Exchange of Ideas

The bilateral INDRA-2019 showcased training exercises between Indian and Russian armed forces

A FORCE Report

The opening ceremony for the second edition of bilateral tri-service Exercise INDRA-2019 between India and Russia was conducted on 11 December 2019 at Babina, Uttar Pradesh. Lt Gen. DS Ahuja, Chief of Staff Southern Command along with Major General Tsekov Oleg, Commander-in-Chief, 5th Army of Eastern Military District, reviewed the parade.

Armed forces personnel of India and Russia during exercise INDRA-2019

The exercise was simultaneously conducted at three places – Babina (near Jhansi), Goa and Pune. Company-sized mechanised contingents, fighter and transport aircraft and ships of respective services of both the countries took part in the exercise. The press statement by the ministry of defence (MoD) stated that the aim of the exercise was the joint training of troops in counter-terrorism operations under the United Nations mandate. The statement said INDRA-2019 will further cement the long-standing strategic ties between India and Russia.

As part of the exercise, important lectures, demonstrations and drills related to counter terrorism operations were conducted. Both the countries also shared their valuable experience in countering such situations and refine drills and procedures for joint operations, the statement added. The INDRA exercises are being regularly held since 2003, initially the exercise was a bilateral single service exercise between India and Russia. The first-ever Joint Tri-Services Exercise was held in the Eastern Military District of Russia in October 2017.


The IAF Phase

The Indian Air Force (IAF) phase of the exercise INDRA, conducted from 10-20 December, started simultaneously in Pune, Gwalior, Babina and Goa. The IAF undertook service specific and joint missions during the exercise. Russian Federation Air Force (RFAF) element participated in the exercise along with their IAF counterparts.

“The broad theme for the exercise is to organise a Joint Task Force for undertaking planning and execution of air operations for eliminating terrorists at the request of the third country under UN mandate. However, combined missions between the IAF and RFAF would also be undertaken for enriching experience and maximising training value in terms of interoperability,” an IAF statement said on December 16.

This year, the IAF fielded Su-30MKI, Jaguar, MI-17 helicopters, Airborne Warning & Control System (AWCS) aircraft, with the elite Garuds of the IAF also participating in the exercise. “Tri-Services Exercise INDRA-2019 will further strengthen mutual confidence, interoperability and enable sharing of best practices between the armed forces of both countries. The exercise showcases the long-standing bond of India and Russia friendship,” the IAF statement added.


Goa Hosts Naval Phases

The naval component of the exercise this year was held in two phases. The harbour phase, held at Goa from 10-15 December 2019 encompassed planning conferences, professional interactions, cultural visits, sports fixtures and formal calls between Flag Officers and senior officers of the participating navies. The Sea Phase conducted in the Arabian Sea from 16-19 December 2019 focused on underway replenishment, air defence drills, surface firings, Visits Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations and other tactical procedures. The Indian Navy commenting on the naval phase said the aim was to enhance interoperability and develop an understanding in order to effectively tackle common security challenges.

The Indian Navy was represented by INS Aditya, a sleet Support Ship and INS Tarkash, a frontline Guided Missile Frigate. In addition, Dornier and P8I Maritime Patrol Aircraft, MIG 29 K Fighter Aircraft and other integral rotary wing helicopters also participated in the exercise. The Indian Army fielded a Ghatak Platoon in the validation exercise on 18 December 2019, while the IAF sent an assortment of SU-30 MKI, Jaguar, Mi-17 helicopters and an Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) aircraft.

“Tri-Services Exercise INDRA 2019 would help further strengthen mutual confidence and interoperability and also enable sharing of best practices between the armed forces of both countries. The exercise will be yet another milestone in strengthening security cooperation and will serve to reinforce the long-standing bond of friendship between India and Russia,” said the Indian Navy statement.


Sea Phase of INDRA-2019

The sea phase of the bilateral Indo-Russian Tri-Service Exercise INDRA commenced with Indian and Russian Navy ships casting off from Mormugao harbour. Indian Navy Ship (INS) Aditya and Russian Federation Navy (RuFN) ship Yaroslav Mudry casted off from Mormugao harbour on 16 December 2019 to commence the sea phase of the INDRA-2019. INS Tarkash, INS Aditya and RuFN ship Yaroslav Mudry participated in an encounter exercise and cross-deck flying on the same day. Sea riders were also exchanged between the Indian and Russian ships, which was followed by an air defence exercise involving four MiG29K aircraft.

On 17 December 2019, a combined boarding team of Indian Navy and RuFN personnel conducted boarding exercise to train for anti-piracy operations on a hijacked merchant vessel. Other exercises included firing practice, aviation operations and other manoeuvres like maintaining station and replenishment at sea, the statement added.

INDRA-2019 concluded with the validation exercise, reviewed by minister of state for defence Shripad Yesso Naik in presence of the Indian Army’s Southern Command chief, Lt Gen. S.K. Saini, and other senior officers of both the participating countries. The Russian side was represented by Lt Gen. Sergei Serukov, Deputy Commander, Eastern Military District. The exercise ended with a ceremonial closing by both the contingents.


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