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Wargames end, minus mishap

Nuclear submarine INS Chakra during the navy readiness exercise that ended on Friday. (Courtesy: Indian Navy)

New Delhi, March 1: The navy on Friday completed a month-long annual readiness exercise involving most of its battle-worthy warships, all but 10 of which are more than 14 years old, navy sources said here today.

The Tropex (theatre level operational readiness exercise) is held every year but the scale this time was larger than any in the past. A total of 60 platforms, including submarines, and 75 aircraft were operated without mishap.

The conclusion of Tropex — the last exercise under Admiral D.K. Joshi who resigned this week before the wargames were over — is being seen in the admiralty as an achievement in safety standards when question marks on the state of its equipment are paramount.

Two officers were killed in the INS Sindhuratna submarine. The submarine was not part of Tropex but was undergoing trials to make it operational after a refit when the accident happened about 100 miles off Mumbai. Other Kilo-class submarines — of the same class of INS Sindhuratna and INS Sindhurakshak (that sank in Mumbai last August) — also participated in Tropex 2014.

Navy sources said Tropex 2014 had three objectives:

Directing operations with the help of dedicated naval satellite GSAT-7 that is at the heart of its network-centric concept. They said all platforms — aircraft, ships and submarines — were communicable during the exercise because of the new capability;

Second, the navy was “integrating” the INS Chakra nuclear submarine with its fleet. The sources said they now had a scheme with which to operate the submarine leased from Russia for 10 years. Nuclear submarines can operate underwater for long without having to surface to recharge batteries. The navy currently has only one nuclear submarine in its fleet;

The third objective of Tropex 2014 was to test the capabilities of the US-origin P8i maritime surveillance aircraft. Three of the aircraft were received by the navy over the past year. The aircraft were used in an operational role for the first time in the exercise.

The sources said preparations for Tropex 2014 began in mid-January. The western and eastern fleet were then divided into “Red”, for adversarial, and “Blue”, for friendly, forces for the wargames. Although a bulk of the operations were in the Bay of Bengal, aircraft and ships flew or sailed from as far as the Straits of Malacca to waters off the Maldives.