COASTAL BATTERIES THEN AND NOW

  • Coastal Batteries around the world have been in existence for a very long time. In the olden days, the purpose of coastal batteries was to operate anti-ship artillery or fixed gun batteries in coastal fortifications. The general rule of thumb was that one shore-based coastalgun equaled three naval guns of the same caliber. The steadiness of the coastal gun allowed higher accuracy as well as additional protection by way of walls or earth mounds.
  • One of the first registered uses of coastal artillery was in 1381AD – during the war between Ferdinand I of Portugal and Henry II of Castile, when the troops of the King of Portugal used cannons to defend Lisbon against an attack from the Castilian naval fleet.The use of coastal artillery expanded during the 16th century. Colonial powers almost always built a coastal fortress, both to deter rival naval powers and to subjugate the natives. Coastal artillery could be part of the Navy (as in Scandinavian countries, war-time Germany, and the Soviet Union) or part of the Army (as in Anglophone countries). In the United Kingdom, in the later 19th and earlier 20th centuries, coastal artillery was the responsibility of the Royal Garrison Artillery.
  • WORLD WAR II
  • The Coastal Batteries were very effectively used in the Second World War both by the Allied Forces as well as by the Germans. During the Battle of Drøbak Sound in April 1940, the German Navy lost their new heavy cruiser Blücher, one of their most modern ships, to a combination of fire from various coastal artillery emplacements, including two obsolete German-made Krupp 280 mm guns and equally obsolete Whitehead torpedoes. Singapore was defended by its famous large-caliber coastal guns, which included one battery of three 381 mm guns and one with two 15-inch (381 mm) guns. Prime Minister Winston Churchill nicknamed the garrison as “The Gibraltar of the East” and the “Lion of the Sea”. Nazi Germany fortified its conquered territories with the Atlantic Wall. They built a string of reinforced concrete pillboxes along the beaches, or sometimes slightly inland, to house machine guns, antitank guns, artillery ranging in size up to the large 38 cm naval guns. The intent was to destroy the Allied landing craft before they could unload.
  • INDIAN CONTEXT
  • India inheritedthe conceptof operating coastal batteries from the British, the Indian coast line had the fortification of coastal batteries along the coastline to protect the Major harbors against enemy attacks. Some of the major coastal batteries were located at Okha, Diu, Mumbai, Goa, Kochi and Vishakapatnam.
  • The Middle Ground Coastal Battery is a heritage site of an antique coastal gun battery on an islet off the coast of Mumbai. It is situated on Middle Ground isle in Mumbai Harbour. The Middle Ground Coastal Battery was once part of a reef, like the nearby Oyster Rock. Middle Ground islet is a piece of hard basalt rock, emerging from the creek bed, having an area of a few hundred square metres.
  • The island was fortified in 1682 by the British East India Company to curb the sea piracy in the area. Later a marine police force of Bhandaris was stationed on the islet to keep an eye on the pirates who used to board ships. After piracy moved to the South China Sea, about two hundred years ago, the police were disbanded and the rock passed into the control of the Royal Navy and from thento the Royal Indian Navy and eventually to the Indian Navy. Current Use The Middle Ground island is manned by a staff of two sailors of the Navy (INS Kunjali) and the island serves as the saluting base to the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command. The old cannons are ceremonially fired along with a bugle call when a new FOC-in-C takes over office or when a naval ship returns to its home port in harbour after an extended deployment.
  • The edifice stores artifacts of the colonial era such as ceramic bathtubs, ensigns etc. A maritime museum occupied a portion of the isle, but it was shut down in 2000 with the exhibits being moved to the maritime museum of the decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Vikrant when it wasopened to the public. Ensigns of old naval ships are still stored on the isle.
  • Mobile Missile Coastal Batteries
  • With the advent of technology the concept of coastal batteries shifted from guns to missiles, wherein vehicles were used to transport or launch missiles. Such vehicles could be used to transport one or multiple missiles each. The missile vehicle was a self-propelled unit or the missile holder/launcherwas on a trailer towed by a prime mover. They are being used by the armed forces of a number of countries in the world. The missiles are commonly transported parallel to the ground on these vehicles, but elevated into an inclined or vertical position for launching. Missile vehicles include transporter erector launchers (TEL) and multiple rocket launchers (MRL) such as the Patriot missile system. Single or dual missile vehicles often transport their missiles uncovered. The missile batteries of multiple rocket launchers often hold their missiles inside tubular or rectangular canisters for each missile, from which the missiles or rockets can be launched.
  • Russia, the pioneers in MMCB technology today have one of the most up-to-date mobile coastal defense missile systems. They have included the club missiles in their MMCB inventory. But extensively use the Bal-E coastal missile system to engage surface combatants. The MMCB uses hostile electronic counter measures and antiship cruise missiles. The only one which boasts of carrying 08 missiles in each launcher.
  • INDIAN CONTEXT – MMCB SQUADRON
  • In 1964, the Coastal Defence was handed over to the Indian Navy by the Army consequent to Chinese aggression on the Northern and North- Eastern frontiers. With the decision to transfer coastal Batteries from the Indian Army to the Indian Navy, the defence of key ports and harbours became the responsibility of the Indian Navy. On 12 Dec 64, Vice Admiral B S Soman, Chief of the Naval Staff directed Commander J D Cooper to proceed to commission the Coastal Batteries at Bombay which were re-organised collectively under the apt name “TRATA” – Defender in Sanskrit.
  • Commissioning of INS Trata
  • INS Trata, which was located at Colaba since 12 Dec 1964 was shifted to Worli on 10 Aug 92 and was made responsible for operating the Mobile Missile Costal Battery which are an operational combat unit. Mobile Missile Costal Battery (MMCB) was formally included in the Navy on 26 Aug 1988. The first division of MMCBs along with the support vehicles commenced to arrive in India from Dec 88 onwards and the division started operating from Trata.
  • The present MMCB Squadron has completed 25 years of unblemished service in the Indian Navy, during this period the Squadron has undertaken 13 missile firing and has participated in major operations such as Op Gandeev and Op Prakaram. It was deployed independently for an extended duration of 17 months at Koteshwar in north Gujarat area.
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