Conference Held in London – 15 & 16 May 2003

An IDC Exclusive Report


New Delhi, 25 May 2003  

It was a professional's delight to learn about the future of all the Navies of the world from the serving officers and top managers of Industry who were building the platforms. All this in just two days of brilliantly prepared presentations, questions and answers and networking over lunches and wine evenings.

Four ladies were at the conference and there were Air Commodores, Harrier flyers, a Brigadier and Army personnel from UK as they now have joint jobs in their MOD. A few bawdy jokes were appreciated and lent light to the conference. Once again it was proved that the naval fraternity knows that the elements of the seas bond them together as professionals and the Laws of the Sea give them a great license in peace time to operate world wide. The West is clear, it will use this facility by world wide deployment now that the cold war is truly past and gone. The big weapons were being put into cold storage and bringing innovative technology and thinking out of the box was the theme everywhere.

Cafe Royale on Regent Street, London was the venue of this year's IPQC Defence & Future Naval Plans and Requirements Conference held on 15th and 16th May. The western world is convinced that the best platforms for the future fight against the UNKNOWN i.e. littorals and terrorism were in the maritime realm at sea and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had proved it. The Navy opens the battle space by launching missiles, aircraft and helicopters from the sea as they can be there on call all the time on world wide deployment and the Air Force can then dominate the air space so that the Army can be landed, supported and facilitated to fight for winning the ground –– the ultimate trophy of any war. Later follows the battle for the hearts and minds of the populace.

Dr Eric Groves of Hull University chaired the Conference with his élan and quips.He was a little critical of the Indian Navy's expansionist trends and derided the European nations for not spending enough on co-operative defence. He wa a proponent of the big ship concept and was happy to complement the Royal Navy plans for the BAE/Thales design Carriers and a future combatant ship of about 10,000 tons which would follow the Type 45 destroyer and would last till 2050.

In brief western Strategy was unclear and so the type of ships were also unclear. The French Navy was going in for medium sized ships, USN is clearly up for the DD(X) and Jumbo Carriers and a big amphibious force. There was no talk of nuclear weapons; in fact the US Admiral said they have been almost removed from the immediate inventory. The news of the Russian ratification of the treaty with US to cut Nukes by 60% broke at the Conference. The complex of sole super power and the doctrine of pre-emptive strike that prevailed over the Anglo-American view therefore had a distinct ring of annoyance for the Pakistani–Indian nuclear build up. Talks were on between the US and its Asian allies (South Korea and Japan) on how to curtail the North Korean muscle flexing.

The largest messages were on Interoperability and Jointness between services, governments and nations. NATO's future and joint programmes like the Franco–Italian Horizon programme was discussed in detail. Finances for the needs were another theme that was argued and hence the Danish concept of multipurpose ships with containerised weapons appealed to many.

The Indian Navy evinced a house full of over 60 professionals and the presentation –– “POOR MAN'S RICH NAVY” theme was appreciated but questions were inevitably asked what the big Navy was meant for?

Vice Admiral Jeremey Blackham gave the keynote speech and covered the world trends in equipment in some detail and the Tomahawk TLAM came in for praise. Minesweeping was covered as terrorists may use this mode to stop ships in SLOCs. He was also critical of the RN in not looking at the catapult as the US are now sure of the ELAMS elecro-magnetic catapult for the future carriers. The Admiral felt that long range planes were the call from carrier decks.

Rear Admiral Dwyer made the US plans clear –– he heads the US carrier programme. Brig Charlie Hobson was clear on Marines and logisitic support from the sea and cited the Iraq war often. Commodore Ranjit Rai spoke of the Indian Navy's 15-year future plan and the questions were What for? He answered in simple terms, ‘so that there was smooth flow of traffic in the Indian Ocean, to support stability and peace in the area for economic developmen.

In the back drop of the Russian exercises with the IN whose details are now out in the Janes International by Richard Scott who was at the conference, the audience was truly interested in the development of the Indian Navy and questions on the efficacy of PJ 10 Brahmos were tabled.

Cdr Robinson and Chris Richards explained the RN's future combatant, Capt Cortes, Chief of Staff Danish Navy was brilliant to explain his Navy's container multi-role ships of the future and AIP submarines as their submarine did well in inteliigence gathering in the Iraq war.

The French Capt Tailleur and Italian Capt Totora explained the Horizon frigate in great detail and that was a delight for the designers and future planners. Capt Simmons of the Royal Navy who is director of strategy, spoke on the future threats and one could see the uncertainty looming in his speech to define the threat clearly but his analysis was excellent. Capt Mannhardt, Head of Ops plans from the German Navy exposed their plans and said the new ships will be bigger for world wide deployment Submarines will have AIP and the first submarine was undergoing 17-day under water trials.

There were many other speakers and Duncan Mc Kellar ex RN now with Thales, expalained EW as the lead war component.

In conclusion it was a conference no Navy's future planners should have missed as much money can be saved if one listened to all the ideas that were thrown up, because the future is uncertain.

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