In­dia ap­proves $50 bil­lion naval build-up


[By Vishal Tha­par]

In­dia will be spend­ing at least an ad­di­tional $50 bil­lion for its naval build-up from 2012 to 2017. Out­go­ing Navy Chief Ad­mi­ral Nir­mal Verma dis­closed that the gov­ern­ment has granted ac­cep­tance of ne­ces­sity (AON) for naval ac­qui­si­tions worth ` 2,73,000 crore (ap­prox­i­mately $50 bil­lion).

This makes In­dia’s naval mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme one of the world’s largest naval build-ups. The $50 bil­lion ap­provals in­clude the ac­qui­si­tion of 49 new war­ships, in ad­di­tion to the 46 which are al­ready on or­der, as part of the Maritime Ca­pa­bil­i­ties Per­spec­tive Plan 2012-17.

The tempo for the build-up has been set by the con­clu­sion of 191 naval con­tracts worth ` 92,069 crore over the last three years, which have also seen the in­duc­tion of 15 new ships, in­clud­ing topof-the-line war­ships like the fol­low-on to the Tal­war class and the in­dige­nously-built Shiva­lik class de­stroy­ers.

“Over the next five years, we ex­pect to in­duct ships and sub­marines at an av­er­age rate of five plat­forms per year,” Ad­mi­ral Verma de­tailed at his farewell press con­fer­ence in New Delhi, call­ing upon pub­lic and pri­vate ship­yards in In­dia to scale up pro­duc­tion and meet global stan­dards of de­liv­ery. Forty-three of the 46 ships and sub­marines at present un­der con­struc­tion for the In­dian Navy are be­ing built at In­dian ship­yards. Ad­mi­ral Verma wants de­liv­ery of ships in the Delhi class cat­e­gory speeded up to three years.

The 49 new ships and sub­marines ap­proved for the Navy in­clude seven more fol­low-on ships of the Shiva­lik class un­der Project 17-A. These are to be built at both Mazagon Dock Lim­ited (MDL), Mum­bai, and Gar­den Reach Ship­builders and En­gi­neers Lim­ited (GRSE), Kolkata. Con­tracts are likely by the end of the cur­rent fis­cal. The con­struc­tion of six more sub­marines un­der Project 75 (I) is expected to be green-flagged very soon.

Two mine hunters are to be built in South Korea, and sub­se­quently six more at the Goa Ship­yard un­der trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy. Re­quest for pro­pos­als (RFPs) for four LPDs and 16 shal­low wa­ter anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare ships, two div­ing sup­port ves­sels and one sur­vey train­ing ships will be is­sued in the com­ing months. Also, con­tracts for four wa­ter-jet FACs to be built at GRSE, Kolkata, and one more train­ing ship to be built at a pri­vate ship­yard are likely to be con­cluded dur­ing the cur­rent fis­cal. Op­tions for a deep sub­mer­gence res­cue ves­sel (DSRV) to en­sure the safety of sub­ma­rine op­er­a­tions are un­der tech­ni­cal eval­u­a­tion.

In ad­di­tion to the eight P-8I long-range maritime pa­trol (LRMR) air­craft due to be in­ducted start­ing 2013, eight medium-range maritime re­con­nais­sance (MRMR) air­craft are also planned for in­duc­tion. The In­dian Navy is also in the mar­ket for more un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles to fur­ther aug­ment its sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance ca­pa­bil­ity at sea.

On the rotary wing front, be­sides the up­grade of the Sea King 42B and Kamov-28 fleets, and new multi-role he­li­copters (MRH) for fleet ships, the naval util­ity he­li­copter is also planned for in­duc­tion by 2016 and the RFP is im­mi­nent.

To drive home the point that In­dia’s naval build-up is firmly on track, Ad­mi­ral Verma pointed out that Navy has fully spent its cap­i­tal bud­get over the past three years. The Navy is the only ser­vice whose ex­pen­di­ture ra­tio is loaded in favour of mod­erni­sa­tion. “To­day, our cap­i­tal to rev­enue ra­tio stands at a very healthy ra­tio of 68:32,” the Navy Chief said.

There’s also a par­al­lel ef­fort to up­grade and de­velop in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port the build-up. Phase I of Project Seabird at Karwar was com­pleted last year and the Navy is in the fi­nal stages of get­ting CCS ap­proval for Phase IIA.

In­dia’s nuke sub­heads for sea tri­als

The Navy is poised to com­plete the triad of In­dia’s nu­clear weapons, Navy Chief Ad­mi­ral Nir­mal Verma de­clared. The un­der­wa­ter arm of In­dia’s nu­clear de­ter­rence will be put to trial at sea by the end of the year, he promised.

This is an in­di­ca­tion that the nu­clear re­ac­tor on In­dia’s first SSBN, INS Arihant, will turn crit­i­cal in the next few months. The nu­clear-armed sub­ma­rine was launched in July 2009. It’s now set to fill a crit­i­cal gap in In­dia’s de­ter­rence pos­ture. The Arihant will be armed with the K-se­ries of SLBMs, which have been suc­cess­fully tested from un­der­wa­ter pon­toons.

“Given our un­equiv­o­cal ‘no-first-use’ com­mit­ment a re­tal­ia­tory strike ca­pa­bil­ity that is cred­i­ble and in­vul­ner­a­ble is an im­per­a­tive. The In­dian Navy is poised to com­plete the triad, and our maritime and nu­clear doc­trines will then be aligned to en­sure that our nu­clear in­sur­ance comes from the sea,” the Navy Chief ex­plained. He left no­body in doubt that the In­dian Navy will be tak­ing the lead in the de­ter­rence game.

While a tri-ser­vices Strate­gic Forces Com­mand is the cus­to­dian of all of In­dia’s nu­clear weapons, the Agni and Prithvi bal­lis­tic mis­siles are han­dled by Army rocket groups, and air­borne strate­gic bombs are with In­dian Air Force (IAF) units. Al­though the Navy has in­ducted the Dhanush ver­sion of the Prithvi nu­clear-ca­pa­ble mis­sile on a few sur­face war­ships, its real bap­tism as a nu­clear-armed force will come only with the in­duc­tion of the Arihant.

Steadily steam­ing ahead

Al­though the Navy ac­counts for just a lit­tle over 15 per cent of In­dia’s de­fence bud­get, it’s mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme ap­pears the most fo­cused and pro­duc­tive among the three ser­vices.

As many as 15 new ships have been com­mis­sioned into the Navy over the last three years. These in­clude the three Shiva­lik class ‘stealth’ frigates Shiva­lik, Sat­pura and Sahyadri, the first of the Tal­war class fol­low-on Rus­sian-built stealth frigates – Teg, two fleet tankers Deepak and Shakti, the sail train­ing ship Su­darshini and eight wa­ter-jet fast at­tack crafts.

The cherry on the cake was the com­mis­sion­ing of the nu­clear at­tack sub­ma­rine INS Chakra on Jan­uary 23 this year, mak­ing In­dia

Con­tin­ued on page 12

INS Vikra­ma­ditya

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