70th Republic Day in India: Men, machines and glorious diversity

Fire Power: Newly inducted K-9 Vajra-T self propelled Howitzer rolling down the Rajpath during the 70th Republic Day celebration, in New Delhi on January 26, 2019. | Photo Credit: Kamal Narang

NEW DELHI, Jan 27, 2019, The Hindu. In a recognition of the Subhas Chandra Bose led Indian National Army’s (INA) role in India’s history, four of its veterans featured in the parade during the 70th Republic Day celebrations on Saturday. An all-women contingent of the Assam Rifles also made its debut as did the Army’s newly inducted K-9 Vajra and M777 howitzers in the military display, while an Indian Air Force (IAF) AN-32 aircraft powered by biodiesel flew in the flypast, reported The Hindu.

The contingent of four INA veterans, who rode in open jeeps, included Parmanand, Lalti Ram, Hira Singh and Bhagmal, all aged over 90. Also for the first time was a marching contingent of the Gorkha Brigade, comprising of all seven Gorkha Regiments led by Captain Abhaysheraz Singh Sandhu.
President of India and Supreme Commander of the armed forces Ram Nath Kovind reviewed the display of India’s military prowess and cultural diversity on Rajpath. The Chief Guest for this year’s celebration was the President of South Africa, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.

The K-9 Vajra tracked self-propelled artillery gun from South Korea and the M777 ultra-light howitzer from the U.S. are the Army’s first new artillery inductions after three decades.

The parade also featured the T-90 Bhishma Main Battle Tank, Infantry Combat Vehicle BMP-II, surface mine clearing system, transportable satellite terminal and Akash surface-to-air missile (SAM) system.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) displayed the medium-range SAM and an Arjun armoured recovery and repair vehicle.

The Navy contingent of 144 sailors was led by Lt. Cdr. Ambika Sudhakarn and the Navy tableau was titled, ‘Indian Navy – Combat Ready Force for National Security’.

The IAF contingent also comprised of 144 air warriors led by Flt. Lt. Shrikant Sharma and was followed by a tableau titled ‘Indian Air Force – Encouraging Indigenisation’ showcasing several scaled-down models of indigenous weapon systems.

Amar Jawan Jyoti

The parade began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying homage to the fallen soldiers by laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti (AJJ) at India Gate.

This may be the last Republic Day parade where wreath laying is done at India Gate as the National War Memorial (NWM), which honours the sacrifices of soldiers post-independence is scheduled to be inaugurated in the next few months.

As per protocol, an AJJ is to be set up at the NWM and the wreath laying and guard of honour shifted there eventually.

HAL-made Rudra

The parade concluded with a flypast, which saw several fighter and transport aircraft and helicopters fly in formation. Among them were three AN-32 medium transport aircraft in a ‘Vic’ formation, the lead one powered by a 10% blend of biodiesel with aviation turbine fuel (ATF). The IAF intends to eventually make biodiesel a standard for all of its fleet which would reduce the carbon footprint and also help lower ATF consumption resulting in significant savings.

Two Rudra, the weaponised variant of Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), and two Dhruv ALH of the Army Aviation Corps also flew in formation during the flypast. The flypast culminated with a Sukhoi Su-30MKI air superiority fighter flying at a speed of 900 km/hr performing its signature ‘Vertical Charlie’ manoeuvre.

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