Antony to review naval preparedness

Antony to review naval preparedness

Defence minister A K Antony will review India’s naval preparedness to tackle the enemy in a major exercise off Vishakhapatnam in the next two days during which he would spend his first night on-board the ageing aircraft career INS Viraat.

The operational preparedness exercise Tropex involves 40 warships from two Fleets as also submarine, 13 naval aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicle.

On the sidelines a review of the nuclear-submarine programme was also on the cards. Indian Coast Guard and 18 Indian Air Force aircraft will also take part in the Tropex, which will showcase a variety of missile firings, air defence exercises and anti-submarine exercises.

Antony will be staying overnight on-board INS Virat, India ageing aircraft carrier, which underwent a refit in 2010 to extend its life up to 2020.

He would witness the live-wire exercise on-board INS Shivalik, an indigenous stealth frigate. Antony along with Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma will be in Vishakhapatnam for the next two days.

Though there is no official confirmation, Antony may receive a detailed briefing on the nuclear submarine programme at Vishalhapatnam.

The $ 900 million Russian-origin nuclear submarine Nerpa, is expected to join the Eastern Fleet soon and the first indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant, is scheduled to be on the patrol duty before December, 2012.

To be rechristened as INS Chakra, the Russian SSN is on its way to India and expected to reach its base near Vishakhapatnam soon.

Once inducted, Nerpa will give Indian Navy much needed stealth and endurance and likely to change the security dynamics in the strategically important Indian Ocean region.

Significantly almost coinciding with Nerpa's arrival, Antony reviewed the security situation at a high level meeting here on Monday involving national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, Chief of Naval Staff Nirmal Verma, Chief of Air Staff NAK Browne, Chief of Army Staff VK Singh and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma.

Within a fortnight, Antony is slated to visit Arunachal Pradesh, which will celebrate 25 years of statehood on February 20.

The defence minister's visit at the invite of Chief Minister Nabam Tuki is diplomatically significant as Arunachal remains a bone of contention between India and China in settling their border dispute.