Operation Samudra Setu- INS Jalaswa enters Male. The embarkation of of our citizens would commence from tomorrow.
BACKGROUND INFO – OP SAMUDRA SETU
As on 05 May 20, WHO has reported 35 lakh confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide which has led to death of more than 2.4 lakh people. The pandemic has spread across more than 180 countries, which has led to lockdown in most of these nations as a precautionary measure to prevent spread of this virus. In view of the prevailing lock-down Indian Navy has been tasked to evacuate stranded Indian nationals from Maldives as part of Phase-1, commencing 8 May 2020. Indian Naval Ships Jalashwa and Magar are headed to Malè, Maldives for this operation. The Indian Navy has carried out similar evacuation operations from overseas on earlier occasions, as part of Op Sukoon (2006) and Op Rahat (2015). An unclassified brief on the participating ships and the previous Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) is brought out below.
The launching of ground forces to sustain operations ashore in a hostile environment is an important task for the Indian Navy. While traditionally such capability has existed in the Navy through conventional amphibious vessels, in contemporary times, such operations are best conducted by vessels that are capable of stand-off beaching. Such ships are called expeditionary operations platforms. The unprecedented tsunami in December 2004 brought out a critical capability gap in Indian Navy’s inventory. It was the capability to provide Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HADR) from undeveloped/ semi-developed coastlines.
Most ships carrying relief material had a small helicopter (Chetak) as well as small boats with limited load-carrying capability. Ships such as destroyers and frigates, though loaded with relief supplies and disaster relief bricks, required berths and jetty cranes which were located at a considerable distance from the devastation site. It was also observed that LPDs from the Singapore and US navies were very effective. The Indian Navy, therefore, scouted and shortlisted USS Trenton (Landing Platform Dock or LPD) as the most suitable platform to fulfill intermediate capability till the Indian Navy builds its own LPD class of ships. Six second-hand UH-3H helicopters were offered to the Indian Navy and these are proving to be true force multipliers for a ship engaged in any kind of an operation-from HADR to out-of-area contingencies to evacuation operations.
USS Trenton was commissioned as INS Jalashwa on 22 June 2007 at Norfolk, USA. After a 45-day voyage across the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indian oceans the ship arrived in India on 13 September 2007. Since her commissioning in 2007, INS Jalashwa has proved to be an extremely valuable acquisition to the Navy’s force levels. Her integration with the fleet has expanded the force architecture of the Navy and has been imparting valuable experience in running, deploying and maintaining an LPD. Her participation in exercises requiring amphibious capability, strategic sealift and HADR missions has expanded the window of exposure to the fleet and planners ashore.
INS Jalashwa has a full load displacement of 17,521 tonnes. She is 179m in length and has a width of 30.5m. She can achieve a max speed of 21 knots and has a complement of 330 personnel. She also has 4 LCMs for transporting troops ashore. The main weapon systems of the ship comprise of CIWS-two AK630 Gun Mounts and 25 mm Gun mount.
6. INS Magar was commissioned by Admiral RH Tahiliani, Chief of the Naval Staff on 15 July 1987 with Pennant No. L-20 at GRSE Yard, Calcutta. Commander DB Roy was the first Commanding Officer. INS Magar is the lead ship of the Magar class amphibious warfare vessels of the Indian Navy. She took part in Operation Pawan during which she was involved in transfer of Army troops and vehicles from Chennai to Sri Lanka.
INS Magar has a displacement of 5,750 tonnes. The ship has a length of 120 metres and a beam of 17.5 metres. Being an amphibious ship, she can carry Tanks and Armoured Personnel Carriers for transportation to target beaches. The ship can also carry a strength of 500 fully laden troops nearly 10 days, in addition to her own crew. The main weapon systems of the ship comprise of CRN 91 Guns, Chaff launcher (KAVACH) and the WM-18A Rocket launcher. The ship also carries 4 LCVPs onboard which can be used for landing of troops.
INS Magar has the capability to beach and discharge tanks, APCs and troops directly onto the target territory. The bow door of the ship opens after beaching to discharge the load embarked in the tank spaces. Other ships of the class include Gharial, Shardul, Kesari and Airavat.
Previous Evacuation Operations by Indian Navy
Op Sukoon. Operation Sukoon was an operation launched by the Indian Navy to evacuate Indian, Sri Lankan and Nepalese nationals, as well as Lebanese nationals with Indian spouses, from the conflict zone during the 2006 Lebanon War. Military conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah broke out in July-August 2006, when on 12 July, Hezbollah launched a cross-border raid into Israel, in which 10 Israeli soldiers were killed, and two of their bodies were captured to be used to bargain for the release of Lebanese prisoners in Israel. Israel responded with an aerial and maritime blockade, and a massive bombing campaign and ground invasion of Lebanon. During the war, numerous foreign nationals visiting Lebanon were caught in the conflict. The Government of India asked the Indian Armed Forces to help evacuate its citizens at risk from the conflict zone.
Of the over 10,000 Indian nationals in Lebanon, almost 2,000 were at risk. Neighbouring Sri Lanka and Nepal, which lacked military resources, also requested the Indian government to help evacuate their citizens. Altogether, over 2,200 nationals of these countries were caught in the conflict zone.
Indian Navy Task Force, consisting of three warships and a fleet tanker, was returning to India from the Mediterranean following a goodwill visit and was just about to cross the Suez Canal. Following the hostilities, it was ordered to turn back to help evacuate Indian nationals from Lebanon. The task force comprised the destroyer INS Mumbai, the frigates INS Brahmaputra, INS Betwa and the fleet tanker INS Shakti. The plan for the evacuation was for the warships were to take the evacuees to Cyprus, from where chartered Air India flights would fly them back to India.
Mumbai evacuated 1,495 people to Cyprus, in three sorties on 20, 23 and 26 July. Brahmaputra and Betwa evacuated 188 and 254 people, respectively, during a sortie on 23 July. Altogether a total of 2,280 people including 1,764 Indians were evacuated. 112 Sri Lankans, 64 Nepalese and seven Lebanese nationals with Indian spouses were also among the evacuees. Citizens of other friendly nations at risk were also evacuated as a courtesy.
Op Rahat. As a consequence of the volatile security situation in Yemen in March 2015, the Government of India issued an advisory for Indian nationals to leave Yemen. This was followed by a decision to evacuate Indians from Yemen, for which Indian Navy undertook evacuation operations from Yemen in the midst of the ongoing civil war. Indian nationals were evacuated from Yemen to Djibouti from where they were repatriated to India by air. Indian Naval Ships Sumitra, Mumbai, Tarkash and passenger vessels Kavaratti and Corals participated in the operation.
The operation lasted two weeks from 30 March 2015 to 17 April 2015 during which nine evacuation missions from Hodeidah, Aden and Ash Shi’hr ports in Yemen were undertaken. The operation resulted in evacuation of 3074 personnel from Yemen, including 1291 foreign nationals, including citizens of Bangladesh, Yemen, USA, UK, Egypt, Indonesia, Djibouti, Philippines, UAE, France, Russia, Jordan, Syria, Canada, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Sweden, Cuba, Kenya, Pakistan, Hungary, Uganda, Lebanon, Iraq, Romania, Myanmar, Iran, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Morocco, Italy, Bahrain, Ukraine, Spain and Somalia
Shailesh Kumar is an independent journalist with over 17 years of experience in crime, political and defence reporting for leading media brands including Star News, India TV and NewsX. He is the founder editor of defence and security news portal, National Defence.