Operational tempo of warships, submarines maintained despite COVID-19: Navy Chief

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NEW DELHI: Indian Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh has said that the operational tempo of the force’s warships, submarines and aircraft squadrons has been maintained despite the COVID-19 pandemic and it is ready to face any situation. He said that this readiness is necessary due to the deteriorating security situation along India’s borders with China and Pakistan.

Singh, in a video message to navy personnel on the future actions for COVID-19 earlier this week, said that the force’s operational teams have been constantly working amid the pandemic. “Our operational tempo of ships, submarines and aircraft squadrons has been continuing. There is no let up and we are ready to deal with any challenge. We have to be ready and it is relevant, because our security situation along our western and northern borders is not good,” he said.

Speaking about the navy’s “float crew”, the Navy Chief said that they have been deployed for a long time, been in quarantine and stayed away from their families. “Some ships have been sailing for 100 days at a stretch,” he said.

While giving instructions on what needs to be done ahead amid the pandemic, he said that a different approach and mindset will have to be adopted under unlock 1.0, following the nation-wide lockdown. “We have to adopt good practises. That must become our priority,” he said.

He gave an example of INS Vishwakarma, a naval shipwright school based in Visakhapatnam, which has divided its trainees and personnel into three groups. Members of one group don’t interact with those of other groups. He said this has been done to avoid a contagion in the base, even if one person is infected. “This is a best practise that we can adopt in other bases,” he said.

Singh also said that another measure being implemented is that any personnel above 50 years of age and having low morbidity will not be kept in risky tasks such as in sea-going units.

“Unlock doesn’t mean that we face this challenge by being complacent. We can’t do that. The collective efforts that we have taken at our units have to be supplemented with individual self-discipline by wearing masks, maintaining social distance and protecting our elders and children…It cannot be business as usual,” he said.

Singh also told his personnel to be “flexible” to face any uncertainties. “During this time, there will be a lot of strain on our administrative support,” he said.

The navy is focussed on securing its personnel at a time when it is operationally deployed across the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Under its Operation Samudra Setu, as part of Mission Vande Bharat, to repatriate stranded Indians from abroad, the navy has brought back over 1,500 people from Maldives and 700 citizens from Sri Lanka. Singh said the navy is ready for further repatriation with its Landing Ship, Tank (LST). “These evacuations are different from normal combatant operations. It is more dangerous, as a contagion on the ship could happen due to an infected person. To prevent this, a high degree of preparations and precautions had to be taken by the ship teams. They have done this safely,” he said.

INS Kesari has also been deployed to provide medical aid to Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles. The Navy Chief said that the force has helped the Philippines, whose ships were deployed in the IOR. “They had asked for help of repatriation of citizens from Indian ports, medical support to its troops and southern naval command had made essential repairs of their ships, which are on the way to the Philippines,” he said.

Deployments in the Gulf of Oman and anti-piracy duties in the Gulf of Aden to keep Indian merchant vessels safe are continuing as well.





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