The US NAVY should Not Act Like Irritable Flies Within The Indian Ocean Region
The Maiden flight to India of the venerable TU142, Long Range Maritime Recce aircraft was all ready sometime in early 1988. Russians had permitted an all Indian crew to ferry fly the particular aircraft from Russia to India. Entire route and technical planning was done by them. The aircraft was to depart from Simferopol, Ukraine, to Goa in India as a non-stop direct flight.
The route chosen was overflying Ankara – Larnaca -Cairo – Jeddah – Aden – Mumbai athennd land in Goa. Air Traffic Controllers had cleared the flight to fly at around 36000 feet and at 0.76 speed of sound. Till Cairo there were no problems. However the moment we contacted Saudi Controllers they requested for Radial and DME from a particular position. The Indian Navy pilot replied that VOR DME was not available on board. The Saudi controller became very furious and ordered the aircraft to immediately descend to around 15000 feet. The IN TU142 had no choice but to comply, but since they had fully tanked up so fuel was no problem.
The Aden Controller was very nice and friendly. He cleared the Aircraft to climb back to 36,000 feet and to fly direct to Mumbai. After climbing to the designated height, the pilot Commander V C Pandey, NM, VSM placed the aircraft on auto pilot. After reaching the level, he handed over the stick of the Auto Pilot controller to his Copilot. Yes, there was a long expandable stick with control buttons for manoeuvring the aircraft and it could be swung between the pilots. The entire crew were in a ‘I’m home’ mood – but it did not last long.
As irritable mosquitoes, suddenly American naval fighters came from nowhere and started formating and taking pictures of every inch of the latest Indian Naval aircraft. One fighter aircraft would be with the TU142 for about 15-20 minutes, do a vertical Charlie and disappear. Soon another fighter would arrive to keep company into the Arabian Sea. These American fighters were fully armed.
In the aft section of the Tu-142 there is a gun with twin barrels and a gunner crew. The flight gunner once reported that ‘The fighter is very close to me and almost touching our aircraft ‘. He was told by the Captain not to provoke the fighter and keep cool, soon they will go away. It happened so, at exactly 240 Km from Mumbai ie outside the EEZ. The fighter departed and did not return to keep company. Anyway, now the TU142 was in contact with Mumbai controllers.
This aircraft is now in a museum in Vishakhpatnam in India, which is open to public but at that time it had funnked the Western Countries and had changed their perception of the Indian Navy. The TU142 could fly for 16 hours non stop and carried sharp detectors and mighty arsenal to detect and destroy any submarine conventional or nuclear.
A decade or so back, one night the Officer on Watch on a Indian Naval Frigate received a call “ this is USS….., identify yourself and your purpose “. The Officer without a blink radioed back “ this is INS …. Patrolling the Indian Ocean. Pray what are you doing in these Waters ?“
Long time back, the Australian Naval aur facts used to buzz Indian Naval Ships even as close to Andaman, till one day they were given the fright of their life and such activities of theirs vanished permanently.
The recent arrogant behaviour of the US Naval Ship off Lakshadweep, in case it gets repeated often may probably trigger a similar reaction from the Indian Navy.