NEW DELHI: The enemy came in three waves, the last being close to midnight of Monday-Tuesday.
They came in twos—heavy Sukhoi 30Mki combat aircraft of the IAF took off from Pune’s Lohegaon base to ‘attack’ the Indian Navy’s INS Vikramaditya carrier battle group sailing in the Arabian Sea off Goa from different directions.
The carrier was carrying a precious target: defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman. On INS Vikramaditya, the crew was at action stations. Each wave of the ‘enemy’ was engaged by a counter-wave of the MiG-29K carrier-borne fighters flying in twos.
The IAF and the Indian Navy were not warring. They were simulating a battle for the defence minister. Sitharaman was the first VIP on board for a day and night at sea, hosted by the Navy. The event is usually a formality but this was something else.
PM Narendra Modi also made his first visit to a military establishment onboard the INS Vikramaditya after assuming office in 2014.
This time the Navy and IAF pulled out the stops to record many firsts: the first time a VIP was hosted at night, the first time she witnessed carrier-borne operations in the dark, the first time INS Kalvari, India’s latest submarine, was part of an exercise. Pictures of the simulated battle were transferred through data links to the command centre of the 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya where Sitharaman was explained the operations by Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, and the chief of the western naval command, Vice Admiral Girish Luthra.
“They were un-alerted air-strikes,” said one navy officer, “and she was watching realtime.” “Back on shore after a memorable and awe-inspiring visit - a day at sea. INS Vikramaditya and other ships of the fleet show the great class they belong to! The nation salutes you. Dedication and professional excellence showcased. Jai Hind.,” the defence minister tweeted on Tuesday afternoon on landing in Goa.