India celebrates 71st Republic Day with several firsts

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India marked its 71st Republic Day on Sunday with a parade showcasing some of its newly acquired capabilities and military hardware, both homegrown like the anti-satellite missile as well as those bought from abroad like US-made heavy-lift Chinook and the anti-tank attack Apache helicopters.

The ceremony that lasted one and a half hours, was witnessed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief guest of this year’s parade, Brazilian president Jair Messias Bolsonaro, while President of India Ram Nath Kovind took the salute. Home minister Amit Shah, foreign minister S Jaishankar and human resources development minister Ramesh Pokriyal were among Cabinet ministers present along with top bureaucrats and diplomats of many countries.

The celebration this year was marked by several firsts, starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying homage to soldiers killed in battle at National War Memorial instead of the Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate where he was met by newly appointed Chief of Defence Staff, Bipin Rawat, Indian Army chief Manoj Mukund Naravane, Navy Chief Karambir Singh and Air Force chief R.K.S. Bhadauria. The National War Memorial, which was inaugurated in February last year by Modi, has been built in memory of the soldiers who laid down their lives for the country after Independence.

Other firsts included a contingent of women bikers of paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force that performed daredevil stunts. It was led by Inspector Seema Nag who saluted the President while balanced on a moving motorcycle.

Marching for the first time in the Republic Day parade was a contingent of the Corps of Army Air Defence that was recently awarded colors by the President of India.

One of the showstoppers of the parade was India’s Anti-Satellite Weapons (ASAT) system that was successfully tested in March last year and which propelled India into an exclusive club of nations, including the US, China, and Russia to successfully demonstrate its capabilities to shoot down a low-orbital satellite.

The finale was marked a breathtaking fly past that too saw many new elements. For starters, there were three helicopters one from the army, navy and Air Force each flying past the saluting dais in a “Tri-service formation.”

This was followed by three of India’s newly acquired Chinook helicopters, used for airlifting diverse loads to remote locations, flying in “Vic” or in a formation resembling the letter “V.”

The Chinooks were followed by five Apaches flying in an ‘arrowhead’ formation. Both were inducted into the Indian Air Force last year and made their debut at this year’s parade.

India’s heavy-lift capabilities were showcased by three C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft and three C-17 Globemasters, while the Indian Air Force’s airborne early warning capabilities were showcased by India’s ‘Eye in the Sky- Netra’ (NEtwork TRaffic Analysis) radar system that was flanked by two Russian made Sukhois. Upgraded MiG 29s and the French-British made deep penetration strike Jaguar aircraft also too took part in the flypast.

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