating units were split into two opposing forces with the aim of achieving ‘sea control’ to land Army ground-troops at a pre-designated site. One force was led by the Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet and comprised the flag ship INS Chennai, other warships of the Indian Navy and HMS Richmond, the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate. The other force operated under the UK Carrier Strike Group comprising aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, other UK and Netherland naval ships, and Indian warships.
The two forces integrated within their groups with exercises such as replenishment at sea approaches, air direction and strike operations by fighter aircraft (MiG 29Ks and F35Bs), cross control of helicopters (Sea King, Chetak and Wildcat), transiting through war-at-sea scenarios, and gun shoots on expendable air targets. The simulated induction of Army troops was also undertaken and was followed by setting up of a joint command operations centre. The two forces thereafter effected a rendezvous at sea with advanced air and sub-surface exercises.
The air operations included strikes on the combined formation by Indian maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) Dornier, fighters of the Indian Navy (MiG 29Ks), Royal Navy (F35Bs) and Indian Air Force (SU-30 and Jaguars), as well as a composite fly past over the formation. Sub-surface exercises with an Indian Scorpene class submarine and undewater remote controlled vehicle EMATT, operated by the Royal Navy, were undertaken through the night. Indian MPA, P8I, also participated in the exercise.
The high level of interoperability displayed on the first day of the exercise reflects the high standards of professionalism and preparedness of both navies. It is also reflective of a high level of mutual trust and understanding that has been built over a period of many years.