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M 61 Pondicherry Class
(Sov Natya)

Mine countermeasures were provided by a dozen old Pondicherry (Natya) vessels. The twelve vessels of this class were acquired in two batches, the first six of the Pondicherry Class between 1978 and 1980, and the second six of the Karwar Class between 1986 and 1988. A remarkable facet of the high level interactions in Moscow and in Delhi was that each successive acquisition was an improvement on its predecessor. The Karwar class coastal minesweepers were better than the earlier Pondicherry class.

A new class of ships to replace them has been planned, but had run into delays. As of 2009 there was no immediate plan for fresh additions in this class of ships, and the depleting fleet of minesweepers in the Indian Navy is cause for concern.

One vessels serves as an AGI (intelligence collection ship). The last six vessels were delivered out of pennant order. These vessels constitute the 19 and 21 MCM Squadrons. M61 - M66 are based at Mumbai and M67 - M72 are based at Vizag. These vessels carry three types of sweeps - TEM-3, AT-2 and MT-1 which are streamed from their quarter-deck. The ship's hull is made of special U3 steel to reduce its own magnetic signature. These sweeps act as mine-counter equipment and can detect various types of mines such as electro-magnetic influenced mines, acoustically influenced mines, moored mines, etc. The TEM-3 and AT-2 sweeps simulate various signatures that a ship might produce, which in turn causes the mine to explode.

The Times of India reported on 09 January 2006, that eight of the vessels are planned to be decommissioned between 2006 and 2008, while the remaining four are undergoing mid-life refits to extend their operational life. India PR Wire reported on 08 January 2008, that Thales of France has signed a $50 million deal, which would involve refitting four to six Pondicherry Class minesweepers into advanced mine hunters. The sonar suites and combat systems will be replaced, which would give the upgraded vessels leading edge capabilities. These vessels are equally divided between the Western and Eastern Naval Commands, but it was unclear which boats would undergo the mid-life upgrade. What was certain however, is that the refits would take place at Visakhapatnam and thus it is likely that the upgraded vessels will be the ones that were stationed there. Officials from Thales Underwater Systems would conduct the refits in collaboration with the Indian Navy and the project would reportedly take four years to complete.

INS Pondicherry was commissioned at Port Riga on 02 Feb 1978 under the command of Cdr SJ Contractor. The ship was the second minesweeper of her class. The last Commanding Officer was Cdr M Ramachandran. The ship had the proud privilege of providing a sound foundation for many an officers and sailors of the Indian Navy with four officers who served on board having risen to the Flag Rank. The ship was the Presidential Yacht for president Fleet Review in Feb 84. She also displayed the National flag and naval ensign beyond Indian waters at Male in Sep 85 and Dec 90. The ship was formally decommissioned at sunset on 05 Oct 07 at ND (MB) with serving and retired naval personnel who have served on board in attendance.

INS Porbandar, one of the six Coastal Minesweepers for which order was placed with Russia in 1975, was Commissioned at Port Riga in the erstwhile USSR on this day, 19 December 1977. The first ship of her class, she was named by Mrs Devika Teja, wife of then Minister of the Embassy of India, Moscow. The roles envisaged by the ship included detection and destruction of underwater #minefields, laying and sweeping of #mines, and escorting ships through minefields. The ships notable participations included Operation Swan (December 1998) and Operation Rahat (rendered assistance to flood affected areas on Western Coast, July 2005). The ship participated in the Presidents Review on 15 February 1989 and in the International Fleet Review 2001. The ship was decommissioned on 25 May 2007, after almost 30 years of service to the nation.

At sunset at the Naval Dockyard on 23 September 2009, the Indian Navy minesweeper INS Bedi ended its last day at sea, after flying the Indian flag for 30 years. The decommissioning of INS Bedi also saw the countrys ageing minesweeper fleet shrink to eight, from 12 in 2007.

Indian Naval Ships Karwar and Kakinada were decommissioned on May 9, 2017. These minesweepers, belonging to the Flotilla, were bid adieu at a solemn ceremony in Mumbai. The Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba, who was the second Commanding Officer of Kakinada, was the Chief Guest for the occasion.

INS Karwar (M67), was the first of the Natya class minesweepers acquired from the erstwhile USSR. She was commissioned on July 14, 1986 at Riga (Russia) under the command of Commander RK Sinha. The ship operated from Vishakhapatnam till 2013 after which she was based at Mumbai. Manned by a crew of six officers and 90 sailors, INS Karwar has stood proud by her motto Hamesha Tayyar even as the last Commanding Officer Cdr Kaushik Dhar saluted the naval ensign for the last time on May 9, 2017.

INS Kakinada (M70), was the second of the class and also commissioned at Riga on December 23, 1986. Like her sister ship, Kakinada also operated from Vishakhapatnam till 2013 before shifting base port to Mumbai. Her first Commanding Officer, then Lieutenant Commander Satish Soni, rose to the rank of Vice Admiral and retired as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Easter Naval Command in 2016. Commander Amarjit Singh Yumnam, the last Commanding Officer, and her Better than the Best crew bid an emotional farewell to INS Kakinada.

Both ships rendered over 30 years of service to the nation. The ships have undertaken countless mine-sweeping missions using both, the older mechanical sweeps as well as the modern side-scan Sonars.

INS Kozhikode was commissioned on December 19, 1988 at Riga (erstwhile USSR) was the sixth and the last of the modified NATYA class of minesweeper. Named after historic port of Calicut, which was also the epitome in India's maritime history, the ship was an integral part of the 21 Mine Counter Measures Squadron, based under ENC at Visakhapatnam.

Indian Naval Ship Kozhikode was decommissioned in a solemn yet grand ceremony conducted at Naval Jetty Visakhapatnam on April 13, 2019. Vice Adm SN Ghormade, Chief of Staff, Eastern Naval Command was the Chief Guest for the occasion. As the sun slowly set in the distant horizon, the ship gracefully 'retired' as operational ship after three decades of glorious service in the Indian Navy. Cmde Samir Advani (Retd) commissioning Commanding Officer was the Guest of Honour for the decommissioning ceremony which was attended by 16 erstwhile Commanding Officers, Officers and sailors who have served on board the Ship. Capt P Sasidharan (Retd), commissioning Executive Officer, Cdr Afzal Khan, commissioning Navigating Officer, Cdr VK Sharma (Retd) commissioning Engineering Officer and Mrs Madhavi Sani, wife of late Cdr Nadeem Sani commissioning Gunnery Officer of the ship, also graced the occasion.

Vice Adm Ghormade paid tribute to the crew of the ship and highlighted the contributions of the ship to the country's maritime security and her participation in various operations ranging over three decades. It was a poignant moment for those witnessing the ensign of the warship being lowered for the last time, as the ceremonial guard on board, gave the vessel a final salute as a tribute to three decades of glorious service rendered by the ship. As part of the decommissioning ceremony, a Barakhana for retired and serving sailors and their families was held in the afternoon and was followed by a reception on April 12, 2019.



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