Tak­ing stock of naval ac­qui­si­tion plan

Amal­ga­ma­tion of six nu­clear sub­marines into the be­lea­guered 30-years sub­ma­rine force build­ing and mod­erni­sa­tion per­spec­tive plan and along­side de­vel­op­ing the an­cil­lary shore sup­port fa­cil­i­ties, in­fra­struc­ture and the allinclu­sive base could truly be a gam


Past one year has wit­nessed a pos­i­tive push for­ward by the gov­ern­ment for the dor­mant schemes, es­pe­cially for the sub­sur­face fleet where the ca­pa­bil­ity gaps are widen­ing, is in­deed re-as­sur­ing. While the lost time can­not be made-up, it is hoped that the mo­men­tum gath­er­ing now should bring Mar­itime Ca­pa­bil­ity Per­spec­tive Plan back on track. While the brief ré­sumé in the suc­ceed­ing para­graphs is by and large based on the re­cent pro­nounce­ments and the ap­provals of De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC). Pro­cure­ment and ac­qui­si­tion cy­cles run its own course with im­pon­der­able time­lines.

In­dige­nous Air­craft Car­ri­ers

In the re­cent past the Gov­ern­ment has ac­corded sanc­tion for Phase-II for 40,000-tonne IAC-I to be com­mis­sioned as INS Vikrant and is cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion at Cochin Ship­yard Ltd. The pro­ject has suf­fered un­due de­lays, time and cost over­runs, is now slated to be in­ducted by 2018-19 only.

Con­sid­er­ing the com­plex­ity of de­sign de­vel­op­ment and con­struc­tion, sys­tems in­te­gra­tion, etc. the ges­ta­tion pe­riod for IAC-II, to be chris­tened as INS Vishal, could well span over 10-12 years. The pro­ject is re­ceiv­ing at­ten­tion at the high­est level with a view to en­sure that its con­struc­tion be­gins by the time Vikrant is rolled out.

Dur­ing re­cently con­cluded Naval Avi­a­tion Seminar 2015 on April 30 and May 1, 2015, there were in­tense de­lib­er­a­tions on ‘Fu­ture Air­craft Car­rier and Car­rier Borne Oper­a­tions’ with the sole ob­jec­tive of has­ten­ing the de­sign de­vel­op­ment and con­struc­tion of Vishal. Scott For­ney, Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent, Gen­eral Atomics, made a com­pre­hen­sive pre­sen­ta­tion on emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies for fu­ture air­craft car­rier and un­veiled the pow­er­ful and fu­tur­is­tic elec­tro­mag­netic air­craft launch sys­tem (EMALS). Af­ter sev­eral phases of suc­cess­ful tri­als ashore, EMALS has been ap­proved for in­duc­tion on board US Navy’s un­der con­struc­tion su­per­car­rier USS Gerald Ford. In­dian Navy, with the tacit sup­port of the Gov­ern­ment, are closely mon­i­tor­ing the de­vel­op­ment and have shown keen in­ter­est for in­duc­tion of EMALS on IAC II, INS Vishal.

Multi-role He­li­copters

Af­ter sev­eral years of ups and downs, fi­nally the MRH pro­gramme was re­duced to a ten­der for just 16 air­craft which was opened on De­cem­ber 4, 2014, along with an op­tion clause for another eight as im­me­di­ate re­place­ment for al­ready phased out Seak­ing 42 and 42A dur­ing 1990-91. The fi­nal cost ne­go­ti­a­tions are still in the works with no de­fined time­lines. Even if the con­tract for 16 S-70B MRH is signed now the de­liv­er­ies will only ma­te­ri­alise from 2018 on­wards.

To keep the ad­vanced light he­li­copter (ALH) of HAL afloat, In­dian Navy is also buy­ing 16 ALH de­spite the un­re­solved tech­ni­cal is­sues of wing-fold­ing mech­a­nism and take-off weight.

Naval Multi-role He­li­copters

The orig­i­nal plan for ac­quir­ing 123 NMRH from the lead­ing global ven­dors has been re­cently re-cat­e­gorised as ‘Buy and Make (In­dian)’. This is aimed at pro­mot­ing In­dian in­dus­try in the avi­a­tion sec­tor to tie up with global ma­jors for the tech­nol­ogy trans­fer and joint ven­ture ar­range­ments for the in­dige­nous pro­duc­tion of the air­craft. The gov­ern­ment has or­dered the ca­pac­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity ver­i­fi­ca­tion of In­dian in­dus­try to be cleared for par­tic­i­pa­tion in the ten­der­ing process. It is learnt that ten­ders will be put out shortly.

Naval Util­ity He­li­copters

A re­quire­ment to pro­cure over 100 Naval Util­ity He­li­copters (NUH) from the lead­ing global man­u­fac­tur­ers was iden­ti­fied in the past. This pro­gramme was how­ever scrapped last year and the ‘Buy and Make (In­dian)’ cat­e­gori­sa­tion was awarded to it.

Con­se­quent to re­vised cat­e­gori­sa­tion, sev­eral top In­dian com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Tata, Mahin­dra and Anil Am­bani-led Re­liance Group have dis­played keen in­ter­est to par­tic­i­pate in the nearly $1.5 bil­lion NUH pro­gramme. A large num­ber of do­mes­tic firms have re­sponded to the re­quest for in­for­ma­tion is­sued by the gov­ern­ment in Oc­to­ber 2014. Most of the lead­ing In­dian in­dus­tries, such as Punj Llyod, Bharat Forge, Mahin­dra Aerospace, Re­liance De­fence and Aerospace, Tata Ad­vanced Sys­tems and HAL have re­sponded.

Euro­pean ma­jor Air­bus, Agus­taWest­land, Bell He­li­copters and Siko­rsky, as also Rus­sian Kamov 226 he­li­copters are re­port­edly in ne­go­ti­a­tions with In­dian in­dus­try to fi­nalise their par­tic­i­pa­tion in ‘Make in In­dia’ ini­tia­tives for both NMRH and NUH.


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