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As in 2023 Mar
Battles have been fought on water for ages but the essence of naval warfare lies in the success of gunnery, which is all about delivering ordnance on target – be it from a ship, a submarine, an aircraft, or a coastal battery. For India, mastery in gunnery is synonymous with INS Dronacharya, the Indian Navy’s Centre of Excellence in Gunnery and Missile Warfare under the Southern Naval Command in Kochi that is responsible for training personnel in small arms, missiles and artillery, radar and defensive countermeasures.
In recognition of INS Dronacharya’s glorious service, President of India Droupadi Murmu will award it the prestigious President’s Colour, considered the highest honour that the Supreme Commander bestows on a military unit.
The achievement coincides with the diamond jubilee (75 years) of the Indian Navy’s Gunnery School that was established in 1948 and became INS Dronacharya in 1978. “The award of President’s Colour is in recognition of the yeoman’s service rendered by INS Dronacharya in training sea warriors for accurate delivery of ordnance on target in keeping with their motto ‘Kuru Praharam Prathame’,” said Vice Admiral MA Hampiholi, flag officer commanding-in-chief, Southern Naval Command.
Gunners trained at the premier establishment, which is the sole naval gunnery school in the country, have played stellar roles in many of the naval operations since Independence, including Operation Trident (missile attacks on Karachi during the 1971 Indo-Pak war) and Operation Cactus (rescue of hostages taken by mercenaries who had attempted a coup in The Maldives in 1988). The first time independent India’s naval ships fired on the enemy was in Operation Vijay that liberated Goa from the Portuguese in 1961. “Just like Guru Dronacharya trained Arjuna to focus on the sole eye of the bird, my alma mater taught me the most important life-lesson: ‘one mind, one round, one target’ for victory and in everything that you do,” said Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff, who is a gunnery specialist.
Admiral Madhvendra Singh, former chief of the naval staff, said capturing Anjadip Island, a stronghold of the Portuguese army 3km south of the main Portuguese garrison, on December 18, 1961, was an important part of Op Vijay, which witnessed gunnery excellence. Singh, who was a young midshipman onboard INS Mysore, the flagship cruiser of the Indian Navy that was part of the operation, still remembers the ferocity of the naval landing party’s amphibious operation.
“The gunnery school in Kochi was tasked at a short notice of two weeks to train them in landfighting, camouflage, close combat and gunfight for the specific mission. They reached Mumbai from Kochi and INS Mysore and Trishul took them to the Anjadip coast. At dawn we launched the landing party consisting of two platoons led by Lt Arun Auditto and N Kelman in small boats,” Singh said.
But the assault was repulsed by the Portuguese defenders, who unleashed machine gun fire at the boats from thehill, riddling the naval boats with holes. In the following full-fledged gun and grenade battle spanning several hours, seven gunners were martyred and nearly 18 others injured. However, the Portuguese defences were eventually overrun as the Indian ships INS Mysore and Trishul resorted to heavy shelling.
“The heavy guns of Mysore wreaked havoc along the island’s coast and even trees were uprooted due to the impact. Within 15 minutes of shelling, the Portuguese surrendered and the landing party took control. It was the gunners who won the battle and captured the island. In the meantime, the gunners of INS Betwa and Beas forced Portuguese frigate Afonso de Albuquerque to surrender using their gun power at Goa. It was an inspiration for me to later specialise in gunnery,” Madhvendra Singh said.
“Training at Dronacharya is centred on the time-tested concept of ‘drill to skill’. Every trainee is provided with hands-on experience on all weapon systems used by the force. Live equipment – from 7mm pistol to 76mm artillery guns and from Barak surfaceto-air missile to hypersonic Brahmos – is used to provide practical experience. We have high-fidelity simulators, and emulators are used to replicate live systems of various ships and the realtime feel of various situations or environments that they may encounter in the real world. There is no institution in the Indian Ocean region with comparable facilities for practical gunnery and missile training,” said Commodore V Z Job, commanding officer of INS Dronacharya.
The unit ops room has facilities to train officers to handle fleet air defence and surface action in a near-real-time training environment. There are several virtual reality simulators like those of IGLA surface-to-air shoulderlaunched missile and the 76mm super rapid gun mount, which is the standard fit onboard most ships of the navy today.
“Dronacharya evolved with the rapid changes in gunnery. From the days of cannons and heavy guns, now we have long-range, intelligent and hypersonic missiles and extendedrange shells. Earlier it was line-of-sight firing but now there is no need to see the enemy and you can fire over the horizon, thanks to advanced sensors and long-range missiles and guns,” said Vice Admiral Madanjit Singh, former chief of Southern Naval Command, who is a gunnery specialist. Scan this QR code or visit timesspecial. com. Log in to unlock 3 months of free access. Kerala human sacriﬁce: Tale of perversion, greed
From Karachi to Koochi
The origins of Dronacharya can be traced back to 1943 when the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) set up HMIS Himalaya, the most modern naval gunnery school of its type outside the British Isles at that time, at Manora Sandpit in Karachi. After Independence, HMIS Himalaya was allocated to Pakistan and in October 1948, basic gunnery training facilities were established at the naval base in Kochi. Eventually it was shifted to be co-located with Coastal Battery and Naval Coast Battery at Fort Kochi and was expanded with advanced gunnery training courses and infrastructure. On March 8, 1978 it was commissioned as INS Venduruthy-II that later got rechristened as INS Dronacharya on November 27, 1978 and declared a Centre of Excellence in 2004.
AK 630 fully-automatic naval rotary cannon close-in weapon system at INS Dronacharya
Sentinels of the sea
INS Dronacharya is the nodal centre for training personnel for constabulary operations in the maritime domain and also for the Sagar Prahari Bal (Ocean Sentinel Force), established in response to the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, to enhance coastal security and safeguard ports and naval establishments. SPB teams, which man the naval fast interceptor crafts (FICs), are given training on asymmetric warfare, unarmed combat, slithering ops, etc.