An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 16 March 2003


Regular analyst Sayan Mazumdar has made out a case for increasing the Naval Marine Commando force.



By Sayan Mazumdar

The investitature ceremeony held on 11th March in the Rashtrapati Bhavan saw two Naval Marine Commandos being decorated for bravery in action in the lakes of Kashmir one received the Vir Chakra. Speak to any one who took part in OP Pawan in Sri Lanka and they will praise the Naval Commandos. In fact the Seaking 42C Helicopters of the IN are meant for Commando action and so the Indian Navy is definitely poised for increasing its Commando strength and like all big Navies should have a larger Marine Force. There is a realisation that marine commandos can perform very daring jobs in peace and war and in case of terrorism can be used ashore also.

The Indian Navy also organised a Seminar at the India International Centre on Marine Archeology and the seminar ended with the theme of Naval Future in the Indian Ocean and the speaker was the C in C Pacific. In the fifteen year plan of the Indian Navy to go from 135 ships to 195, there will be need for its budgets to be supported and signs are that this will be the case.

The Defence Budget of 200304 has been comparatively favourable to the Navy, thanks to our Finance Minister. The Krivak class frigates will shortly be commissioned and the projected induction of 'Admiral Gorshkov' along with Type 971M Akula II class nuclear powered submarines and Tupolev-22M3 'Backfire' reconnaissance bombers will propel the Indian Navy to become a major power in and around the Indian Ocean.

It is good to note the presence of an area air defence SAM (Surface to Air Missile) system on the Krivaks and the projected 'Project 17' frigates, a tradition commenced by the Dutch 'Jacob Van Heemskerk' class and French 'Cassard' class destroyer/frigates. If this year's naval budget is some indication of "financial years to follow" it appears that the 'Cinderella' of Indian Armed Forces may at last get its due recognition. However the Navy should claim substantially more funds to raise a strong Marine Force similar in structure and strength to the United Kingdom Royal Marines, for undertaking extensive amphibious operations on enemy beachheads and to undertake Special Operations, as these activities are bound to assume great significance in years to come.

At least one dedicated multipurpose assault ship capable of embarking V/STOL (Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing) strike fighters and assault helicopters/gunships is required for sustained ship to shore offensive operations. In this context the possible sale of Royal Navy HMS Invincible V/STOL carrier makes sense. The ship also has extensive command and control facilities to act as the command platform of any amphibious operations. The Navy will additionally need at least two LPD (Landing Platform Docks) similar to Russian 14,000 ton plus Ivan Rogov class 'Mitrofan Moskalenko' or French 11,880 ton 'Foudre'. The objective should be to embark battalion-sized marines at various strategic points along with their equipment, armour and vehicles at a "short notice" and disperse them quickly from the landing or DZ (Dropping Zone) before any adequate enemy response. This nucleus force should be supported by an adequate number of landing vessels and platforms like "Roll-on Roll-off" vessels and LSTs (Landing Ship Tank). Political treaties should provide us access to distant bases for amassing propositioned stocks at strategic points.

Adequate forces of dedicated airborne platforms in support of amphibious operations need to be raised. This should predominantly comprise of V/STOL fighters, helicopter gunships in addition to assault helicopters. "Slower" IFR (In-Flight Refuelling) tankers capable of refuelling assault helicopters need to be inducted. In United States armed forces service this role is fulfilled by an IFR version of Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules. The Marines of Indian Navy should receive higher level of training at par with Special Forces and should conduct frequent joint-exercises with the Marine Forces of United States and Europe. If possible, they should "invite" deployment to global "hot-spots" as part of multinational forces to gain combat experience. Notably the Italian small but efficient 'San Marco' Marine battalion has amassed huge reputation by following these procedures. It is logical to assume that if this force in terms of extensive equipment and capability was already existent during the Indian Airlines high-jacking/hostage crisis of December 1999 when terrorists were released in exchange of passengers, the outcome could have been much different.

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