By Sayan Majumdar*


New Delhi, 30 March 2005

Sayan Majumdar has portrayed a scenario of Chinese maritime expansion aims and what may happen in the event of a Sino-Indian conflict in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea regions, in the future. He then concludes that only the Indian Navy may be able to effectively counter the threat. Food for thought which our naval planners and national leadership should ponder.

In January 2005 the Washington Times had disclosed an internal report prepared for US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pointing to an ambitious Chinese plan to extend its maritime and naval influence beyond the South China Sea. The new area of influence encompassed the Indian Ocean to access the Middle East to project Chinese naval power overseas and protect its oill shipments. In initial “low key” measures China is seeking to use commercial port facilities around the world to control strategic ocean routes and "chokepoints”. The long term objective appears to be to militarily control oil shipping sea lanes. Already a Chinese company with close ties to Beijing's communist rulers holds long-term leases on port facilities at either end of the Panama Canal.

The “high-profile” Gwadar port in southwest Pakistan next to Iran is being built by China, which could well be China's outlet port for oil and gas from Central Asia. Beijing was swift to set up Electronic Support Measures (ESM) eavesdropping posts at Gwadar, capable of monitoring ship traffic through the strategically sensitive Straits of Hormuz and the Arabian Sea. Meanwhile at the eastern corner of the Indian subcontinent Bangladesh had been approached for naval and commercial access, with China building a container port facility at Chittagong.

In the words of Chinese President Hu Jintao, China faces a "Malacca Dilemma" or the vulnerability of its imported oil supply lines from the Middle East and Africa to possible blockage of United States Navy (USN) and its allies, in the event of any possible hostilities near the Malaysian archipelago and thus severely crippling China, by blocking its energy supply needs. Although alarming from the Indian strategic point-of-view, China has successfully turned Myanmar into a “satellite” by developing close ties and providing military assistance to the military regime. Myanmar is situated close to the Straits of Malacca, through which eighty percent of China's imported oil passes. Now buzzing with Chinese naval buildups and activities naval bases are being built and electronic intelligence gathering facilities are being constructed on islands in the Bay of Bengal and near the Straits of Malacca. Having already built up "listening posts" at strategic points, severe complications may arise for India, if China manages to deploy a sizable military force at Tenasserim, in assistance with Myanmar, to protect the interests of both itself and the military junta.

Recently China signed a military agreement with Cambodia in November 2003 to provide training and equipment, while Cambodia is helping Beijing to build a railway line from southern China to the sea. for rapid movement of troops and logistics if necessary. In Thailand China is considering funding construction of a $20 billion canal across the Isthmus of Kra, which would allow ships to bypass the Straits of Malacca. The canal project will additionally provide China port facilities, warehouses and other infrastructure in Thailand. Interestingly, among the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, Thailand and Myanmar are considered to be “close” to the Chinese leadership while the other members do view Chinese long term strategic aims with suspicion.

China is also building up its military forces in the South China Sea region for projection of air and naval power on the Chinese mainland and Hainan Island. Hainan came to international limelight in 2001, when one USN EP-3E Aries II ELINT platform on “routine duty” was compelled to force land on the island after colliding with and destroying a Chinese F-8 ‘Finback’ fighter aircraft. China recently upgraded a military airstrip on Woody Island and increased its presence through oil drilling platforms and ocean survey ships. The Chinese already dominate the Parcael and Spratly Islands from which the PLAN can move to the Indian Ocean through the Malacca, Sunda, Lombok and Sumba straits. The possession of Spratly Islands have developed into a potentially fierce point of conflict as three nations, China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim those island territories in totality with partial claims from Malaysia, Philippines and maritime claims from Brunei. Even if no significant Chinese surface combatants are deployed in and around the Indian Ocean in the near term, a couple of nuclear powered attack submarines my move in for semi-permanent deployment.

China has already received the first of eight Type 636 Russian Kilo Class “hunter-killer” Submarines (SSK). Designed for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Surface unit Warfare (ASuW) and for general reconnaissance missions, the Type 636 submarine is considered to be one of the quietest SSKs in the world, with an impressive array of sensors and matching weapons. By 2010, the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is expected to number approximately seventy modern surface combatants; two to three ballistic-missile armed submarines (SSBN); and 20 to 30 modern attack submarines, perhaps six of them nuclear-powered (SSN). The Marine Corps, recently expanded from one to two brigades, may add a third unit although its assault mission will keep it tasked to the South and possibly the East Sea Fleets as they are relatively small and thinly spread. The Marine Corps incidentally is equipped with the finest of the Chinese armed forces “ground weapons” and its standard of training remains substantially higher than Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). The production and development of support vessels such as transport craft and landing ships was also being stepped up for transportation of men and materials in decent numbers to enhance strategic sealift capabilities for tackling any Taiwan related crisis.

A new generation of conventional and nuclear attack as well as missile submarines is being developed to replace the PLAN outdated Ming-class conventional powered patrol submarines (SS), first-generation Han Class SSN and Xia Class SSBN. The first hull of the new generation Type 093 SSN, which is equivalent to the USN early production Los Angeles Class SSN, is reported to have been launched with Russian help in the past year or so and is expected to enter service soon. More than six vessels of the indigenously developed Song-class SS have so far been built. The initial development of the Song encountered significant design and engineering problems, especially related to propulsion, but they appear to have been resolved and are now coming off the production lines at a rate of one annually. The PLAN is putting great emphasis on "undersea retaliatory capability to protect the sea lanes“ of its interests. Thus presently the emphasis is clearly on sea denial.

The Type 052C Lanzhou Class guided missile destroyer (DDG) has been developed by the Chinese shipbuilding industry and is equipped with stealth features and a long-range area air-defence Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system that has been compared to the early models of the USN Ticonderoga Class AEGIS cruiser. The Type 052C shares the same hull design with the Type 052B constructed by the same shipyard, but its weapon systems and sensors are more advanced. The Type 052C features a range of newly developed systems including the HQ-9/S-300F area defence SAMs launched from the vertical launching system (VLS), the four-array multifunction phased array radar similar to the U.S. AN/SPY-1 AEGIS, and the YJ-85 (C-805) anti-ship missile.

The first ship of this class was delivered to the PLAN last summer and a second vessel was to be completed later this year. Their weapons systems are reported to be similar to the modified Soveremenyy Class DDG that PLAN had acquired from Russia delivered in December 1999 and November 2000. Two more DDG are due to be delivered in 2005 and 2006. In addition to the devastating 3M80E Moskit anti-ship missiles the Sovremennyy design has provided for the first time a decent area-defence SAM capability to the Chinese Navy in the shape of SA-N-7 ‘Gadfly‘ area defence SAM. Significantly, the Chinese aircraft designers are reported to be working on design of an aircraft carrier based fighter and thus may be logically deducted that in not too distant future the PLAN will opt for aircraft carries to establish local air superiority over high seas and conduct sustained strike missions against enemy coastal facilities and further inland.

The capabilities of the PLAAF also received a great boost with the induction of Sukhoi-30MKK multi-role air dominance fighters enabling the service to project for the first time in history a state-of-the-art air threat well in excess of 1,850-km (radius of action), thanks to buddy refueling sorties and stand-off missiles. The radius of action in course of time may be sufficiently boosted by induction if in-flight refueling (IFR) tankers. As things stand a total of 78 Sukhoi-30MKK variants are projected to enter PLAAF service with at least few examples moving to the PLAN command.  The PLAAF and PLAN are also putting adequate stress on procurement of force-multipliers and target acquisition systems such as Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS), optical satellites and maritime Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). It is possible that China has converted some of their Russian origin Tupolev-16 ‘Badger’ medium bombers and Illyushin-76 ‘Candid’ freighters to In-Flight Refueling (IFR) platforms. In addition the PLAAF is clearly interested on the Illyushin-78 ‘Midas’ IFR tankers.

The Chinese maritime ambitions are bound to face serious challenges from a number of Asian and “overseas” nations possessing formidable maritime power unilaterally or as a “block”. After all the Chinese policy of “strategic expansion” and frequent switch between assertion and conciliation are widely viewed with strong suspicion. India's geographical position has permitted her to influence maritime traffic in the Indian Ocean that originates from the Persian Gulf or Straits of Hormuz or Cape of Good Hope towards the Far East. A significant amount of fossil fuel especially petroleum moves in these sea routes along with raw materials also essential for the developed Western World and Japan. No wonder the United States Navy keeps a heavy naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region in the form of the Seventh Fleet and is the undisputed strongest naval force in the Indian Ocean region.

In addition, one USN nuclear powered aircraft carrier (CVN) is permanently stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, to respond to possible contingencies. The British held island of Diego Garcia serves as an important strategic base for strike missions and pre-positioned stocks for the USN. The British Royal Navy and the French Marine Nationale (Navy) further cooperate with the USN. The French Navy itself possessed a small naval base at Saint Denis in Reunion Islands and have a separate Indian Ocean Theatre Command (ALINDIEN). Interestingly now there is enough indication of renewal of Japanese maritime ambitions in the Indian Ocean and West Pacific with projected construction of "Flat Tops" and a desire for out of area deployments. The resurgent Russian Navy will also in course of time maintain a heavy naval presence in the Indian Ocean usually as powerful detachments from Russian Black Sea and Pacific Fleets dominated by Udaloy Class ASW Destroyers like Admiral Vinogradov and Admiral Pantelyev. After all it is enormously economical and convenient to transport materials from "European Russia" to the Far East Russian landmass by the sea route than by Trans-Siberian Railway and the sea lanes need to be kept open.

Possibly as a counterbalance the Indian Navy and USN have already initiated active cooperation and joint patrolling in selected strategic areas of the Indian Ocean. The eastern periphery and narrow waterways around the Straits of Malacca seem to be the "favourite choice". An ASW patrol in the narrow waterways of various straits will keep track of surface and sub-surface movements and deployment from one operational area to another in addition to combating notorious piracy in the region. As a sign of significant expansion of ambitious cooperation, the Indian Navy has now geared up for deployment in the Persian Gulf region at least for limited periods and that too with a powerful Surface Action Group comprising of Delhi Class Destroyers and Talwar (Krivak III) Class Frigates with support ships.

For long-term strategic requirements and naval operations, it is perhaps high time to create a separate Indian Far East Naval Command for extensive operations in South-East Asia around the Straits of Malacca and South China Sea in active cooperation with United States and other allied littoral navies. Indeed this particular command will “draw in” heavy resources both in material and financial terms but the strategic advantages it will provide to the Indian political leadership and naval commanders will far outweigh its “resources”. Since the key potential military, industrial, commercial targets and related infrastructure of China are located along its east coast, they could be subjected to intensive air strikes by Indian Navy strike fighters operating from aircraft carriers and by cruise missiles fired from major surface and sub-surface combatants in the event of a failure of Sino-Indian dialogue and negotiations and outbreak of hostilities. These counter-force, counter-value and Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) operations conducted “from sea” will be able to bypass the formidable Chinese network of terrestrial radars and integrated Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems at considerable length at the waypoints of high-value targets.

China has enjoyed the advantage of holding the “heights” on the Himalayan front and the presence of a “comfortable buffer” and strategic depth as against India, after the occupation of Tibet. Thus even the Indian Air Force strike missions with present force structure will remain at best limited to Chinese invasion routes in Tibet and southern China. Only a formidable and flexible naval presence in the South China Sea in active cooperation with allied navies will remove the geopolitical constraints and even in peacetime will present a robust political tool in the hands of Indian national leadership. The Indian presence around the Straits of Malacca and at South China Sea should comprise of at least one aircraft carrier, one nuclear powered ballistic missile firing submarine (SSBN), two multi-purpose nuclear “hunter-killer” attack submarines (SSN) capable of firing Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACM) and associated major surface combatants and support ships. The access to United States and allied naval and air bases in the Pacific and pre-positioned naval stocks will prove vital. The French Marine Nationale also maintains a separate Pacific Ocean Theatre Command (ALPACI).


The design of the first unit of India’s indigenous Air Defence Ship (ADS) appears to have been frozen around the pristine Italian Cavour design. At DEFEXPO 04 in New Delhi the Italians displayed a model which had remarkable similarities with India’s ADS, and it evinced a lot of interest. The ship has the LM 2500 gas turbines, five bladed CPP propellers, one side lift and one lift forward and the ski ramp. A strong feature of the design is its high flexibility in operational terms. It is able to carry out the functions of an aircraft carrier as well as to transport wheeled and tracked vehicles, for an amphibious assault role. The design is also bound to be very useful in disaster management missions and may be equipped with extensive hospital facilities.

However for a projected Indian Naval commitment in East Asia the proposed second and third design should bear closer resemblance to the French Charles de Gaulle nuclear powered aircraft carrier (CVN) design, constructed for Marine Nationale at the DCN Brest naval shipyard in Brittany. Since operations in East Asia will considerably “stretch” the logistical capacity of the Indian Navy, the nuclear power option may be the preferred choice. Nuclear propulsion will also render these high-value capital warships relatively invulnerable for their ability to move and manoeuvre more freely, without excessive dependence on fleet replenishments during operations. With recent US intention to share know-how regarding peaceful use of nuclear energy the Indian political and naval leadership will do well to secure the relevant technologies of the “unlimited naval propulsion”.

Provision should be made for futuristic steam catapults or advanced electromagnetic aircraft launch-and-recovery systems alike EMALS (Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System) being developed by Kaman Electromagnetics, alongside an internal-combustion catapult system fuelled by JP-5 jet fuel for the US CVNX project. This subject remains a hot topic at contemporary Naval Air Warfare Conferences. Such systems would permit the operation of a truly composite aircraft mix of fixed-wing airborne platforms of heavier air dominance fighters like Russian Sukhoi-33 (Sukhoi-27K) as well as fixed-wing AWACS platforms alike the US E-2C 'Hawkeye' that have considerably greater range and endurance than similar helicopter platforms. Fixed-wing AWACS platforms also have superior coverage of airspace, posses significant "overland" capability and more importantly have the ability to guide and control ship borne fighters towards their targets, an attribute the Airborne Early Warning (AEW) helicopter platforms like Kamov-31 lack. 'Hawkeye' operates from the French PAN/CVN 'Charles de Gaulle'.

The suggested operation of Russian Sukhoi-33 air dominance fighters assumes significance in light of two Indo–Russian jointly developed high-profile missiles, the PJ-10 BrahMos Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) and possible follow-ups and the Novator R-172 ultra-long range Air-to-Air Missile (AAM). Only the Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30MKI is capable of carrying these two types of missiles to decisive effect in operations in our fighter inventory. Sukhoi-33, if operated by the Indian Navy in future, will be able to do the same. Designed to fulfil the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) role for “outer-air battles”, an aircraft usually of Sukhoi-27/30/33/35/37 “Flanker/Super Flanker” family, equipped with R-172 will be able to engage ultra-high-value airborne platforms like enemy AWACS, In-Flight Refueling (IFR) and Long Range Maritime Patrol (LRMP) platforms, without necessarily having first to deal with their fighter escorts. The attributes of the air-launched PJ-10 BrahMos will be discussed at later part of this article. For now it is sufficient to state that the Sukhoi-33/R-172/BrahMos combination will constitute a significant and much needed punch against the Chinese surface and airborne threats including Sukhoi-30MKK fighters and Sovremannyy and Lanzhou Class DDG.

The ADS should also be equipped with a formidable multi-tier SAM combination to defeat a full spectrum of air threats that range from low-flying strike aircraft to sea-skimming anti-ship missiles fired from both strike aircraft and significantly from submerged submarines, offering a far greater challenge. Since the European missile and smart munitions manufacturer MBDA now enjoys close co-operation with Indian defence industry, it may be logical to go for MBDA developed Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS) being developed for Franco-Italian Horizon class frigates, working with Empar C-band radar. PAAMS is a combination of vertically launched rapid reaction, active-radar Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles. Aster 15 has a range of 1.7 to 30-km and is operational aboard French aircraft carrier 'Charles de Gaulle' with a combination of the Arabel X-band radar. Aster 30 in addition to self-defence has area defence capability with 3 to 100-km range.


An Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile (ATBM) capable SAM is considered a prerequisite as aircraft-carrier battle groups, if detected, may invite nuclear ballistic missile strikes resulting in considerable damage. The French are working on an ATBM capable Aster version while the option of United States Standard SM-2 and follow on variants seems to be open. This ATBM system may be mounted on the ADS itself or on its "principal escort". Since the Indian Navy was opting for at least three ADS, at least one needs to be built abroad or acquired for swift induction in Indian Navy fleet.

While the SSBN in the shape of the indigenous Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) will provide the much needed nuclear deterrence against China with considerable effect if operated around South China Sea and armed with projected 2,500-km missiles, the multi-purpose SSNs like Akula II will enjoy the flexibility of operations along with the major surface combatants. The teeth of these platforms will be the supersonic PJ-10 BrahMos Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) subsequently modified for diverse applications and launch platforms like warships, submarines, aircrafts and land-platforms. A joint venture between Indian DRDO and Russian NPO Mashinostroyeniya (NPO Mash) the air-launched version to be developed will have a smaller booster and additional tail fins for stability during launch. The missile with a low Radar Cross Section (RCS) will sport an Active Radar Homing (ARH) seeker to facilitate fire-and-forget launch while varieties of flight trajectories will complicate the task of the adversary. A 290-km long flight range with high supersonic (Mach 2.8) speed will lead to lower target dispersion and quicker engagement and higher destructive capability aided by the large kinetic energy of impact. In most of the cases the target warship will be denied sufficient time to react.

The BrahMos will turn out to be an even more deadly ASCM if the Indian software designers have by now matured the already formidable guidance system of the BrahMos predecessor SS-N-26 Yakhont which has accumulated all the NPO Mash experience in developing electronic systems of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Thus in case of a salvo launch a flock of BrahMos will be able to allocate and range targets by their importance and choose the attack implementation plan. The independent control system will take care of the Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) and Electronic Counter-Counter Measures (ECCM) data, and also the methods of evading the fire of the enemy's air defense systems. After destroying the main target in a CVBG or surface action group, the remaining missiles will destroy the other ships eliminating in the process the possibility of using two missiles on single target.

Of equal importance is the induction of an "extended range" BrahMos ASCM to further increase the stand-off distance and range as hinted. These missiles after-all offer the attraction of stand-off ranges and do not require launch platforms to enter hostile airspace or territory or operate close to the shore. Meanwhile as part of Alfa next-generation airborne reconnaissance and strike system, NPO Mash unveiled the Yakhont-M supersonic ASCM at the MAKS 2003 air show, that share elements with the PJ-10 BrahMos. The Yakhont-M is an air-launched ASCM intended for Sukhoi-30 multi-role fighters, Sukhoi-34 and Sukhoi-24M strike fighters with multi-sensor guidance, to engage surface ships and ground targets at up to 300-km. Reconnaissance and target acquisition would be provided by radar and electro-optical equipped Kondor low-Earth-orbit satellites. A passive radiation homing "extended range" BrahMos if developed, will fulfill an Indian Navy requirement of a formidable Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM). 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 necessary. The USN has repeatedly demonstrated this concept in the past two decades over Middle East and Balkans with considerable success. It is one of the prime reasons for early accomplishments in operations and low US casualties.

Also the projected acquisition of Tupolev-22M3 (Backfire-C) for the Indian Navy is a significant step as the 'M3' version is designed for strategic bombing/maritime strike and entered service in Soviet Dalnaya Aviatsiya (DA) or Long-Range Aviation and AV-MF or Naval Aviation during early 1980s. In Indian Navy service its main weapon is projected to be the air-launched variant of supersonic Indo-Russian PJ-10 BrahMos Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) and possibly a capability to carry nuclear bombs that Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) say are available. If primary high speed reconnaissance role is also the peace time role intended, Tupolev-22MR is the alternative choice since the 'MR' version carries a giant Side Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) in what was previously the internal bomb bay. The ’MR’ version also has a large dielectric fairing at the root of the vertical fin along with dielectric fairings on the fuselage.

The Tupolev-22M ‘Backfire’ is a multi-mission strike platform capable of performing low-level nuclear strike and conventional attack, anti-ship strike and high-seed reconnaissance missions. Powered by two Kuznetsov NK25 turbofan engines they have an unrefuelled range of at least 7,000-km+ at high altitude. This impressive range can be optimally utilized if one-way missions can be flown against the target nations or In-Flight Refueling (IFR) is applied. The maximum speed can reach 2300-km/h at high altitude with 12 tons of strike ordnance carried externally. A single air launched cruise missile can be carried in semi-recessed form to reduce drag. There is also presence of at least one internal rotary launcher.

The radar is speculated to be of the missile guidance ‘Down Beat’ family. In Soviet DA and AV-MF service the Tupolev-22M ‘Backfire’ carried the most formidable avionics and Electronic Warfare (EW) suite and were feared and respected by the adversaries. Most of the EW suites were “flush mounted” and thus not optically apparent and did not hamper aerodynamic performance. During the height of Cold War the ‘Backfire’ achieved notoriety in NATO eyes for repeated simulated launch of cruise missiles against the NATO Aircraft-Carrier Battle Groups (CVBG) and penetrating the formidable Japanese air-defence network at will. These were bound to be carefully planned Electronic Intelligence (ELINT)/ferret missions and tactics to test and record NATO Strike Fleet and Japanese air defence tactics and procedures. Operating from forward bases in the European Landmass the Soviet Tupolev-22Ms were active over North Atlantic as far as Azores and were considered a significant threat to NATO surface Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) barriers in the key areas such as Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) gaps. Operating from bases in the far-east the ‘Backfire’ were active over North Pacific and it was projected that if air bases were made available in South or Central American Marxist influenced Nations “one-way” strategic “over Artic” missions could be flown against the United States.

Thus amply apparent, operating from centrally located Indian Naval Bases with benefit of IFR, the Tupolev-22M3 will be well capable of delivering strategic punch throughout the Asian landmass and water bodies and beyond. However ‘Backfire’s exported/leased to third world nations lacked the sophisticated avionics and EW suite and the Indian Navy would do well to integrate European/Israeli radar, avionics and detection systems with the Indian Navy’s Tupolev-22M3s. The Russians are also projecting an upgraded Tupolev-22M5 version with new radar, avionics, Electronic Warfare (EW) and navigation systems and the Indian Navy may choose to evaluate them.

Indian Navy Tupolev-22M in addition should carry the high-speed Kh-31 (AS-17 ‘Krypton‘) Anti-Radar Missile (ARM) first tested in 1982, for SEAD role. The formidable missile is first accelerated by a solid-fuel rocket engine to a speed of Mach 1.8. Thereafter, the module is discarded and the interior of the missile is converted into the combustion chamber of the missile’s jet engine as four air-intake holes on the sides of the missile body open up accelerating the missile to almost Mach 4.5. Providing very little reaction time to enemy air-defence networks the 200-km ranged Kh-31 will be able to effectively destroy enemy air defence installations comprising of radar and Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) sites on the way to its prime targets. In this respect the Kh-31 fulfills the role of United States Air Force (USAF) AGM-161 SRAM or the Russian Kh-15 (AS-16 Kickback) although the USAF and Russian inventory weapons are fitted with nuclear warheads. 

The dedicated reconnaissance variant Tupolev-22MR can conduct aerial reconnaissance from a great slant distance without having to over-fly its intended 'targets', thanks to the SLAR. However, prudence dictates that the Indian Navy should settle for at least three "compact" squadrons (6 to 10 aircraft each) of the Tupolev-22M3/M5/MR in appropriate mix. Since START 2 (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) had debarred the 'Backfire' from carrying nuclear weapons, there may not be any shortage of 'surplus' in Russia. The Russian 37th Strategic Air Army comprising of the 22nd Guards Red Banner Donbass Heavy Bomber Division and the 79th Guards Heavy Bomber Division is more obsessed with upgradation of its Tupolev-160 'Blackjack' and Tupolev-95MS6/MS16 'Bear' fleets and testing and induction of Kh-101 and Kh-65 ALCM.

The Tupolev-22M fleet will join the Indian Navy Illyushin-38 MR/ASW platforms undergoing Morskoy Zmei (Sea Dragon) multi-mission avionics and electronic warfare suite updates designed by Leninets to Illyushin-38SD standard. The fully digital Sea Dragon suite is designed to detect and intercept surface vessels and submarines within a range of 150-km, as well as detect mines and carry out surveillance. The suite can also detect airborne targets and can be linked to the Russian GLONASS satellite navigation system. It encompasses a new Synthetic-Aperture/Inverse-Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR/ISAR) located in a canoe fairing on the belly, a high-resolution Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) sensor, a Low-Light Television (LLTV) camera, a new Electronic-Support-Measures (ESM) system and a new Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) system in the aft section of the aircraft. The Illyushin-38SDs will also be fitted with radio-frequency and infrared sensors, as well as decoys. If everything goes well according to plans the Indian Navy MR/ASW platforms will be further augmented by the United States Lockheed Martin P-3C plus Orions with their additional highly sophisticated ESM gear and Command, Communications, Control and intelligence facilities.

Peacetime traditionally have very little effect in the deployment and operational role of MR/ASW platforms. The task of multi-national naval cooperation on operational theatre will thus fall on Indian Navy MR/ASW platforms while monitoring surface and sub-surface vessels in and around the Indian Ocean as a way of providing early warning of possible confrontation or conflict and distribution of naval units. Usually these roles will be multi-national affairs between India, United States and possibly Japan with data and information transmitted and shared between MR/ASW platforms of several nations for constant monitoring of surface and sub-surface naval activities. It is apparent that in future budgetary reallocations in defence sector are critical for the crucial naval build up. Awareness should be created that naval dominance brings along with it increased security and economic prosperity to the nation in favourable proportions. The exploits of Great Britain during the last century serve as a good example. 

(*Sayan Majumdar is a commerce graduate from Calcutta University. A qualified C++ programmer from IIT Kharagpur, he is a correspondent and writer on Military Affairs.)

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