Each year, Navy Day is celebrated on December 4 to mark the daredevil attack by the Indian Navy on the naval port of Karachi in 1971. As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1971 war, Indian express spoke with Commodore Arvind Rawal, Commander of INS Shivaji, the Indian Navy’s premier technical training institute located at Lonavala in Pune. A former student of the National Defense Academy and INS Shivaji, the Commodore has had difficult mandates at sea, on land and abroad, and has been additional senior director in the Directorate of Maritime Engineering, Headquarters naval, before taking command of INS Shivaji. Extracts.
Q: Tell us about Navy Week and the events leading up to Navy Day. This year is special as the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1971 war.
A: This Navy Day is certainly special. The Navy Week at INS Shivaji started with a medical camp for the civilians of the defense, the population of the village of Kurvande that we adopted and other disadvantaged people. Besides checking their basic health markers, we distributed them with masks, disinfectants and Medicare kits. We also had a boat pull regatta, which took place at INS Shivaji after a huge gap. We also organized the Shivaji half marathon. On Saturday, a wreath laying ceremony is planned as well as a continuity exercise by the sailors as well as a bagpipe dance by the cadets of the Sea Cadet Corps. There were extensive outreach programs for the students of schools and colleges in Pune, informing them of the avenues of the Indian Navy.
Q: Spread over a large area, INS Shivaji is a tight-knit family. How has COVID-19 affected routine at INS Shivaji, especially training? What changes have been made?
A: As a station, INS Shivaji is a large family of over 5,000 people staying on campus. These include 1,200 trainee sailors, over 100 staff officers, 200 trainee officers, 450 civilians and their families. In the dorms with a community kitchen, there was a possibility that things would get out of hand. We had to be strict on our interface with the community outside. Strict quarantine and disinfection protocols have been put in place. 100 percent of the base is doubly vaccinated today. In fact, everyone who has interacted with us has been vaccinated by us – casual workers, military engineering service personnel, letter carriers or those responsible for e-commerce delivery.
In the case of training, we have moved to online courses; training videos were prepared and an internal local area network was used. Outdoor areas used for exercises and activities have been converted into classrooms. The trainees were separated according to the training modules instead of trainees from different courses living together.
Q: Tell us about the new additions to the training facilities at INS Shivaji?
A: The Center for Maritime Engineering and Technology (CMET), Center of Excellence (COE) and School of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense (NBCD) are the mainstays of training at Shivaji. The training infrastructure and training aids are continuously improved in the three schools. We have an upcoming LM2500 Marine Gas Turbine Training Center at CMET; we are planning to have an electric propulsion laboratory. At NBCD School, we have some of the best simulators. We plan to expand these facilities further to align with future Navy training needs.
Q: What are the futuristic avenues of maritime engineering on which INS Shivaji is focusing?
A: In marine engineering, we are seeing an increasing trend in equipment health monitoring mechanisms including augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics. All the projects carried out by the cadets in recent years are based on these contemporary technologies. We are also evaluating the adoption of these technologies on board.
Q: Simulators are the key to modern defense training. Tell us about the simulators you have.
A: INS Shivaji has been at the forefront of introductory simulators. We have land-based training simulators, which mimic the machine control rooms of our P-17, LST (L) ships. We also have simulators for Russian Talwar class and Tabar class ships. Both officers and sailors are trained on these simulators. We also have the INS Vikramaditya training simulator, which is getting ready and should be in service by the end of December.
Q: The training regimes of defense training institutes are rigorous in nature. Do you think it is necessary to recalibrate these regimes?
A: Training is the most important peacetime activity for the armed forces. Trainees come to us at the age of 18-19. It is very important for us to condition them both physically and mentally to adapt to the service lifestyle. In recent years, the armed forces have themselves realigned and recalibrated the physical and mental conditioning regimes in accordance with scientific principles and best practices followed around the world.
Q: How does INS Shivaji collaborate with other institutions such as the College of Military Engineering (CME), apart from other defense and academic institutions?
A: CME and we have a lot of training interfaces related to NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical). There is a lot of exchange of teachers and students. INS Shivaji has a Memorandum of Understanding with IIT Bombay for M Tech in Thermal Engineering. We also have an MoU with IISc Bangalore where we are co-developing certain technologies, which would eventually find their place in the Navy. We also have an MoU with the CSIR laboratory.
Q: Recently a drone was spotted near INS Shivaji and a complaint was filed with the police. Did this result in a change in security at INS Shivaji, which is a sensitive facility?
A: We have a perimeter of more than 15 kilometers. We have perimeter intrusion detectors and walls with other electronic detection systems. In addition to physical security, we have watchtowers and various security formations. When it comes to drones, it is more important to educate the community around us and the local police. And that we did. We have installed signs in areas frequented by tourists. We asked the local police to sensitize traders to this aspect.