Indian Navy has been in the business of Naval Aviation since
Independence and it is a professional force and is tasked to support
the fleet, and now looks forward to operating from the Gorshkov with
MiG 29Ks by 2008, when its potency will increase. But as of today
the arm is equipped with aging Harriers GR 51 with Pegasus engines
and Blue Fox radar, flying off the INS Viraat which is due to
decommission in 2008, when the Gorshkov will be inducted.
helicopter fleet consists of Seakings Mk 42 and Ka 28 and newly
arrived KA 31 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) helicopters. These are
supported by a few Dorniers equipped with the Elta Maritime radar.
The Navy has also inducted trial ALHs but the naval ASW version of
the Indian built Dhruv is quite some distance away and the Navy will
have to look for helicopter replacements.
Government recently cleared a Rs 400 crore plan to refit the old
Seaking helos supplied by Westlands, which had suffered from want of
spares when the Americans imposed sanctions after the 1998 nuclear
tests. The first of the contracted nine airborne early warning (AEW)
Ka 31 helicopters ordered from Russia have just arrived on the scene
and in time they will mesh into the fleet for long-range detection
and targeting. The Duke of Wellington had confessed that he had
spent all his life guessing what lay over the hill. AEW today is the
technological answer for all Navies and the Indian Navy knows this.
All its missiles of the present –– Klub in the Talwar class,
Uran KH 35 in the Delhi class and the future induction of BrahMos
missiles will demand AEW.
mission statement is that India’s position in the Indian Ocean
demands that it acquires true “blue water capability”. The Navy
has to therefore follow the dictum that without integral air, the
fleet would be ineffective. Hence its naval aviation role will have
to increase and the Navy will have to face the challenges ahead.
the Maritime Reconnaissance front the Navy has been operating the
large TU-142M four-engine fuel guzzling turbo props in its 312
Squadron. These are large and cumbersome to operate in tropical
conditions, as they need air conditioning before start up. Despite
modifications to fire ASM missiles, EW and radar suites, the future
Indian Navy knows it will need more agile and capable MR platforms.
Navy also operates the ageing IL 38s (3 plus 2) upgraded to IL 38N,
thanks to two planes provided by Russia from their surplus stock.
Two IL 38s were lost in a mid air collision on 1 October 2002 near
Goa. The IAF is poised to get three Israeli Phalcon with Elta
2085/2075 systems on A-50 Beriev/IL 76 platforms for AEW in the
coming years, which can support the Navy too –– but the Navy
will have to chart its own long term needs at sea.
easing of US technology restrictions on India, Lockheed Martin
Marietta have offered the surplus P3C Orions with promises of
refurbishment, and the Navy has reviewed the Harpoon too as an
option. Northrop Grumman have pitched in with their E 2C Hawkeye,
with inducements to try to study if the plane can fly off the Air
Defence ship with reduced payload.
Naval aviation of the future has its course charted out.