By Ranjit Rai


New Delhi, 04 December 2004

This year there are larger than life smiles on Naval faces as the nautical fraternity celebrates Navy Day on 4 December in high spirits, and the Chief of Naval Staff gives his customary reception on the sprawling lawns of the Navy House at 12 Rajaji Marg in Delhi. The day marks the heroic and ingenious attack of the Indian Navy in 1971, when the Killer missile boats of the OSA class stormed the Pakistani bastion of Karachi and sank three ships, and set the tank farm at Kemari ablaze. The Indian Air Force’s Operational Conversion Unit OCU Hunter aircraft flying from Jamnagar fitted with additional drop tanks, to make it to Karachi, also hit the tanks. 

During Navy week, in its traditional silent way ships at all ports, and establishments are kept open to school children and visitors. Great navies have always held core values as their strength, and the Indian Navy can be proud of its lineage from the Royal and Russian Navies, and has adapted the best of both. To man ships with high technology the officers, men and importantly civilians who support the Navy have to be well trained to handle the technology, to extract the best of their sea going, and flying machines and submarines. The Navy has dedicated the year 2005 to the Civilian Employees of the Navy, and set for itself the motto 'Excellence in all three dimensions'. 

Indian Navy’s record to smoothly induct and innovate, with submarines including the nuclear sub INS Chakra in 1987, ATV the equivalent Indian project, modify Leanders and extend their size to destroyers of the Delhi class, improve missle boats, modify Seakings, and upgrade TU 142 and Sea Harriers with missiles have been harbingers, and at times taken most Navies of the world by surprise. Indian Navy has been able to mix and match Western, Russian and Indian weaponry with ingenuity and therein lies its great strength. which is now being emulated by the other services. 

The Navy has always had its own inhouse research and design centre WEESE, which also assists DRDO and the shipyards. Indian Navy’s ship design team and Garden Reach Kolkatta have also designed the Type 28 ASW Corvette, which will proudly roll out in the years ahead. This year the third Kirvack, INS Tabar was commissioned at St Petersburg and joined the fleet, and all 9 new AEW helicopters KA 31 from Russia are operational and add tremendous clout to the Navy, as they can scour 1500 sq km for surveillance, with their airborne radars. The three Krivack class ships have vertical launch surface attack KLUB Missiles with long range, Shtil and Kashtan SAM firepowe,r which equals the best in the West. The ships are only just lagging behind in C4I which the Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash has assured will be made up when the centric network, Navy Wide Enterprise link is fully operational. This is feasible as India’s strength in IT is formidable and Indian Armed Forces are hiring space on satellites. 

The Navy has been the lead service in ensuring that its organisation structure is modified to suit the advancements in its technology, possibly because it is conscious of the fact, and is small and agile. Hence it is doing its best to integrate with the MOD. The only blip that has occurred is that Pakistan has taken the lead to build Agosta class submarines at Karachi, and the Navy is hopeful that its plan to aquire/build six Type 75 Indian design submarines based on the Franco Spanish Scorpene class, is sanctioned soon at Mazagon Docks, so that India’s submarine building programme is recommenced. 

Its own 37,500 ton aircraft carrier the ADS will see keel laying next year at Cochin Shipyard Ltd with steel supplied from SAIL, with the possible name INS Vikramaditya to follow sister ships Vikrant now decommissioned as a museum, and Viraat which has just completed a refit with new radars and communication fit. The Sea Harriers will be upgraded to fly off the carrier till 2010 with Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, to take care of the PC 3 Orion threat which the Navy needs to cater for, as Pakistan is set to receive 8 more of these potent MR missile firing aircraft known to be world class, with ability to loiter for hours, on two of their four engines. 

The saying 'Join the Navy and see the World' is also beginning to come alive in large measure for the tars of the fine Indian Navy. Over 20 IN warships with over 10,000 officers and men have sailed to the Far East as far as China and Japan and to many West Asian ports and INS Tarangini circumnavigated the globe in the last few years, and earned for it the sobriquet “A World Class Navy”. This year in October the Western Fleet was in the Middle East and the Eastern Fleet was in the South China seas simultaneously, which speaks for its operational capability to deploy, as all ships were fully armed. 

In 2004 the Navy saw its budget jump from 15 to 17% of the total Defence cake and the Navy rode new waves of modest achievements both in the operational and organisational spheres and successfully exercised with the US, French, Singapore and West Asian Navies. It patrolled the waters off Indonesia and Sri Lanka and is all set to present a patrol boat to the Seychelles, offer submarine training to a friendly neighbour and assist the Myanmar Navy at its request. The Indian Navy already has a navigation instructor on deputation to Singapore and trains some 20 friendly navies. 

It has achieved much by helping itself in indigenous ship construction and there are twenty ships on order in Indian yards and the 15 year ship and 30 year submarine building programmes have been accepted by the Government. The funds should be forthcoming. The aircraft carrier Gorshkov has been signed for, for $1.5 billion and the Navy is confident it will commission it by 2008 or even earlier in 2007 with the MiG 29Ks approaching the SU 30 MKI capability. 

To assist and influence the nation’s thinking the Navy has issued its “Indian Maritime Doctrine” and made it available to the public. It is a glossy booklet of 135 pages as a book of reference, and it includes all the attributes that a doctrine should, to provide for common language and to appreciate the many roles that a responsible Navy should be prepared for, in peace and war. The Chief of Naval Staff in the foreword has stated, “If we are to fulfill our maritime destiny, all of us – the Government, the armed forces, the civil services, the media and the public - must have a maritime vision and a thorough understanding of the maritime concepts outlined in this doctrine”. The only criticism one can offer it is it has missed mentioning the importance of the mercantile marine and not included Sagar Mala, the proposed plan to achieve attributes for smooth trade in ports, inland waters and merchant ships, so essential for India’s economy.

Ashore too, the Navy is set to blaze a trail. The remodelled INHS Asvini in Mumbai as the premier military hospital designed to international specifications for advanced facilities, including cancer treatment is operational. The spanking new Naval Base at Karwar INS Kadamba is also seeing completion of Phase 1 with a 10,000 ton Ship Lift and it will receive its first large ships in 2005 to decongest Mumbai. The Navy has also designed a very modern Naval Academy at Ehzimala near Calicut and that too should see completion in 2006, so that the make-shift Academy can move from Goa. The Indian Navy is well set to be called a world class Navy ashore and afloat and the nation can well be proud of it .

(The Author is Vice President Indian Maritime Foundation) 

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