An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 04 December 2001

The fine Indian Navy at times dubbed ‘India’s Cinderella Service’ celebrates its birthday on 4 December 2001 on a high. The recent US military attacks on land targets and war on terror in Afghanistan have demonstrated the abilities and agility of naval ships, submarines and integral naval aviation. It was the US and Royal Navy ships that heralded the attacks in Afghanistan on 7 October with support of US Air Force flying all the way from America and Diego Garcia, the latter luxury is not available to most countries. As of writing there are 72 warships operating in the North Arabian Sea within 200 nautical miles of the Indian Coastline and no Laws of the Sea or Geneva Conventions are being transgressed.

This year Navy Day is also being celebrated at a time when the purse strings for the Navy have been opened and there is public and government support for Naval budgets and maritime aspirations of the country. This is because globalization has brought home to the country that maritime power is not merely the Navy and its Coast Guard, but a healthy and sizable mercantile marine, efficient ports and ability to explore the resources of the Oceans.

India’s inescapable need to generate energy from the seas also demands a cohesive maritime strategy. Regrettably thus far such an approach to define the policy and allocate resources has been absent. There are 14 different Ministries and departments and seven coastal states that deal with matters maritime and coordination has been woefully lacking. It is heartening that the GOM has accepted that an APEX body will be formed to deal with Maritime issues and it is the Navy and the Mercantile Marine and sea based hydrocarbon exploiters who will gain in the long term. Whilst the Navy and Coast Guard will be able to mesh security concerns the other half will be able to attend to commercial expansion so essential for growth.

Captain Stephen Saunders, Editor Janes Fighting Ships has reviewed the Indian Navy of the future in the editorial of its latest issue and given it credit for its outlook and balanced growth. In February 2001 the Navy hosted a memorable International Fleet Review at Mumbai. The 24 Admirals from various countries who attended professed admiration for India’s men in white. The Navy’s ships which today have state of the art missiles, radars and equipment, laced with Sea Going traditions, which is the glue that enables a Navy to be considered professional. It was also a boost for India’s diplomacy and some of the fruits were evident when the war on terror flared up and personal interaction followed.

In the last month alone US, UK and French ships have called at Indian ports and the French exercised with the Indian Navy. Indian ships successfully cruised to South East Asia, Australia, Seychelles and the Gulf and completed survey tasks for Indonesia.

The Naval programme of acquisitions too is modestly ambitious and promising and if the Naval Top Brass and the men that man the oars, pull hard and steer well, the next decade could well see the Indian Navy move up from the ninth rank it holds to become the sixth largest in the world. The 42,000-ton aircraft carrier Gorshkov is slated to join INS VIRAAT with its paraphernalia of MIG 29K fighters and Kamov 31 and ALH helicopters. The depleted submarine fleet of 10 is due to double in the next decade if the Scorpene Type 75 building programme at Mazagon Docks is signed and offers from Russia inclusive of an Oscar Class Nuclear boat on lease are accepted. The GRSE Kolkata is due to deliver the upgraded Leanders INS BETWA and BEAS and orders for another Landing Ship Tank (Large) like INS Magar have been placed. In fact GRSE has a healthy defence order book but as RM George Fernandes stated in the Carriappa Memorial Lecture, its productivity is of great concern. The Naval Brass has to attend to this with a carrot and stick policy.

The Indian Navy is due to receive three advanced 3600-ton Krivack ships from Russia, which are top of the line vertical launch capable missile ships and the first is due to commission in June 2002 from the Admiralty yard at St Petersburg. The ship will have KA 31 AEW helicopters for long range 300 km targeting of the world famous Klub missiles and the Kashtan SAM systems. On similar lines Mazagon Docks has laid the keel of the first Type 17 frigate and two more will follow in the programme. Mazagon Dock has delivered the three Delhi class and an order for three improved Delhi class with vertical launched missiles and stealth characteristics has been placed.

Cochin Shipyard is slated to build the first Air Defence Ship, a euphemism for an aircraft carrier and the design prepared by the Indian Navy design team at Kailash Colony in Delhi has completed model tests in Europe successfully and should become a feather in their caps. Goa shipyard has orders for missile corvettes, survey ship Sarveshak and assembling of large Hovercraft from Ukraine here is under discussions.

The Naval aviation is refitting and upgrading the IL-38s now aging, and the mammoth TU142 ASW planes with long range anti ship missiles. Four TU 22 nuclear capable maritime patrol planes are likely to be acquired and that should be a big boost to the area of operations in the Indian Ocean .The Suvarna class OPVs  are likely to be fitted with the Dhanush Prithvi SSM missiles, now that the stabilization problems have been overcome by Larsen and Tubro with naval collaboration .

Even ashore the Navy has made progress and the first phase of a jetty, shore facilities and the area for a syncro lift at the new base Seabird near Karwar is fast nearing fruition. The construction of the Naval academy at Ezimalhai near Calicut has begun.

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