An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 14 May 2003

India–Russia naval relations are being revived. There are many who credit the now legendary Admiral Gorshkov, often called the father of the Russian Navy, as the mentor of India's modern Navy too, for all the help that he gave us. Now another big naval exercise is about to take place and we take pleasure in expressing our thoughts.

From the Russian perspective the forthcoming Indo–Russian joint naval exercises are of great significance. The Russian economy in recent times had attained a certain degree of stability even recording a decent growth. Rise in oil prices and exports and substantial defence exports; notably to India, China and Iran have also helped. The regional ambitions of the once formidable superpower were certain to take priority in course of time and the desire to play an active role in military operations and decisions making on and around the giant Eurasian landmass and Africa appear to be apparent.

The locations of the exercises are of significance as initially the exercises were to be held near the island of Socotra, before moving to the Bay of Bengal for further exercises. Socotra, an Yemeni island off the Horn of Africa on the Gulf of Aden, is a strategic location, overlooking the seagoing traffic between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, and is home to a US signals intelligence facility.

From the waters off Socotra, the Russian and Indian vessels may attempt to monitor USNavy vessels. For this purpose the Russians have chosen 'Moskva' to be the flagship of their advancing armada. The ship was designed as a RKR/CG (Raketny Kreyser/Cruiser, Guided missile), with sixteen Bazalt (SS-N-12 Sandbox) anti-ship missiles mounted in four pairs on either side of the superstructure, giving the ship a distinctive appearance. The warships of this class were purpose designed as flagships, with formidable communications and SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) suite. Formidable SAM (Surface to Air Missile) armament in the form of vertically launched Fort-Ryf (SA-N-6 Grumble missiles) have also been provided. The integrated EW (Electronic Warfare) and SIGINT suite is capable of real time tracking of naval assets as well as interfering with satellite transmissions and jamming cruise missile guidance and control signals.

Other vessels in the Russian fleet have limited electronic warfare capabilities as well. As a complementary measure the Indian navy vessels involved in the exercises will test some new indigenously developed listening devices and other EW equipment. It will be interesting to see whether any Indian airborne ESM (Electronic Support Measures) platform like Illyushin-38 joins the "fray". The presence of Tupolev-22M "Backfire" high speed MR (Maritime Reconnaissance) platforms projected to enter Indian Naval service would have been interesting.

The exercise in the Bay of Bengal may concentrate on elaborate ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) tactics. With the Indian ATV (Advanced Technology Vessel) projected to be commissioned around 2006, invaluable expertise can be acquired from the Russians regarding the operational support to be provided to SSBNs (Submarine, Ballistic missile armed, Nuclear powered). This would include ASW screening around our ATV as well as "breaking" enemy ASW barrier forces for smooth transition of the ATV from one region to another.

The Russians are providing two or three nuclear submarines for ASW exercises, while the formidable Indian surface ASW force is to be joined by two Russian Udaloy class heavily armed ASW Destroyers, 'Marshall Shaposhnikov' and 'Admiral Panteleyev'. They were initially designed for the challenging task of hunting nuclear submarines of the United States in the harsh meteorological conditions of the Arctic. Interestingly 'Admiral Panteleyev' has tasted Indian hospitality before as it had paid a visit to India during the International Fleet Review 2001, along with its "sister ship" 'Admiral Vinogradov'.

While the combined Indo–Russian fleet appears formidable, geographical "blocks" hamper the Russian Navy from playing any major role in the Indian Ocean region, unless they secure a base in this region to set up refit and repair facilities and stockpile stores/spares and provisions. To approach the Indian Ocean region, the Russian ships of the Black Sea fleet have to pass through the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) controlled "choke points" like the Bosphorus Straits, as well as the narrow stretches of the Red Sea. On the eastern side the major bases of the Russian Pacific Fleet are encompassed by Japanese Islands except the isolated and ice-bound submarine base of Petropavlovsk. The Kunashir passage between Russian held Kunashir Island (part of Kuril Islands) and the Japanese island of Hokkaido is an important route for warships of the Russian Navy for access into Pacific Ocean.

Thus to play an active role in the Indian Ocean region the Russians may well decide to forge extremely close links with the Indian Navy. One can only speculate on the rest.

(With inputs from Sayan Mazumdar)

Disclaimer   Copyright