Strategic Planning FOR INDIA

By Pramod Buravalli


New Delhi, 15 April 2006

The author contends that the Indian defence establishment has made rapid strides in planning for the next generation. The setting up of strategic bases in the Andamans, Kyrgyzstan and possibly Madagascar are all steps in the right direction. The author also recommends setting up a presence in Vietnam, Singapore, Fiji and Bali to expand India's strategic reach.

Here he presents some insights and comments on the confirmed and some potential acquisitions for the Navy and Air Force.

Indian Navy


  • Scorpene Class 末 The 12 Scorpenes need to be delivered before 2012 instead of a later date as reported. These Killer class subs will form a vital part of the ATV/Akula or carrier task forces and also will be key replacements for some of the older subs currently with the Indian Navy.

  • Amur Class 末 At this stage, an Amur class SSK is not feasible due to cost overages and the lack of specific maintenance facilities in India for this class of subs.

  • ATV Class 末 India should go full steam and produce at least 5 production prototypes including SSBN and SSN variants. In this era of self reliability, ATV offers India a strategic deterrent that is unaffected by errant International suppliers in times of need.

  • Akula Class 末 To supplement an ATV or a Carrier task force, at least 2 Akulas per group need to be acquired. The 2 Akulas that are lying in half constructed state in Russian Naval yards need to quickly be positioned well in advance of an ATV user trial. Eventually, at least 8-10 of these will need to be purchased or leased considering that our neighbours ever increasing and potent undersea assets need to be monitored and neutralized.

  • Kilo-class 末 The main bed of the current SSK fleet, at least 5 new Kilos need to acquired with some of them pre fitted for amphibious commando operations. The existing 10 kilos can keep rotating between mid-life refits and upgrades. The Kilos will ensure the IN of a silent conventional killer for years to come.

Aircraft Carriers

  • Air Defense Ship 末 The ADS design is supposedly one of a fleet Support Carrier. With its complement of over 30 aircraft (combo of MiGs and Kamovs), it lacks a power projection capability. However, since IN is disinterested in worldwide operations and aims for only an Indian Ocean reach, the ADS should do for now. With the growing need for protecting SLOC痴, trade routes and the evergrowing maritime areas of interests, the IN should go for a limited series of atleast 3 ADS痴 by 2020. 

  • INS Vikramaditya 末 The Russians have promised to hand over the warship in late 2007. This ship will most certainly qualify for a Flagship Carrier. With its complement combining strike aircraft and anti submarine helos, the IN will acquire one of the most potent warships in Asia.

  • INS Viraat 末 The Viraat needs to be handed over to the Eastern Naval Fleet after retirement. This carrier can be kept in service until 201215 and can be used as a floating training ship.

  • INS Vikrant 末 The once majestic Vikrant that dominated Asia for over 35 years needs resurrection. The carrier needs to be handed over to the Western Naval Fleet and anchored off the coast of Karwar. This carrier can be used as a floating trainer. The current state of neglect and the commercial use of Vikrant are shameful to the IN.

Navy Aircraft

  • MiG-29K Carrier-borne Fighters Twelve single-seat MiG-29K and four dual-seat MiG-29KUB variants were ordered for operation on INS Vikramaditya. Atleast 2-3 more squadrons need to be purchased and positioned for the ADS and possibly trainer versions need to be obtained taking attrition into account.

  • Joint Strike Fighter/ F-18 Super Hornets 末 One Squadron each of JSF 35C and FA-18 Super Hornets need to be bid for by the IN. If the US Military is willing and truly participating in the competition for 185 aircraft for the Indian Air force, the Indian Navy should pitch the bid for these advanced aircraft 5 th Generation aircrafts. It does not make any sense to go for F-16痴 or regular F-18痴 that have become outdated in the US inventory.

  • Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas The IAF is all set to order 40 LCA Tejas with US engines. Indian Navy should contemplate having a complement of at least 24 land based squadrons with VSTOL capabilities that can be deployed rapidly on the Indian naval carriers. The LCA and/or MCA variants offer the flexibility of packing in increased numbers on the decks of the ADS due to the relatively smaller size. Also, it makes sense to have a pure Air defense fighter decked up on the ADS.

  • Sea Harrier Fleet Upgrade The Navy Sea Harrier fleet after the current approved upgrade is set to acquire BVR capabilities and new Israeli radars. However, the Indian Navy should not find itself stuck for spares in the long run since the Brits and the USN are phasing out the harriers. It is best recommended that these aircraft after the current mid life refits slowly be phased out in favor of the US JSF or an indigenous VSTOL aircraft.

  • Kamov-31 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Helicopters A number of Kamov-31痴 joined the Indian Naval fleet last year. This platform has high stability and heavy anti sub capabilities. Any new helo in this AEW role needs to be a joint production effort with the Israelis or the Russians.

  • TU-142 Bear F Maritime patrol/ASW aircraft armed with anti-ship cruise missiles belong to the cold war era. Any new orders on this platform need to be viewed very seriously as an investment in redundant turboprop technology that is much easier to target with Harpoons. Moreover, the existing 8-10 in service need be send down for an extensive refit.

  • Tupolev-22M3 Backfire With the need for tracking multiple locations and targets over the 2000 km range, this strategic bomber needs to be acquired from Russia in one full squadron strength. Modeled on the US B-1 bomber, this mean machine with almost the variable wing geometry offers the knockout punch for the Indian Military. This type of bomber will also take over the role of high altitude precision bombing from the Mirages and Jaguars of the IAF.

  • Tu-160 Blackjack The Tu-160 is a multi-mission strategic bomber designed for operations ranging from subsonic speeds and low altitudes to speeds over Mach 1 at high altitudes. The two weapons bays can accommodate different mission-specific loads, including strategic cruise missiles, short-range guided missiles, nuclear and conventional bombs, and mines. The Indian Navy and also the Air force will need this type of long range delivery platform to form a strategic triad of nuclear deterrence.


  • Shivalik Class Guided Missile Frigates 末 Three Type 17, 4900-ton Shivalik class stealth frigates were launched recently. These Frigates are almost like Fleet Support Warships and qualify to become independent strike units/squadrons. IN needs to order atleast 6 more of these ships to keep up the pace with the Chinese and Pakistani Navies F22 program.

  • Bangalore Class Guided Missile Destroyers 末 Three Types 15A, 6700-ton Bangalore class Destroyers have been approved. However, these need to be enhanced from their current design to the levels of a capital Warship, more like the Ticonderoga class cruisers with the USN.A destroyer needs to have Land attack capabilities and also have an array of ship to ship and ship to air missiles. The Bangalore class needs to be a moving Aegis type of platform that can be the center piece of an entire fleet.

  • Krivak III Class, Project 1135.6 Guided Missile Frigates 末 Three warships have already joined the Indian Navy. The Russians are eagerly anticipating a repeat order and with the latest feedback coming in from Indian commanders on these ships, IN should go ahead and order 6 more of these stealthy machines.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

  • India should put more financial resources into the joint development initiative with Israel Aircraft Industries. Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) is working to develop three new UAVs. These UAV's need to also have multi-strike capabilities with fighter and bomber versions. The Indian Government needs to get the ISRO, DRDO and ADE together in getting these systems developed. To keep up with the research in UCAV's in the western countries, the hypersonic plane concept needs to be revisited.

Indian Air Force


  • Sukhoi-30MKI Fighter Aircraft A total of 40 aircraft were ordered from IAPO and a license to manufacture 140 more by HAL in India was obtained. IAF should look to making the Sukhoi the mainstay of their combat aircrafts. Atleast 15 squadrons of Su-30 MKI will propel IAF into the best Air forces in the World. An effort needs to be made to base these aircraft on overseas bases also.

  • Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) 66 AJT痴 for the IAF and 11 AJT痴 for the Indian Navy have been ordered. Meanwhile the IAF pilots were undergoing advanced jet training on Royal Air Force Hawk variants in Britain. The aged MiG-21FL variants used as improvised AJT platforms need to retire immediately. DRDO needs to be given additional funds to develop the next generation trainers.

  • Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas IAF is all set to order from HAL 20 + 20 LCA Tejas with US GE-404 engines worth almost $1billion, to be delivered beginning 2008. Weapons integration flights are eagerly awaited while the problems relating to the indigenous Kaveri GTX-35VS two-spool low-bypass ratio turbofan engine need to be sorted out fast. The author suggests that the LCA be integrated into the IAF without delays. After these 40 are inducted and based on performance metrics, a newer upgrade version can be rolled out.

  • MiG-21 Replacement The IAF was set to acquire 180 fighters from 2008 onwards to replace the MiG-21s and the competition is between Rafale, Grippen, F-16C Block 70/F/A-18E/F and MiG-29 M2. These aircraft are solid 44.5 generation aircraft that will only last another 15 years in the manufacturer痴 inventory. The US by its own admittance is going for the JSF and F-22 for all of its forces. The Russians and the French are offering the latest from their stable but again the Indian Government needs to seriously rethink this issue. History shows us that the Indians use a technology platform for over 3040 years and unless the IAF gets the go ahead to purchase the JSF or the F-22, there is no point in getting older technology like the F-14/15/16/18.

  • HAL HJT-36 Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) IJT-36 carried out its first flight in March 2003. DRDO and HAL need to be given additional funds to develop mixed configuration prototypes for the IJT role.

  • Jaguar To extend the operational life of Jaguars, further improvement of avionics suite is now in progress under DARIN II. After DARIN II, the IAF will need to look out for a strike aircraft in foreign inventories. The upgraded Jaguars will remain in service well past 2020.

  • MiG-27/29 At least two squadrons of MiG-27ML are undergoing upgrade. The MiG-27 squadrons will be much more potent after the upgrade. However, it is generally recommended that the Indian Government needs to enter into an agreement with MiG MAPO for the development of a 5 space generation aircraft keeping in mind that all MiG variants need to retire in the next 1520 years.

  • MiG-21The MiG-21 Bisons need to be relegated to coastal patrols or to a base defense role. Similar to the above mentioned insight, the IAF needs to replace all MiG 21/23/27 and 29痴 with higher and much advanced variants of MiGs.

  • Mi-35 Helicopters The major upgrade including Helicopter Multi-mission Optronic Stabilized Payload (HMOSP) providing precise navigation and all-weather operations will take away the need for a mid-level attack helicopter for the time being. However, as the Mi-35's start getting older in 10 years, the IAF will sense the need for a replacement. The best option seems to transition the close support chopper role to the Army Aviation Corps and retain heavy lift and transport capabilities with the IAF.

  • Illyushin-78MKI In-flight Refueling Tanker Six Illyushin-78MKI in-flight refueling tankers have joined the Indian Air Force fleet. These latest tankers have enabled the IAF to undertake long range missions over mixed geographical areas. An additional squadron each for the IAF and the Navy will keep this area covered for a long time.

  • Mirage 2000 V Aircraft India is keen on buying 12 Mirage 2000-5 from Qatar. Unless there is Oil for Aircraft kind of deal behind it, this is an ultra stupid move. The French will halt the service lines for Mirages and though the Mirage has been the best performing aircraft in the AF inventory, it does not make any sense in obtaining second hand ones with outdated avionics.

  • Mirage 2000H/TH Ten additional aircraft to replace accident losses and as part of the War Wastage Reserve had arrived by early 2005.This was more of a necessity for parts than anything else.

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