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Royal Navy supports Indian international fleet review

12 February 2016
HMS Defender greeted new friends and bade goodbye to a legendary Royal Navy carrier as she enjoyed a four-day extravaganza at the Indian Navy’s International Fleet Review.

Sailors from the Type 45 destroyer were applauded and cheered through the streets, treated to Bollywood-style glamour, made friends with fellow mariners from 50 nations and demonstrated their seafaring prowess in the city of Visakhapatnam.

The Indian Navy hosts a Fleet review once during the term of office of the Commonwealth country’s president. This 11th incarnation of the review attracted nearly 100 warships.

Following a 21-gun salute from the Indian flagship INS Vikramaditya, HMS Defender anchored alongside warships from the US, China, Japan, Sri Lanka and India. 

These included the 57-year-old carrier INS Viraat – previously HMS Hermes under the White Ensign and flagship of the Falklands task force back in 1982.

“Most of the ship’s company had not seen so many warships congregate,” said Lieutenant Commander Sean Trevethan, HMS Defender’s weapon engineer officer. “The atmosphere at the review was electric.”

It was really interesting to see the Indian Navy units in action.

Petty Officer Engineering Technician Mark Pollard

Sailors and Defender’s Royal Marines detachment took part in the opening ceremony which was a mix of Bollywood glamour and international acts, while a 30-strong Guard of Honour presented the official salute to President Pranhab Kumar Mukherjee during a parade from 12 of the participating nations.

“It had a bit of a carnival atmosphere – everyone was really friendly and wanted to take photos of us with them,” said warfare specialist Able Seaman Hannah Ebo.

The formal review took place on the third day of the event, with President Mukherjee moving up and down the lines of warship in his official yacht while sailors on the warships manned and cheered ship.

The Indian Navy also held a dusk combat demonstration along the Visakhapatnam sea front featuring Harriers and MiG29 Fulcrums launched from the decks of the Indian Navy’s two carriers, underwater explosions, a rocket and cannon attack by a Fulcrum and a fly past and hover by a Sea Harrier. 

This was all set against the backdrop of the ships in the review outlined by thousands of white lights.

“It was an amazing show,” said Petty Officer Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineer) Mark Pollard. “It was really interesting to see the Indian Navy units in action.”

The commander of the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet, whose home is Visakhapatnam, said the four-day review had been a celebration of peace and friendship between nations and boded well for the future.

“That was illustrated by the fact that Defender’s officers were sitting at a table with officers and sailors from China and Iran, sharing food and drink, applauding performances and, at the end, all trying to sing Auld Lang Syne,” said Lt Cdr Trevethan. 

“It truly was a meeting of nations.”

Proceedings ended with a steam past as 27 ships – 15 of them Indian and led by Viraat – sailed in columns, at times only 400 yards apart, a challenging manoeuvre for any navigator.

“It was a test of the skills and co-operation of all those involved and it went off without a hitch, providing a truly impressive spectacle for all those lucky enough to witness it,” said Commander Steve Higham, HMS Defender’s Commanding Officer. 

"It was a great opportunity for Defender to offer her heartfelt thanks to the Indian Navy for their hospitality and generosity throughout the review.”

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