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Indian Navy’s visit to UK ends with ‘jam-packed’ workout in the Channel

INS Tabar sails past Westminster's port beam at speed
18 August 2021
The Indian Navy completed a four-day visit to Portsmouth with an intensive workout above, on and beneath the waves with frigate HMS Westminster in the Channel.

INS Tabar – Sanskrit for Battleaxe – spent the weekend in the city on the latest leg of her European deployment.

Waiting for the Mumbai-based frigate as she left Portsmouth Harbour yesterday morning was HMS Westminster, ready for the annual combined exercise for the two Commonwealth navies.

Given the constant presence of Royal Navy warships in the Gulf region, Konkan is typically hosted by the Indians off the namesake coastline which stretches for several hundred miles along the sub-continent’s western shores.

But when Indian warships venture into European waters, the Royal Navy acts as hosts and the action shifts to the South Coast Exercise Areas.

The two frigates sailed in company through the Solent. Upon reaching the open waters of the Channel they conducted Officer of the Watch Manoeuvres, deft, close manoeuvres, sometimes at high speed, to test bridge teams and their ability to communicate effectively.

Thereafter lines were passed between the two ships as they practised transferring stores on the move – replenishment at sea – then broke off for warfare training.

Gunnery teams coordinated their small arms fire to send the Killer Cherry Tomato target to the bottom of the Channel.

Then the pair practised passing tactical information, tracking targets over the horizon then sharing that information for the other vessel to ‘engage’.

The surface target was simulated; the aerial threat was real: a Falcon jet from Bournemouth which pretended to be an enemy fighter bearing down on Westminster and Tabar.

They flashed up their air defence missile systems – Sea Ceptor on the Royal Navy warship, Shtil on the Indian vessel to prove the effectiveness of both.

Throughout the jam-packed day of serials, it was clear that both units were learning from each other

Lieutenant Commander Rob Kent, HMS Westminster

The short, concentrated work-out concluded with a combined anti-submarine exercise against laid targets – bread and butter for Westminster as one of the UK’s top towed-array patrol ships which specialises in hunting down the enemy below the waves.

“My crew and I relish the opportunity to collaborate with units from partner nations who we do not regularly see in UK waters, such as the INS Tabar,” said Commander Louise Ray, Westminster’s Commanding Officer.

“We are always keen to engage with foreign units and conduct complex multi-disciplinary exercises with them to mutually improve our ways of working and broaden our experience.”

Konkan comes on the back of a large-scale exercise in the Bay of Bengal involving the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, led by flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth and with the Royal Navy stepping up its east of Suez presence in the next few years (a Royal Marines Littoral Response Group in the Indian Ocean and patrol ships HMS Tamar and Spey based in the Indo-Pacific region permanently) there is likely to be increased Anglo-Indian naval interaction/co-operation.

“Throughout the jam-packed day of serials, it was clear that both units were learning from each other and the professional attitude to getting the most out of each and every serial was tangible,” said Lieutenant Commander Rob Kent, Westminster’s Weapon Engineer Officer.

“It is clear that the interaction between the Indian and Royal Navies continues along its very positive trajectory this year. This bond looks to only get stronger as the RN forward deploys more capabilities to the western Indian Ocean and wider Indo-Pacific regions.”

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