INDIA DEFENCE CONSULTANTS

WHAT'S HOT? ANALYSIS OF RECENT HAPPENINGS

ACQUISITION OF GORSHKOV AND AKULA CLASS SUBMARINES LINKED?

An IDC Analysis 

 

New Delhi, 24 March 2003

With inputs by Sayan Mazumdar

The Deputy Prime Minister of India Shri L K Advani took time off and spent an exciting day at sea with the CNS Admiral Madhvendra Singh, Western Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Vijay Shankar and others, on board INS Viraat off Goa on Monday 17th March witnessing Flying and other Naval operations.

A day at sea with the Navy is always exhilarating and entertaining and the flying display off the Carrier is the ultimate in flying skills, especially at night or in rough seas and bad weather. The Indian Navy is proud of its assets and the Dy PM and his entourage and the very select media persons that were invited came back to New Delhi duly impressed. Such PR exercises by the three services to show off their skills have become very important as the three services still have their own agendas for acquisition and do not easily share the full details with each other, and the Navy's budget this year is up to 17.6% from 13.5%, which is good news for the Nation.

Large and competing acquisitions like the Gorshkov, AJT, Scorpene and Akula class submarines etc., have inter-service claims and rivalries and International pressures, especially as now the powerful CVC and eminent persons get involved to vet the deal. It is therefore very essential that each Chief and his Service use every opportunity to show off their prowess to the Ministers that matter in the Cabinet. In the present case the three-year old GORSHKOV acquisition deal is a very important milestone for the Navy. The Navy Chief said it would take place when both parties are satisfied. The aviation related acquisition deserves national support as it is a fraction of the cost of the huge SU 30 MKI deal, which in the long term will tot up to over $4 billion.

Rakshya Mantri George Fernandes who had to excuse himself from the Navy's International Seminar on Marine Archeology a few days before, because he had to suddenly fly out to Patna where the BJP/Samata Government were in trouble, was present at sea with Dy PM Advani and made a statement to the media which deserves introspection. He stated that certain parties had delayed the AJT deal and went on to say that the Gorshkov deal was connected with other purchases.

We have followed the media and notice that reports that the Gorshkov deal is not a stand alone case and is connected with the acquisition of one Squadron of improved MIG 29K aircraft and possibly with the Akula II class submarines and TU 22 M maritime reconnaissance (MR) aircraft. The TU 22Ms offered by Russia had earlier been rejected by the IAF the IAF pilots that saw this plane operate with Iraqis in the 70s, where they trained the Iraqi Air Force, had a poor opinion of it. The IAF always look for the best, while the Navy has at times accepted second hand ships and equipment to keep budgets lower. At present the Navy needs maritime recce planes badly.

Here a proper perspective of the versatile nuclear submarines and TU 22M is essential. India's nuclear ambitions include the nuclear triad in due course. Indian Navy's DRDO built ATV nuclear boat is some distance away, as revealed at some length in Bharat Karnad's book on Nuclear Weapons and India's Nuclear Security. The 4 TU 22 M long range MR aircraft offered to the Navy are also nuclear capable and should fit the triad's bill cheaply for deterrence now that IAF has mid air IL 78 refuellers. The Navy and IAF can and must cooperate.

The induction of Project 971M Akula II Class SSNs (Submarine, Nuclear powered hunter-killer) like the Gephard from Russia seems almost inevitable in Indian Navy service. The naval officials should ensure integration of the latest range of sensors and weapon systems available from Russia and elsewhere. The Navy is good at that. Structurally these submarines reflect one of the latest technologies; they are very quiet in comparison to other Russian vessels and significantly are the product of advanced Russian research on marine animals, notably dolphins.

It can be assumed that these submarines "by default" will carry a formidable array of potent torpedoes and the Indo-Russian BrahMos ASCMs (Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles). However every effort should be made to retain the capacity of firing the submarine launched Granit (SS-N-21 Sampson) LACMs (Land Attack Cruise Missiles) twelve of which are carried by Russian Akulas
and are fired from common 533 millimetre torpedo tubes. LACMs especially submarine launched, are invaluable assets of any major navy, and are likely to be used in decimating enemy overland communications, command and control centres and powerful air defence installations before extensive barrage air attack followed by ground invasion. If the Russian LACM is not available because of MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) restrictions, efforts should be made to develop an indigenous LACM of fair range and capacity, or re-engineer and enhance the capability of BrahMos or Alpha/Klub (SS-N-27) family of missiles. This aspect will enhance the Indian Navy's capability to influence an "air-land" battle and since this naval application is likely to appeal to politicians as well the Navy will be able to press for increased budget in return. Mr L K Advani who now controls the massive 1 million strong para military and armed police force which are acquiring the latest hardware and training abroad will appreciate this.

The Indian Navy could also opt for the exceptionally high speed (200 Knots) Russian Shkval (Squall) rocket propelled 'torpedo' which is capable of destroying even super-carriers with a couple of hits and provides the targeted vessels very little chance to perform evasive manoeuvres. This 'torpedo' may also be used as a "revenge" weapon, which will be fired along
the bearing of an incoming enemy torpedo. The Russians have disclosed the existence of non-nuclear tipped Shkval-E for export market.

It is generally regarded that the underwater acoustic sensor suite and combat action information system of United States and West European submarines are superior to their Russian contemporaries. Hopefully the Indian Navy is set to "absorb" the key technologies of the Franco-Spanish Scorpene Class SSKs (Submarine, Conventional powered hunter-killer), which includes innovations inspired directly by France's new-generation SSNs and SSBNs (Submarine, Ballistic missile armed, Nuclear powered). It is difficult to ascertain the Completion State of the Akula II Class submarines destined to serve the Indian navy. But if possible the Franco-Spanish technologies especially in terms of the sonar and other acoustic sensor suite and
automated action information/combat management system may be transferred to Akulas if judged to be preferable. The Indian Navy has done this in the past.

The integration of key technologies to a single platform is nothing new in Indian Navy. The "indigenous" Godavari Class frigates proudly display an array of Russian gun/missile systems, American engines, British helicopters, Italian torpedoes and Dutch electronics. Recently Israeli Barak surface to air missile were installed on Indian Navy ships and possibly INS Ganga.
More recently the IAF (Indian Air Force) Sukhoi-30MKI emerged with extensive multinational equipment, though there is criticism on the extra canard wing and variable thrust nozzles which have made the plane more expensive and heavy . The IAF is still looking at dogfights despite BVR missiles. The Chinese have not opted for this. Hopefully similar integration can be extended to Akulas in Indian Navy service and also to our ATV (Advanced Technology Vessel). Interestingly there is a distant similarity between a fighter aircraft in airspace and an agile submerged submarine. Both operate in a three-dimensional environment where a powerful sensor suite to provide "first look", mobility and agility are key to survivability. Cooperation between the three services will be welcomed on this and a CDS may contribute.

 

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