Indian and British ‘Stealth Ships’ flex muscles in the English Channel

Anti-submarine warfare and boarding operations were part of a major annual exercise between two ‘stealth ships’ of the Indian and British naval forces in the English Channel this week, testing their ability to operate side-by-side in crisis situations.

The manoeuvres under Exercise Konkan involving INS Tarkash and HMS Defender were conducted is unseasonally bleak August weather off the south coast, the Royal Navy said on Friday.

The two ships’ helicopters – a Wildcat from Defender, a Helix from the Tarkash – traded places on the respective flight decks, while Indian and British personnel were encouraged to step into each other’s shoes, with some spending several hours experiencing life in a different navy.

“It was interesting to see how culturally different the ship was, but also lots of similarities to our own ship,” said communications specialist engineering technician Angus Lawrence of the Royal Navy.

Closely involved in anti-piracy operations in recent years, Tarkash has also participated in anti-hijack situations. It was part of Operation Rahat in 2015, when it rescued 538 people from 18 countries from war-torn Yemen.

Both vessels are regarded as ‘stealth’ ships – designed to make the minimum impact on a foe’s radar display – with Defender specifically designed to shield a task group from air attack, while the Russian-built Tarkash is a general-purpose frigate bristling with anti-ship/anti-land/anti-air missiles, the Royal Navy said.

“It is these regular engagements and opportunities to train with other navies that prove our capability to deliver on operations alongside our allies,” said Defender’s commanding officer commander Richard Hewitt.

The Royal Navy said Defender’s primary role is to provide the fleet with air defence using the ferocious Sea Viper anti-air missile system. At any one time, is could be hunting pirates, drug runners and submarines, defending air attack, or providing humanitarian aid after a natural disaster.

In May 2017, Tarkash docked in London and hosted an event when history merged with modernity as top naval personnel, navy historians and others came together to celebrate 200 years of the iconic Mumbai-made vessel HMS Trincomalee, the oldest warship afloat anywhere in the world currently docked at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Hartlepool, Durham, 420 km north of London.

HMS Trincomalee, one of the Leda-class sailing frigates built at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, was launched in 1817 after a three-year construction supervised by Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia at Wadia Shipyards in colonial Bombay.