DECOMMISSIONING INS GOMATI
Today at the culmination of the Decommissioning of INS Gomati the proudest man walking the Planet must be the creator of the Godavari Class, Capt Mohan Ram, VSM, for not only these ships, an improved version of the old Leander were heavier than those but achieved a knot higher during the First Sea trial, in which the Godavari designer was himself present. Godavari, Ganga and Gomati have had a glorious career in the Indian Navy.
The final commission crew of Gomati under the leadership of its skipper, Capt Sudip Malik left no stone unturned to ensure all the functions and ceremonies were conducted with Elan, prior to its Museum Avatar on the banks of Gomati in Lucknow. Praise be also the Govt of UP for keenness to create a Museum in her honour.
The Ship had arranged for a Bara-Khana in the Sailors Institute Sagar on 22 May 2022, for the former Sailors of Gomati, along with their families. The next wonderful function was the Decommissioning Eve in IMSC on 27 May for the Officers and ladies prior to the final function when the Naval Ensign was hauled down for the last time at sunset on its Quarter Deck at the Cruiser Wharf in the presence of 11 of the 24 COs who had commanded her.
INS Gomati (F-21), Indian Navy’s oldest guided-missile frigate, was decommissioned on May 28 2022, after rendering 34 years of service. After decommissioning, some parts of the warship are to be taken to Lucknow, where the Uttar Pradesh government plans to set up an open-air Museum in her honour. INS Gomati was built at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock Limited in 1978 and was inducted into the Naval fleet on April 16, 1988. The ship was the first Indian Navy vessel to have digital electronics in her combat data system.
The ship was built by Mazagon Dock Ltd in Mumbai and has an indigenous content of 72%. After her mid-life upgrade in 2011, the ship had been fitted with new weapons and sensors, which include the Barak surface-to-air missile system, an Oto Melara 76 mm gun, HUMSA sonar and Advanced Ship Control System for UAVs. The ship will be completely dismantled and transported to Lucknow where it will be installed as the "Gomati Shaurya Smarak," a museum of Gomatis service career.
The 24 Skippers privileged to command her during her 34 yrs glorious service to our Nation are :
1) Capt KMS Rajan : Apr 88 - Nov 89
2) Capt AK Kapur : Nov 89 - Dec 90
3) Capt KSK Prasad : Dec 90 - Oct 92
4) Capt AK Madan : Oct 92 - Apr 94
5) Capt SK Damle : Apr 94 - May 95
6) Capt BS Murthy, VSM: May 95-May 96
7) Capt S Pradeep : May 96 – Jun 97
8) Capt Udai Rao : Jun 97 – Sep 99
9) Capt UN Chitnavis, NM : Sep 99 – May 2001
10) Capt Ranvir Singh, NM : May 2001- Nov 2002
11) Capt A Ghosal : Nov 2002 – Jun 2004
12) Capt RK Okhandiar : Jun 2004 – Aug 2005
13) Capt Aspi Cawasji, NM : Aug 2005 – Dec 2006
14) Capt Monty Khanna, NM : Dec 2006 – Jan 2008
15) Capt Benny M Anthony : Jan 2008 – Jan 2009
16) Capt BC Sethi : Jan 2009 – Feb 2011
17) Capt VS Rawat : Feb 2011 – Jun 2012
18) Cdr AS Dadwal : Jun 2012 – Mar 2013
19) Cdr Satish Vasudev : Mar 2013 – Jun 2014
20) Capt Somen Banerjee : Jun 2014 – Jun 2016
21) Capt Ravi Kumar Dhingra : Jun 2016 – Jun 2018
22) Capt Prashant Kahlon : Jun 2018 – Jan 2020
23) Capt Sumantra Hazarika : Jan 2020 – Feb 2021
24) Capt Sudip malik : Feb 2021 – 28 May 2022
DECOMMISSIONING EVE 27 MAY
Although Meena and I got slightly delayed in reaching IMSC at 7 pm due to snail’s pace traffic on WEH from Borivali, we were warmly welcomed by the Fleet Commander RAdm Sameer Saxena and Capt Sudip Malik, CO Gomati. The lawns of IMSC were abuzz with serving officers and Veterans who had served onboard the mighty warship. It was great pleasure to first interact with senior Veteran VAdm SK Damle, the Harrier Pilot who was not only privileged to command INS Gomati, but also the Southern Naval Command later as its Commander-in-Chief. We had served together in INS Hansa in the 1980s. Like many other senior Naval Aviators, the Admiral has made Goa as his Ashiana. Among the other Senior Veterans who had served on board, it was a pleasure to meet and interact with VAdm Girish Luthra, VAdm IC Rao, VAdm MJ Singh, VAdm K Swaminathan (COS), RAdm BS Purba, Cmde KM Thomas, Cmde UN Chitnavis, Cdr GVK Unnikrishnan, Cmde R Balasubramaniam, Cmde Srikant Kesnur (Dir MWC), Cmde PP SIngh, Cmde Randeep Bose, Surg Cmde (D) Arun Mehta, Capt Tribhuwan Jaiswal, Capt Nandedkar, Capt SK Patnaik, Cdr Ranvir Shekhawat, Cdr SD Singh with their good ladies and many more.
Meena snooped on Cdr Vijay Vadhera interacting with former COs of Gomati. He was visibly amazed being video-graphed on the quiet (Video below). It was also a pleasure to interact with Research Associates of MHS: Ms Chandrima, Jhanavi and Saba, whom I had recently met on a visit to MHS in Noorbhoy building. The CO Capt Sudip Malik took to stage and welcomed all, after which the officers from the previous commissions showcased their talents : Capt Brahmswaroop with his Harmonica, Capt Nandedkar with his karaoke, later all the former officers took to stage to sing a group number. There were enough Bar counters and catering was outsourced with mouth-water chaats, variety of Soups and multi-cuisine dinner to indulge in. Willie Pareira and Brynhild entertained us with their melodious crooning. Willie even came down among the audience and involved the officers to accompany him in the ‘Main shayar toh nahi…’…it was sheer madness that everyone reveled and regaled in…Before departure it was a delight to get snapped with cutouts of Gomati displayed at the IMSC entrance. LtCdr Ravinder Yadav, ASWO came to see us off with a wonderful gift from the mighty ship.
THE NEWS COLUMN
After rendering 34 years of service, the oldest frigate of the Indian Navy, INS Gomati, is set to be decommissioned on May 28 evening at Mazgaon dock, Mumbai.
Holding the war insignia of Lucknow’s Chattar Manzil — the palace of Nawabs of Oudh – the boat had high technical challenges to successfully integrating technologies of Soviet and NATO allies such as Italy, French, the Netherlands and the US.
Designated as the F-21 of Godavari class, the 3,300-tonne multipurpose frigate was commissioned into the Indian Navy on April 16, 1988, by the then defence minister K C Pant. It was the only ship in the world of its size to carry two large SeaKing helicopters. According to an Indian Navy statement, “During her (INS Gomati) years in service, she met all tasks assigned to her with alacrity, conforming to her motto of ‘success is born of action’.”
Speaking to TOI exclusively, the current CO of the frigate, Capt Sudip Malik, said, “INS Gomati was a test of human and international relations. During the height of the cold war between US-led NATO and Soviet Union, the Indian Navy managed to get amalgamation of various technologies on indigenously designed hulls based on British Leander-class. Our hull design was larger, but had the same engine and boilers as Leander, but we achieved greater speed.”
The ship has systems from Dutch (radar), French (helicopter recovery system), British (boilers), Italian (electronic warfare system), US (heating equipment) and USSR (anti-aircraft and anti-ship systems).
Talking to TOI, Commodore (retd) KM Thomas, who was the first XO (executive officer) Commander of the INS Gomati, said, “During system integration on the boat, 40 Russians, 25 Italian, four French, one British and over 40 Indian engineers lived for three-four months on the frigate.”
Sharing an anecdote about the boat, he said, “In the entire period of system integration, the Russian team never spoke any other language barring their mother tongue. In fact, they would pretend to not understand English or Hindi, so in heated moments Indian crew would use cuss words of Hindi and English against Russians. However, on the farewell day, the Russian crew head gave his ‘thank you note’ speech in English and the entire Indian crew was awestruck. The ceremony ended on a happy note.”
After decommissioning, several major parts of INS Gomati would be placed along the Gomti river in Lucknow as a memorial for an Indian Navy frigate. The Indian Navy in a statement to TOI said, “Post decommissioning, to keep the legacy of the ship alive, an open-air museum is being set up on the banks of the Gomti in Lucknow wherein various parts of the ship will be displayed as war relics.”
DECOMMISSIONING CEREMONY 28 MAY
RAdm Sameer Saxena, FOCWF welcomed the guests at the Cruiser Wharf near the Tiger Gate at 6pm onwards. We were escorted by young Lt Maratha, an education officer to the visitors’ enclosure facing the well decked up Gomati on Jetty. The rear enclosure was abuzz with media personnel with their huge cameras. Meena went ahead to snap the distinguished guests in her DSLR before the count down. Subsequent to the impressive speeches by CO Capt Sudip Malik and CinC, it was heartening to see the Tourism Secy of UP sign a MOU with IN for a Gomati Museum to be erected on the banks of Gomati river in Lucknow. Then commenced the final countdown when the CO invited the former COs, Fleet Commander and CinC on the Helo Deck for the immaculate Guard Drill for the Sunset ceremony, executed with precision and elan; lowering of the Naval Ensign for the last time followed by the hauling down of the commissioning pendant; CO reporting to the CinC, “Gomati decommissioned, Sir”. What a sentimental moment it was ! Most eyes were bound to be moist. The dignitaries then disembarked for the screening of the movie Gomati’s Valour commencing with a short speech by the Chief Architect of the Godavari class, Capt Mohan Ram. The movie filled our hearts with pride and patriotic fervor.
At this point of Time if Gomati had a voice, she would've thus spoke , "Third ship of the P-16 class designed by Capt Mohan Ram, I was commissioned on 16 Apr 1988 by then RM Late Shri KC Pant at MDL, Mumbai. There were many unprecedented FIRSTS achieved by me. My Hull form proved my ability to overcome Hydrodynamic problems and paved the way for higher speed with greater displacement, albeit with same engine power. It was I, who paved the way for integration of western and eastern equipment onboard Indian platforms. Wasn't I the first of my size to carry two Seaking Helos on my Deck, a feat recognised by many Navies of the world !? I had truly personified my countries justified ambition of a Blue water Navy and rightfully deserved the coveted Unit Citation twice during my dedicated service of Glorious 34 years to my Nation. Au Revoir. "
It was then time for photo op and merry interaction among the serving personnel and the proud veterans recounting their glorious past onboard the mighty warship. Had the honour and privilege to interact with most Veterans and listen to anecdotes from VAdm SK Damle, RAdm BS Parhar, Cmde KM Thomas, Cmde IS Grewal, Capt Brahm Swaroop, Cdr Unikrishnan at High Tea with assorted snacks and ‘Kulhar Tea’.
By the time we bid Goodbye to all friends it was 9 pm, good time to commence our Tata Manza drive to our Pune Home for a few days. We reached well past midnight after an eventful day, recounting our experiences at the Expressway of the last two remarkable days. Salutes to INS Gomati for her dedicated service to our Nation.
Sam No Varunah
(PS- Do watch the videos at the bottom)