New Delhi: There will be a series of firsts at the parade for India’s 71st Republic Day this Sunday.
The ‘desi’ Bofors of the Army will be on show, as will the Chinook and Apache helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF). India’s first chief of defence staff (CDS) will join the ceremony along with the three defence chiefs and the location of the customary wreath-laying by the Prime Minister will shift from Amar Jawan Jyoti to the National War Memorial, which was inaugurated last February.
Another new feature will be a 65-member all-women bikers contingent of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) that will show off some daredevil stunts.
Yet another first will be witnessed at the Beating the Retreat ceremony, on 29 January, which marks the conclusion of Republic Day celebrations. The ceremony this year will see the military band play India’s national song Vande Matram for the first time. Contrary to speculation, the popular Christian hymn “Abide With me”, which traditionally concludes the 45-minute performance of military music, has not been dropped.
‘Desi Bofors’ to be star attraction
The Dhanush guns, known as the ‘desi’ Bofors, will be the star attraction of the Army contingent at the parade since it has been indigenously manufactured by the Gun Carriage Factory (GCF) in Jabalpur.
These 155mm x 45mm artillery guns have a strike range of 38 km, 11 km higher than that of the Bofors, which was the main weapon deployed by the Indian Army against Pakistan in Kargil. The first of the Dhanush guns were inducted last April.
The Army will also showcase the indigenously-developed and designed 5-metre short-span bridge, which is meant to ease mobility and can even accommodate the indigenous Arjun Tank.
Another exciting showcase will see the IAF show off its Apache and Chinook helicopters. Apache is the first pure attack helicopter of the IAF. The first batch of the 22 helicopters ordered by India as part of a deal with the US and Boeing were inducted in July last year.
The heavy-lift Chinook, another Boeing product, was also inducted last year, in March.
The Chinook formation Sunday will comprise three newly-inducted helicopters in the ‘vic’ formation that involves aircraft flying in a ‘V’ arrangement.
The ‘Apache’ formation will include five helicopters, which would be flying in an ‘arrowhead’ formation.
First Republic Day after introduction of CDS
This will also be the first time Chief of Defence Staff — a post held by former Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat — will attend the Republic Day parade and welcome the prime minister along with the three defence chiefs.
It will be interesting to note who introduces the three service chiefs to the prime minister — the defence secretary as usual or the CDS.
One of the most exciting showcases will come towards the end of the 90-minute parade, when an all-women CRPF team performs acrobatic feats while riding 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycles.
The contingent will be commanded by Inspector Seema Nag of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), a specialised anti-riots combat unit of the CRPF.
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