An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 11 May 2003

The Indian Navy is on a high. This year it commissioned INS Karmukh, inducted UAVs, received two Sea Harriers and hopes to commission two powerful Krivacks (INS Talwar and Trishul) at St Petersburg –– to coincide with that city's 300th anniversary celebrations. All else being equal it will soon commission INS Betwa (missile frigate) and the third Krivack INS Tabar too. Admiral Madhvendra Singh, the present CNS was the CO of the old INS Talwar and so it is fitting that he should be present at the commissioning of the new ship too –– if his schedule permits it.

The Russian Navy led by the Moskva (guided missile cruiser) is expected to arrive in the Indian Ocean and the Russian Fleet will exercise with the Indian Navy. This will see the resurgence of a great Navy built by the legendary sea dog Admiral Gorshkov. Many consider him the builder of India's fine Navy too. Continuing the build-up, the Mazagon Dock launched INS Shivalik, the first Type 17 ‘stealth’ ship at Mumbai. These are all milestones for the Indian Navy and challenges to wisely expend the Budget.

Conversely the responsibility to provide sanctions and timely clearances lies with the bureaucrats and politicians. The Admiral Gorshkov, MiG 29 aircraft, four TU 22 M aircraft, additional IL 38 aircraft and leasing of two Akula class submarines are still to be cleared. Let’s hope EAM Yashwant Sinha proceeding to Russia next week will oil the wheels.


With the launching of 'Shivalik' the first indigenous stealth frigate, the Indian Navy continues its tradition of building a formidable ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) force that gained momentum during the mid-eighties. The 'Godavari' class frigates are primarily ASW vessels and even the Delhi class destroyers, although "stretched" variants of Kashins in Indian Navy service, are primarily ASW vessels with distribution of armaments similar to United States Spruance class destroyers. The latest class of submarines, the Russian Kilos, the German Type 1500 and the projected Franco-Spanish Scorpenes are all SSKs (Submarine, conventional powered hunter-killer).

A formidable fleet of MR/ASW (Maritime Reconnaissance/Anti-Submarine Warfare) airborne platforms are also being built up with Russian Tupolev-142 'Bear-F' and Illyushin-38 and with United States’ Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion under strong consideration. The possible motive is perhaps to shift emphasis on sub-surface operations in near and distant future in facilitating the operations of friendly missile firing submarines acting as the nuclear deterrent and possessing massive "second strike" retaliatory capability. As a measure of protection enemy submarine fleets
are to be destroyed.

The provision of carriage of twin helicopters on 'Shivalik' is welcome since while the first acts as an ASW helicopter, the second helicopter can fulfil the task of either a dedicated ASV (Anti-Surface Vessel) platform armed with anti-ship missiles or an AEW (Airborne Early Warning) platform. However considering the emerging sophistication of future generations of nuclear submarines it may be logical to opt for destroyer sized vessels similar to Japanese 'Haruna' and improved 'Shirane' class, with the aft flight deck extending to one-third of the length of the ship. At least three ASW/ASV/AEW helicopters can then be operated. Helicopters are regarded as the primary ASW "weapon" of surface units because of their reach and flexibility of operations.

While the 'Shivalk' will possibly be armed with Russian SA-N-7/ SA-N-12 SAM (Surface
to Air Missile) systems it is time to look for a deadlier combination. 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 PAAMS (Principal Anti-Air Missile System) 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 kilometres and is operational aboard French PAN (Porte-Avions, Nucleaires- nuclear powered 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 kilometres range.

This family of missiles differs only in booster design and shares the same kill vehicle with focussed fragment warhead. Such a SAM combination will make the ASW units less reliant on land or aircraft-carrier based air cover that may prove to be invaluable while making rapid dash towards reported enemy submarine contacts, away from the "task force" while the "main body" turns away from the source of the threat.

The Russian Novator Alfa/Klub (SS-N-27) cruise missile provides land attack capability with a stated range of 300 kilometres. Supersonic BrahMos may be an option on future units. The merits and demerits of supersonic and subsonic anti-ship missiles are hotly debated as are the merits and demerits of wire-guided and wake homing torpedoes. While supersonic anti-ship missiles posses the sheer speed and kinetic impact and are less vulnerable to countermeasures, subsonic anti-ship missiles are credited with less infra-red signature, better target discrimination and more importantly the ability to re-attack the target even if once fooled by decoys. Klub however is a good compromise with a subsonic flight profile with supersonic attack phase.

Finally joint ASW exercises with major American, European and Russian navies hold great importance. In the past Indian Navy had held ASW exercises with United States Navy involving Spruance class ASW destroyers. The projected exercise in the month of May is set to be a big affair with the Russians fielding no less than three nuclear submarines and possibly 'Udaloy' class ASW destroyers. During Cold War days both the United States and Soviet Navies played "cat and mouse" games as far as ASW operations were concerned. Absorbing such knowledge from them will prove to be as important as the new procurements.

(With inputs from Sayan Mazumdar)

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