An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 02 February 2006

Defexpo 06 is without doubt India’s largest ‘Land and Naval Systems’ bi-annual exposition. It is being staged at a time when the Indian Defence budget of Rs 83,000 crores with import content of over Rs 12,000 crores, promises to grow on the back of a growing Indian economy. It also showcases many of Indian Armed Forces’ future acquisitions that have been firmed up for induction. There is a visible resolve by the Leadership to ensure that in the coming years the country acquires a strategic capability of reach, quantity and quality which a nation of its size demands. Already in the last few years the tapestry of India’s military capability has rapidly changed from a conventional force, to one with a “No First Use” nuclear arsenal. The Army has equipped its front line battalions with anti nuclear defence gear to withstand and fight a nuclear attack in its defence, while India’s national aim is to assiduously pursue deterrence.

The Navy’s frontline ships are built with ‘citadel ability’ to be able to clear off a nuclear ground zero fallout at sea, without getting contaminated and continue to fight. The Indian Maritime Doctrine issued by the Indian Navy in 2004 has also unequivocally articulated that the Navy aspires to provide India’s nuclear deterrent from the sea and its plans include the induction of stealth nuclear submarines in due course.

The DRDO is continuing its efforts to produce an indigenous long range underwater missile initially called Sagarika. The Navy is retrofitting its five Rajput class missile destroyers at Vishakapatnam and all large new builds like the Type 17/15A, with vertical launched BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles. Larsen and Tubro and DRDO have manufactured the prototype gyro stabilized VLS system along with the firing console, and a model was proudly showcased by the DRDO during the Republic Day parade on 26th January 2006 where King Abdullah Al Saud of Saudi Arabia was the Chief guest.

In September 2005 the Ministry of Defence signed a long term $3.5b contract with the Armaris/DCN combine of France to build 6 Type 75 Scorpene state of the art submarines, which will have the ability to launch underwater SM 39 missiles and internal breathing MESMA in the subsequent models if it is proved. By 2008 the Indian Fleet will induct the modernized aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya with powerful MiG 29Ks capable of operating far into the Indian Ocean supported by MR aircraft with network centric links for targeting. ISRO has assured compatible satellites for the Armed Forces by then to support operations and intelligence. Russia's Defence Ministry has agreed to provide access to their GLONASS global navigational satellite system for military applications, an alternative to Pentagon’s GPS.

The Indian Air Force has improved the capabilities of their 50 twin piloted SU-3OMKI aircraft acquired with beyond visual range (BVR) weaponry from IAPO of Russia, and it is progressively set to acquire 140 additional indigenously assembled SU 30MKI from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd under a $4b contract inked with Rosboronexport. A lighter version of BrahMos will be offered to the IAF by 2008, as design work has been completed at NPO Mach in Russia. The selection process to acquire 126 medium range combat aircraft to replace the MiG 21s, is moving ahead. The IAF has perfected its IL-78D midair refueling capabilities to pump out 10 tons of Avacat in minutes to two aircraft at a time enhancing the range of operations of SU30MKI aircraft to over 1500 miles. The IAF is likely to augment its 6 strong IL 78D fleet. By 2007 the IAF will have entered the advanced AWACS era when the three IL 76 Phalcons (Israel fitted out) arrive with Active Phased Array Electronic Beam Scanning Technology for detection and interception.

In 2005 the Indian Army along with the IAF validated the concepts of its newly issued ‘Quick Start’ and ‘Pivot Corps’ doctrine, which postulates future wars will be ''short and intense'' against the backdrop of the threat of nuclear weapons and terrorism in 'Vajra Shakti' in May in the Punjab and ‘Desert Strike’ in Rajasthan in December. The Army has already inducted missile groups of the short range 200 km liquid fuelled Prithvi, strategic 800 km AGNI I and longer range 1500 km AGNI II missiles into its operational order of battle. When Dr Natarajan DRDO head was questioned about the date of trials of the long range ICBM Agni III he stated that it was a political decision too. These are strong pointers that the Indian Armed Forces are set to acquire strategic capabilities in the coming years.

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