A joint maritime exercise Paschim Lehar (XPL-2022), conducted by the Indian Navy, concluded off the West Coast on 25 January 2022. The exercise was conducted over 20 days to validate operational plans of the Western Naval Command and enhance Inter-Service synergy among the Indian Navy, IAF, Indian Army and Coast Guard. The exercise was conducted under the aegis of FOC-in-C, Western Naval Command.
The intra-theatre exercise included mobilisation and participation of over 40 ships and submarines of the Indian Navy. In addition, the IAF deployed SU 30 MKI & Jaguar maritime strike aircraft, Flight Refuelling Aircraft and AWACs, alongside the Indian Navy’s maritime reconnaissance aircraft P8i, Dorniers, IL 38 SD, unmanned aerial systems and MiG 29K strike aircraft. Various elements of the Indian Army, including Air Defence batteries, were also mobilised for the exercise. After a long gap, many OPVs, FPVs and Air Cushion Vessels of the Coast Guard also participated in exercise Paschim Lehar.
A variety of weapon firings in a realistic tactical scenario, besides validation of operational missions and tasks under varying settings, were undertaken during the exercise.
The exercise provided all participating forces with an opportunity to operate together under realistic conditions in responding to contemporary maritime challenges across the Command’s responsibility areas.
Indian Navy’s Western Command:
Headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra, the Indian Navy’s Western Naval Command is one of its three command-level formations. WNC is the senior-most of the three command formations and is responsible for all naval forces in the Arabian Sea and western parts of the Indian Ocean and the naval establishments on India’s western coast.
Formed on 1 March 1968, WNC comes under a Vice-Admiral rank officer (Three Star Flag Officer). The Western Naval Commander is called the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Command (FOC-in-C). Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh is the current FOC-in-C WNC, who took over on 30 November 2021 after Admiral R Hari Kumar took over as Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) after his tenure as FOC-in-C WNC.
Being the Indian Navy’s sword arm designed to carry out naval operations on the western seaboard, it is the command primarily responsible for the outcome of any potential maritime conflict against its geopolitical rival, Pakistan. The Western Fleet is the two-star level operational formation of the WNC, which utilises Mumbai and Karwar as its home ports, with INS Kunjali as its headquarters in Mumbai.
The fleet at the WNC is based under Flag Officer Maharashtra Area (FOMA) and provides naval defence in the sensitive north Arabian Sea adjacent to Pakistan. INS Kadamba, a large naval base, was constructed under Project Seabird and completed in 2005. At Karwar in Karnataka, this maritime base is used exclusively by the Indian Navy.