Military might takes centre stage on Republic Day
From Apache attack helicopters, Chinook heavy-lift choppers and T-90 main battle tanks to the anti-satellite missile, Sukhoi-30 fighter jets and K-9 Vajra-T self-propelled howitzers, India on Sunday showcased its growing military might at the 71st Republic Day parade on New Delhi’s Rajpath.
Before the parade began, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to the country’s martyrs by laying a wreath at the National War Memorial at the India Gate for the first time instead of the Amar Jawan Jyoti – the traditional wreath-laying venue. The PM inaugurated the memorial last February.
Brazil’s president Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest at the parade attended by almost 150,000 people, with millions watching the ceremonial event on televisions at home. President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, defence minister Rajnath Singh, national security adviser Ajit Doval, the chief of defence staff and three service chiefs were among those who attended the parade. An artillery battery presented a 21-gun salute before the parade began. Lieutenant General Asit Mistry, General Officer Commanding, HQs Delhi Area, was the parade commander.
The Indian Air Force’s US-made AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and CH-47F (I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters appeared in the Republic Day fly-past for the first time and were a hit among spectators, who began queuing up outside different enclosures as early as 5am on a foggy Sunday morning.
Five Apaches and three Chinooks — the IAF’s latest acquisitions — took part in the fly-past consisting of 45 aircraft, including 16 fighter jets.
Thrilling the crowds, the fly-past featured five Jaguar deep strike penetration aircraft in an arrowhead formation, flying at a height of 300 metres at 780 kmph. The Jaguars were followed by five upgraded MiG-29 air superiority fighters, also in an arrowhead formation and three Sukhoi-30 MKI jets in the Trishul manoeuvre (making a trident in the skies). One of the highlights of the fly-past was a high speed manoeuvre by solitary Su-30 fighter flying at 900 kmph.
Other planes that took part in the display included C-17 Globemaster III heavy lifters, C-130J Super Hercules special operations aircraft, Rudra advanced light helicopter (ALH) Mk IV WSI, and the army’s Dhruv ALH.
If the fly-past left the spectators spellbound, the parade on the ground was just as spectacular, featuring the anti-satellite missile, T-90 tanks, infantry combat vehicles, the Dhanush artillery gun, Akash air defence system, smartly turned out marching contingents and bands from the armed forces and the para military.
A horse-mounted column of the army’s 61 Cavalry (the only active horse cavalry regiment in the world) and the Border Security Force’s bright and colorful camel contingent were a big draw among the spectators. More than 75 dressing items are required to ceremonially dress the camels and their riders.
The marching contingent of the elite Parachute Regiment also left the crowds impressed.
Captain Tania Sher Gill, a fourth-generation army officer, led an all-male marching contingent of the Corps of Signals at the parade. She was the parade adjutant at the Army Day parade on January 15.
The tableaux featured in the parade included one by military veterans – a recognition of their selfless service to the country. It showcased the theme ‘Force behind the Force.’
The naval tableau displayed its firepower in all three dimensions – surface, sub-surface and air. It had mock-ups of a Kolkata-class stealth destroyer armed with BrahMos missiles, the Kalvari submarine with its Exocet missiles and the P-8I submarine hunter aircraft with its Harpoons. The IAF tableau featured mock-ups of Rafale, Tejas light combat aircraft, Akash missile system and Astra beyond visual range air-to-air missile.
Jammu and Kashmir, which participated in the parade for the first time as a Union Territory, had the “Back to Village” programme as the theme for its tableau.