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Navy’s INS Rajput bows out, officers hope legacy of ‘best looking ship’ lives on

INS Rajput was decommissioned in a ceremony Friday. Former commanders remember how formidable a vessel she was & hope a new ship will be christened Rajput to carry on legacy.

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New Delhi: After four decades of service, the Indian Navy’s INS Rajput sailed into sunset Friday in a low-key ceremony at the Naval Dockyard in Visakhapatnam. The event was attended only by in-station officers and sailors, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Commissioned on 4 May 1980, Rajput was the first Indian Naval Ship (INS) to be affiliated with an Army regiment — the Rajput Regiment.

“As the sun sets on 21 May, 2021, the Naval Ensign and the Commissioning Pennant will be hauled down for the last time onboard INS Rajput, symbolising the decommissioning,” a statement from the Navy said.

“With the motto ‘Raj Karega Rajput’ firmly etched in their minds and indomitable spirit, the gallant crew of INS Rajput have remained ever vigilant and always ‘on call’ to protect the maritime interest and sovereignty of the nation,” it added.

The lead ship of the Kashin-class destroyers, Rajput was built by the erstwhile USSR. She was constructed in the 61 Communards Shipyard in Nikolaev (now in Ukraine) under her original Russian name ‘Nadezhny’ (meaning ‘hope’).

The keel of the ship was laid on 11 September 1976. She was launched a year later.

The ship was commissioned three years later as INS Rajput at Poti, Georgia by I.K. Gujral, the then ambassador of India to USSR, with Captain Gulab Mohanlal Hiranandani as her first Commanding Officer.

In her 41 years of service, the ship has the distinction of serving in both Western and Eastern Fleets. She had 31 Commanding Officers (COs) at her helm, with the last CO taking charge of the ship on 14 August 2019.

Over the last four decades, the ship participated in multiple operations including Operation Aman off Sri Lanka to assist Indian Peace Keeping Force, Operation Pawan for patrolling duties off the coast of Sri Lanka, and Operation Cactus to resolve hostage situation off Maldives.

The ship’s crest design displays a head protector helmet and crossed spears, used by Rajput warriors, on a red background.

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‘Formidable, best looking ship in Navy’

Speaking about the ship, a senior Navy officer told ThePrint that INS Rajput was among the formidable and powerful ships of the Indian Navy and her commissioning marked a quantum leap for the service in terms of technology and weaponry and speed.

“For instance, earlier, the Soviet-era ships bought by us had a displacement of 1,000 tonnes and INS Rajput had a displacement of around 5,000 tonnes,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.

With a length of 146 metres, beam of 15.8 m, INS Rajput was capable of speed in excess of 30 knots. Its array of weapons and sensors included surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, the supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, anti-aircraft and anti-missile guns and torpedo and anti-submarine rocket launchers.

“Her range of missiles and armament fitted was much more than any other previous ships. It was majestic and formidable and the best looking ship in the Navy,” the officer quoted above said.

From the 1980s until the advent of the Delhi-class ships in 1997, INS Rajput and INS Godavari were the principal combatants of the Navy.

“She was deployed in various missions in the 1990s. After the advent of Delhi-class ships, the Rajput class ships were all based in Visakhapatnam and became the work horses of the Eastern Fleet,” the office added.

He added that she subsequently went for a midlife upgrade and went on to serve the Navy for nearly another two decades.

The ship was also capable of operating the Chetak helicopter, enabling her to perform coastal and offshore patrolling, monitoring of sea lines of communication, maritime diplomacy, counter terrorism and anti-piracy operations.

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‘Look forward to its reincarnation’

Vice Admiral Anil Chopra (Retd), who commanded the ship around 2000, told ThePrint that INS Rajput is special to him not just because he held its charge, but also because he had served on it as a young officer.

“There are a lot of memories associated with the ship. It is always sad when a ship sails into the sunset but I look forward to its reincarnation. In the Navy, new ships are often given the names of those which served earlier… There was a Rajput before this one too. So even as it gets decommissioned today, its spirit will live on,” he said.

Vice Admiral Chopra also recalled a notable deployment of Rajput in the South China Sea. “I took her to Vietnam and the South China Sea, long before it became famous as it is today. We conducted some submarine exercises,” he said.

“We also had an interesting deployment when we came to the west coast for the President’s Fleet Review in 2001, when there was a large congregation of naval ships at Mumbai,” he said.

Rear Admiral Sandeep Beecha (Retd) who commanded the ship in 2010-2011 said it is a nostalgic day for him as commanding INS Rajput was one of the highest points in his career. He recalled it as the first ship in the Eastern Fleet that conducted anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

“The ship lived up to its reputation and motto. Every mission in which the ship took part was successfully completed. It was a happy ship and was awarded the most spirited of the Eastern Fleet,” he said. “I feel very proud. Hopefully, a new ship will be christened Rajput and the legacy will live on.”

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