India’s lone aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, sailed into Port Sultan Qaboos here yesterday on it’s maiden port call — a visit that attested to the strategic nature of relations between the two friendly countries, a top naval official said.
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Captain Ajendra Bahadur Singh, Commanding Officer of INS Viraat, said the two-day port visit engendered “deep pride and honour” in the roughly 1,000-strong complement of officers and sailors on board the Indian Navy’s flagship.
“It is with a deep sense of honour and privilege that we have come here to Muscat,” Capt Singh told journalists on the aircraft deck of INS Viraat, flanked by his senior colleagues as well as pilots of the impressive array of fighter aircraft and helicopters on board the carrier. “We have a great bilateral relationship with the Sultanate of Oman. For this very reason, this ship is here,” he added.
INS Viraat is accompanied by the stealth frigate INS Talwar and indigenously built guided missile frigate INS Ganga on it’s historic visit to the Sultanate. During the two days at berth, all three ships will take on supplies of fuel and rations before the trio return to the Indian Ocean as part of their current deployment.
Commissioned into the Indian Navy on May 12, 1987, INS Viraat operates the short-take-off fighter aircraft Sea Harriers with vertical landing capability, and the antisubmarine helicopter Sea King 42B and Chetak helicopters for search and rescue purposes.
For self-defence, the carrier is equipped with an anti-missile defence system and long-range surveillance system integrated with a Maritime Domain Awareness network with other fleet ships and shore headquarters. These surveillance systems and sensors of the integral air assets and other screen ships of the formation enable INS Viraat to maintain an enhanced surveillance bubble around the force.
The Sea Harrier fighters are equipped with anti-ship missiles (AShM), long-range beyond visual range air-to-air missiles (AAM), bombs and rockets. The Sea King helicopters are equipped with long-range radar, ESM suite, dunking Sonar and sonobuoys. Armaments carried by this helicopter include anti-submarine torpedoes, depth charges and anti-shipping missiles (AShM).
The ship is manned by approximately 140 officers and 1400 sailors and has facilities and amenities to cater for requirements of all personnel onboard.
Accompanying INS Viraat are frigates INS Talwar and INS Ganga of the Carrier Task Group. While Ganga has been indigenously built, Talwar was built in Russia according to Indian design requirements. Both Talwar and Ganga are manned by around 30 officers and 300 sailors each.
INS Talwar is fitted with long-range air survelliance radar and credible sonar for detection of submarines. INS Talwar carries one Air Early Warning (AEW) helicopter Kamov 31 as a force multiplier against air threats. The arsenal on board Talwar include long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, medium-range anti-aircraft and anti-missile surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, medium-range gun, close-in weapon system, anti-submarine rockets and torpedoes. Talwar is being commanded by Captain S K Chauhan.
INS Ganga is armed with guided missiles, medium-range gun, anti-missile defence SAM system, close-in weapon system, anti-submarine torpedoes and a state-of-the-art towed array sonar. Ganga has been designed to carry two Sea King 42B anti-submarine helicopters. The frigate is commanded by Captain B R Prakash.
Underscoring the friendly nature of the visit, INS Viraat will be open to the general public (Omanis and Indian nationals only) from 10 am to 4 pm today. Visitors are required to carry proof of identity when they arrive at the Main Gate of Port Sultan Qaboos. Shuttle buses will be available to ferry the visitors from the Jibroo yard to the dock where the carrier is at berth.
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