Naval projects to be fast-tracked: Defence Minister
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.