The forgotten Western Fleet (India)
The Western Fleet was given a broad directive to seek and destroy enemy warships, protect our merchant shipping, deny sea lanes to enemy shipping and render ineffective the maritime line of communication between West Pakistan and East Pakistan to prevent any reinforcements from reaching the beleaguered Pakistani forces at that end
The Western Fleet is a Naval fleet of the Indian Navy. It is known as the 'Sword Arm of the Indian Navy. It is headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra on the west coast of India.
It is a part of the Western Naval Command and is responsible for the naval forces in the Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.
The Western Fleet was formally constituted on 1 March 1968. The Fleet is commanded by a Two Star Flag Officer of the rank of Rear Admiral with the title Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet (FOCWF). Rear Admiral Sameer Saxena, NM is the current FOCWF, who took over on 27 December 2021.
The current flagship of the Western Fleet is the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (R33). The Western Fleet in 2014 with the Aircraft Carriers INS Vikramaditya (R33) (flagship) and INS Viraat (R22) in the Arabian Sea
After the independence and the partition of India on 15 August 1947, the ships and personnel of the Royal Indian Navy were divided between the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan.
The division of the ships was on the basis of two-thirds of the fleet to India, one a third to Pakistan. This was then called the Indian Fleet. After her commissioning in 1948, HMIS Delhi (later called INS Delhi) became the Flagship of the Indian Fleet.
The Fleet commander was styled as Flag Officer Commanding Indian Fleet (FOCIF). In 1956, Rear Admiral Ram Dass Katari became the first Indian flag officer and was appointed the first Indian Commander of the Fleet on 2 October, when he took over from Rear-Admiral Sir St John Tyrwhitt.
In 1957, INS Mysore was commissioned and the flag of Rear Adm Katari was transferred from INS Delhi to INS Mysore, thus becoming the flagship of the Indian Fleet.
The first Aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy, INS Vikrant was commissioned in 1961 and became the flagship of the Indian Fleet. On 1 March 1968, the Eastern Naval Command was established and the Indian Fleet was renamed the Western Fleet.
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
At the outbreak of war, the Western Fleet was commanded by Rear Admiral E C Kuruvilla, PVSM, AVSM. In mid-1971, The Aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, along with the frigates INS Brahmaputra and INS Beas were moved from the Western Fleet to the Eastern Naval Command.
Due to this, INS Mysore, once again, became the flagship of the Western Fleet.
According to Admiral Surendra Nath Kohli, the then Commander-in-Chief of Western Naval Command,
"The Western Fleet was given a broad directive to seek and destroy enemy warships, protect our merchant shipping, deny sea lanes to enemy shipping and render ineffective the maritime line of communication between West Pakistan and East Pakistan to prevent any reinforcements from reaching the beleaguered Pakistani forces at that end."