Naval projects to be fast-tracked: De­fence Min­is­ter

SP's MAI - - MILITARY - [ By Rear Ad­mi­ral (Retd) Sushil Ram­say ]

T he Min­is­ter of De­fence, Arun Jait­ley, has as­sured the In­dian Navy that all ef­forts would be made to en­sure its op­er­a­tional pre­pared­ness, tak­ing note of the ca­pa­bil­ity short­fall of con­ven­tional sub­marines, ship-borne he­li­copters, mine coun­ter­mea­sure ves­sels and other weapons and sen­sors.

Ad­dress­ing the first of the two Naval Com­man­ders’ Con­fer­ence for 2014, Jait­ley re­ferred to the pre­vail­ing se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment in the neigh­bour­hood and com­pli­mented the Navy’s ef­forts for work­ing in tan­dem with a large num­ber of cen­tral and state agencies. He stated that the de­ploy­ment of our as­sets has been highly ef­fec­tive and needs to be con­tin­ued to se­cure the coun­try’s eco­nomic and mar­itime in­ter­ests.

Ap­pre­ci­at­ing the in­di­geni­sa­tion ef­forts of the In­dian Navy, Jait­ley made a men­tion of the fact that all 44 naval ships and sub­marines un­der con­struc­tion are be­ing built in In­dian ship­yards. He stressed that these ef­forts need to be fur­ther strength­ened for timely in­duc­tion of the plat­forms.

Ex­press­ing con­cern over the “slow pace” of ac­qui­si­tion of weapon sys­tems, he as­sured that the new govern­ment will work to­wards “ex­pe­dit­ing” sev­eral pro­cure­ment de­ci­sions in the pipe­line. He hinted that de­mand of the armed forces for more funds in the budget was likely to be ac­cepted as the “en­tire re­source of the coun­try, notwith­stand­ing var­i­ous pres­sures, has to make avail­able a sig­nif­i­cant amount for those in de­fence of the coun­try”.

The Navy has sev­eral ac­qui­si­tion projects stuck for many years due to slow pro­cure­ment process, in­clud­ing the R6,000-crore 16 multi-role he­li­copters and the ac­qui­si­tion of tor­pe­does for the Scor­pene sub­marines. Its ten­der for ac­quir­ing six new sub­marines un­der Project-75 In­dia, es­ti­mated to cost over R1,00,000 crore, is also stuck as the govern­ment has to al­ter a 1999 de­ci­sion to build all fu­ture sub­marines only in­dige­nously. The Navy is also wait­ing for fi­nal clear­ance to ac­quire 16 mine coun­ter­mea­sure ves­sels from a South Korean firm which has been stuck af­ter com­plaints were filed against the fair­ness of the process un­der the pre­vi­ous govern­ment, he said.

With the Navy’s grow­ing im­por­tance in safe­guard­ing the coun­try’s strate­gic in­ter­ests from Malacca Strait to the Per­sian Gulf, as well as pro­ject­ing com­bat power over­seas, the Naren­dra Modi Govern­ment has promised all help in plug­ging op­er­a­tional gaps in the mar­itime force’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The regime change at the Cen­tre has au­gured very well for the In­dian Navy. Soon af­ter tak­ing over as the De­fence Min­is­ter, on June 7, 2014, Arun Jait­ley was on board INS Vi­raat to have a first-hand feel of the In­dian Navy and be briefed on its op­er­a­tional sta­tus. A week later, the new Prime Min­is­ter ded­i­cated to the na­tion INS Vikra­ma­ditya, the largest, the costli­est plat­form which truly sym­bol­ises not just the blue wa­ter ca­pa­bil­ity and the mar­itime power, but as a for­mi­da­ble force mul­ti­plier in real sense.

Ad­mi­ral R.K. Dhowan, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), chaired the Con­fer­ence and ad­dressed the Navy’s top lead­er­ship in his first Com­man­ders’ Con­fer­ence as CNS. He out­lined three in­ter-re­lated pri­or­i­ties i.e. sus­tain­ing com­bat readi­ness, build­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties for the fu­ture and ad­dress­ing hu­man re­source chal­lenges. Dur­ing the con­fer­ence sev­eral im­por­tant is­sues in­clud­ing op­er­a­tional readi­ness, coastal se­cu­rity, main­te­nance phi­los­o­phy and qual­ity of re­fits for en­sur­ing com­bat ef­fec­tive­ness of plat­forms, in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and for­eign co­op­er­a­tion ini­tia­tives, etc. were de­lib­er­ated upon.

The CNS said that in­duc­tion of Vikra­ma­ditya with in­te­gral fighter air­craft is a sub­stan­tial boost to the Navy’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties and is fur­ther poised for a quan­tum jump with the planned in­duc­tion of Kolkata (P15A De­stroyer) and Kamorta (P 28 ASW Corvette) in the near fu­ture.

CNS em­pha­sised that the ‘Roadmap for the Navy’s ex­pan­sion and growth would con­tinue to re­main an­chored on Self-re­liance and In­di­geni­sa­tion’.

The Naval Com­man­ders’ Con­fer­ence pro­vide an ideal plat­form for cen­trally dis­cussing mat­ters re­lated to com­bat readi­ness of the fleet and other op­er­a­tional for­ma­tions, build­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties for the fu­ture and ad­dress­ing hu­man re­source chal­lenges amongst other. Such Con­fer­ences pro­vide a struc­tured mech­a­nism to the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to eval­u­ate the evolv­ing geo-strate­gic se­cu­rity sce­nario for the coun­try and to sen­si­tise them over the need for hon­ing the de­ci­sion mak­ing ma­tri­ces.

De­fence Min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley re­ceived by the naval com­man­ders

Arun Jait­ley talks to the press. On his right is Ad­mi­ral R.K. Dhowan.

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