Old Sea Dog Bids Adieu

Ad­mi­ral Nir­mal Verma re­flected upon the of­ten re­peated query about the di­chotomy of the fact that the In­dian Navy which pro­fessed blue-wa­ter as­pi­ra­tions was now en­grossed in brown-wa­ter op­er­a­tions. He saw no such di­chotomy in the maritime strat­egy as Indi

SP's NavalForces - - CONFERENCE REPORT - Rear Ad­mi­ral (Retd) Sushil Ram­say

At the twi­light of his il­lus­tri­ous naval ca­reer of over four decades, Ad­mi­ral Nir­mal Verma ad­dressed his farewell press con­fer­ence on Au­gust 7. Reneg­ing his well-known pref­er­ence to ret­i­cence, Ad­mi­ral Verma re­called the In­dian Navy’s sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ments dur­ing his in­nings of three years as the Chief of the Naval Staff. His ad­dress was not re­stricted to just the past ac­com­plish­ments; it also doled out com­pre­hen­sively the blue­print of Maritime Ca­pa­bil­i­ties Per­spec­tive Plan 2012-27. At his nos­tal­gic best, he re­called his first mes­sage to the Navy in which he had em­pha­sised the need to fo­cus on both ‘con­sol­i­da­tion’ and ‘sus­tained growth’; and now at the end of his ten­ure he said he felt suf­fi­ciently sat­is­fied of the progress that the Navy had col­lec­tively ac­com­plished. He placed on record that what had been ac­com­plished on his watch was pos­si­ble be­cause of the ‘course that had been steered’ by his pre­de­ces­sors, as also the enor­mous ef­forts of the vet­eran community. In his trib­ute he added, “Need­less to say, none of it would have been pos­si­ble with­out the ef­forts, ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment of the men and women of the In­dian Navy—who are the finest in the world.”

Record­ing the suc­cesses in the cam­paign against piracy which has be­sot­ted the In­dian Ocean re­gion (IOR), he stated that over 2,100 mer­chant­men were es­corted by In­dian Navy ships and 40 piracy at­tempts were averted. Along with the sus­tained ef­forts of var­i­ous navies and the ship­ping community, the suc­cess rate of piracy had dropped from 38 per cent in 2008 to ap­prox 11 per cent till 2011 and even fur­ther in 2012. In 2009-10, the scourge of piracy had spread to the East Ara­bian Sea at times be­yond 1,000 nau­ti­cal miles from the Horn of Africa and closer to In­dian wa­ters. He said, “I am happy to state that over the past year, there has not been a sin­gle in­ci­dent of piracy within 300 nau­ti­cal miles of our is­land ter­ri­to­ries on the West coast. Con­se­quently, in­ter­na­tional ship­ping is now pass­ing closer to the In­dian coast due to the pro­tec­tion pro­vided by the In­dian Navy and Coast Guard.”

He in­formed that the three ma­jor doc­u­ments—the Maritime Ca­pa­bil­i­ties Per­spec­tive Plan 2012-27, the Twelfth Five Year Plan doc­u­ment and the Twelfth Five Year In­fra­struc­ture Plan doc­u­ment were pub­lished over the past three years. Dur­ing the Eleventh Five Year Plan pe­riod, which con­cluded on March 31, 2012, close to 200 ac­cep­tances of ne­ces­sity (AON) with a to­tal value of ` 2,73,070 crore (about $49.6 bil­lion) were ob­tained. Of these, 161 con­tracts with a to­tal value of ` 92,069 crore ($16.7 bil­lion) were con­cluded. A record num­ber of 15 ships were com­mis­sioned, which in­cluded the three Shiva­lik class stealth frigates: Shiva­lik, Sat­pura and Sahyadri; two fleet tankers: Deepak and Shakti; one fol­low-on 1135.6 class stealth frigate INS Teg; the sail train­ing ship Su­darshini; and eight wa­ter-jet fast at­tack crafts (FAC). Com­mis­sion­ing of the nu­clear at­tack sub­ma­rine INS Chakra on Jan­uary 23, 2012, was a mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion, as In­dia is now part of a se­lect group of six nations that op­er­ate SSNs. Arihant is steadily pro­gress­ing to­wards its op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion with its sea tri­als expected to com­mence in the com­ing months.

He high­lighted the in­dige­nous war­ship build­ing pro­gramme un­der which 43 war­ships were cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion in In­dian ship­yards and in­clude the in­dige­nous air­craft car­rier, de­stroy­ers, corvettes and sub­marines. Three ships of Project 15A, which are fol­low-on of the ex­ist­ing Delhi class de­stroy­ers, with im­proved stealth fea­tures and weapon and sen­sor fit were sched­uled for in­duc­tion com­menc­ing early 2013. A con­tract had been signed with the Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL) for four more P15B de­stroy­ers, which will fol­low the P15A ships. Four anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare corvettes (ASW) be­ing built at the Gar­den Reach Ship­builders and En­gi­neers Lim­ited (GRSE), Kolkata, are the first stealth corvettes de­signed and built in­dige­nously as spe­cialised ASW sur­face com­bat­ants. The first ship was sched­uled to be in­ducted early next year and the oth­ers to fol­low in an in­ter­val of a year. To aug­ment off­shore pa­trolling ca­pa­bil­ity, four off­shore pa­trol ves­sels are un­der con­struc­tion at the Goa Ship­yard Lim­ited. The ships are sched­uled for in­duc­tion from end 2012 on­wards. Five other off­shore pa­trol ves­sels will be built at a pri- vate ship­yard. These ships, along with two cadet train­ing ships un­der con­struc­tion at an­other pri­vate ship­yard, are the first war­ship or­ders ever given to pri­vate ship­yards. Eight new up­graded land­ing craft are also un­der con­struc­tion at GRSE, Kolkata, and will aug­ment the force lev­els in the An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands. These ships will re­place the old land­ing craft util­ity, which are in the process of be­ing phased out.

To aug­ment the hy­drog­ra­phy ca­pa­bil­ity and force lev­els of sur­vey ships, six new cata­ma­ran hull sur­vey ves­sels were be­ing built by Al­cock Ash­down Gu­jarat Ltd, at Bhav­na­gar. The first ship was sched­uled to be com­mis­sioned shortly. The con­struc­tion of Scor­pene sub­marines un­der Project 75 was un­der way and MDL and the Depart­ment of De­fence Pro­duc­tion main­tain that the first sub­ma­rine was likely to be com­mis­sioned in 2015 and the sixth sub­ma­rine by 2018.

Ad­mi­ral Verma also in­formed that in ad­di­tion to the 46 ships cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion, AON for 49 more ships and sub­marines had been ob­tained. These in­clude seven more fol­low-on ships of the Shiva­lik class un­der Project 17A, which are to be built both at MDL, Mum­bai and GRSE, Kolkata, con­tract for which was expected to be con­cluded dur­ing the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year. Con­tracts for four wa­ter-jet FACs, to be built at GRSE, Kolkata; one more train­ing ship, to be built at a pri­vate ship­yard; and two mine hunters to be built in South Korea, were likely to be con­cluded dur­ing the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year. Six more mine hunters will be sub­se­quently built at Goa Ship­yard un­der trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy (ToT). Op­tions for the deep sub­mer­gence and res­cue ves­sel were cur­rently be­ing tech­ni­cally eval­u­ated. In ad­di­tion, ap­proval for con­struc­tion of six sub­marines un­der Project-75(I) was at the fi­nal stages of ap­proval. Re­quests for pro­pos­als (RFPs) for four land­ing plat­form docks (LPDs), 16 shal­low wa­ter ASW ships, one sur­vey train­ing ves­sel and two div­ing sup­port ves­sels were also expected to be is­sued in the com­ing months.

Of the 46 ships and sub­marines cur­rently on or­der, 43 are un­der con­struc­tion at the In­dian ship­yards. The in­dige­nous con­struc­tion pro­gramme has been so struc­tured to en­sure that over the next five years, five plat­forms of ships and sub­marines per year are in­ducted pro­vided the ship­yards

ad­here to con­tracted de­liver time­lines. In this con­text, he em­pha­sised upon the need for the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor ship­yards to scale up their ca­pa­bil­i­ties to de­liver state-of-the-art war­ships that match global stan­dards. He rec­om­mended in­cre­men­tal adoption of the pro­vi­sions of ‘Buy and Make In­dian’ in the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure (DPP) to syn­er­gise ca­pa­bil­i­ties and im­ple­ment leap fog­ging tech­nolo­gies.

He drew ref­er­ence to the three ships un­der con­struc­tion in Rus­sia, which in­clude two more ships of the fol­low-on Tal­war class, with one sched­uled for in­duc­tion later this year and the other next year. The third ship, Vikra­ma­ditya, is cur­rently un­der­go­ing sea tri­als. Re­cently, avi­a­tion tri­als in­volv­ing the op­er­a­tions of the MiG-29K from the deck of that ship were car­ried out.

The avi­a­tion as­sets were be­ing mod­ernised and aug­mented in con­so­nance with the long-term vi­sion of the Navy. In or­der to main­tain ef­fec­tive vigil and sur­veil­lance in the Navy’s area of in­ter­est, eight of the world’s most ad­vanced, state-of-the-art P-8I Nep­tune long-range maritime pa­trol air­craft were due to be in­ducted com­menc­ing early 2013. In ad­di­tion, eight medium-range maritime re­con­nais­sance air­craft were also planned for in­duc­tion. Pro­cure­ment of ad­di­tional UAV was be­ing pro­gressed to fur­ther aug­ment sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance ca­pa­bil­ity at sea. The ac­qui­si­tion of the car­rier-borne MiG-29K fight­ers will sig­nif­i­cantly en­hance the In­dian Navy’s strike ca­pa­bil­ity. The first batch has al­ready been in­ducted and de­liv­ery of air­craft from the fol­lowon con­tract will com­mence later this year. The rotary wing as­sets of the Navy were also be­ing up­graded to in­duct state-of-theart weapons, sen­sors and avion­ics. These in­clude upgra­da­tion of the Kamov 28 and Seak­ing 42B. The new in­duc­tions amongst the he­li­copters in­clude the multi-role he­li­copters (MRH) for fleet ships. In ad­di­tion, the naval util­ity he­li­copter was also planned for in­duc­tion by 2016 and the RFP should get is­sued any time now, he said.

Com­ment­ing upon the strate­gic lo­ca­tion and im­por­tance of the na­tion’s is­land ter­ri­to­ries, Ad­mi­ral Nir­mal Verma in­formed that se­cu­rity of is­lands has been bol­stered by the com­mis­sion­ing of the naval es­tab­lish­ment INS Dweep­rak­shak at Kavaratti, in the Laksh­wadeep and Mini­coy is­lands. Like­wise, in the last week of July, Naval Air Sta­tion INS Baaz was com­mis­sioned at Camp­bell Bay on Great Ni­co­bar Is­land. Ad­mi­ral Nir­mal Verma once again high­lighted the sig­nif­i­cance of the strate­gic ge­og­ra­phy and im­por­tance of INS Baaz which is sit­u­ated on this south­ern­most is­land of the Ni­co­bar group, over­look­ing the Strait of Malacca and dom­i­nat­ing the six de­gree chan­nel.

Em­pha­sis­ing on the in­evitable re­quire­ment of co­op­er­a­tive en­gage­ment and con­fi­dence build­ing mech­a­nism in the maritime do­main, Ad­mi­ral Nir­mal Verma recog­nised In­dian Navy’s lead ini­tia­tive in or­gan­is­ing and con­duct­ing the in­au­gu­ral In­dian Ocean Naval Sym­po­sium ( IONS) in 2008 and in­formed that this year the In­dian Navy has set up the per­ma­nent web­site of IONS, which will func­tion as a vir­tual Secretariat and al­low a va­ri­ety of other func­tions to be dis­charged in a cost-ef­fec­tive man­ner. IONS has been a very pro­gres­sive step in in­creas­ing maritime co­op­er­a­tion amongst navies of the lit­toral states of the In­dian Ocean re­gion, thereby crys­tallis­ing the rhetoric of ‘help­ing the IOR help it­self’.

Ad­mi­ral Nir­mal Verma high­lighted nu­mer­ous bi­lat­eral ini­tia­tives to fa­cil­i­tate ca­pa­bil­ity build­ing and ca­pac­ity en­hance­ment of In­dia’s smaller neigh­bours, par­tic­u­larly is­land nations in the IOR. These in­clude in­stal­la­tion of radars and au­to­matic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems, pro­vid­ing as­sets for ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone (EEZ) sur­veil­lance and hy­dro­graphic as­sis­tance. The Navy’s for­eign co­op­er­a­tion ini­tia­tives in­clude en­gag­ing with other ex­tra-re­gional navies as well as gain­ing op­er­a­tional skills and doc­tri­nal ex­per­tise. The grow­ing scope and com­plex­ity of ‘com­bined ex­er­cises’ with the United States Navy, the French, the Royal Navy, the Rus­sian Navy, the Sin­ga­pore­ans and South African and Brazil­ian Navies all con­trib­ute to­wards the Navy’s co­op­er­a­tive en­gage­ment ini­tia­tives.

Ad­mi­ral Nir­mal Verma also re­flected upon his ten­ure as the Chair­man Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee and re­it­er­ated his firm sup­port to joint­ness and closer in­te­gra­tion be­tween the three ser­vices for greater ef­fi­ciency and econ­omy in the longterm. He ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion over steady al­beit slow progress on the path to­wards greater in­te­gra­tion. He felt that this needed to be has­tened, es­pe­cially to en­sure more ef­fec­tive con­trol of the coun­try’s strate­gic forces and more ef­fi­cient con­duct of de­fence pro­cure­ment, train­ing and lo­gis­tics.

While pre­par­ing to swal­low the an­chor, the ‘Old Sea Dog’ did make a veiled yet sub­dued at­tempt at new tricks, un­known to him all through his three-year term. He, how­ever, was cau­tious in not dol­ing out any sen­sa­tional sound bite. It was to his credit that he mas­ter­fully painted a whole­some and com­pre­hen­sive can­vas of In­dian Navy’s steady voy­age to­wards con­sol­i­da­tion and sus­tained growth. Ad­mi­ral Nir­mal Verma re­flected upon the of­ten re­peated query about the di­chotomy of the fact that the In­dian Navy which pro­fessed blue­wa­ter as­pi­ra­tions was now en­grossed in brown­wa­ter op­er­a­tions. He, how­ever, saw no such di­chotomy in the maritime strat­egy as In­dian Navy dis­charges its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as the lead agency for coastal se­cu­rity. He fur­ther clar­i­fied that mul­ti­pronged ap­proach that fo­cuses on in­sti­tu­tion­al­is­ing and en­hanc­ing the ef­fi­cacy of multi-agency co­or­di­na­tion, ca­pa­bil­ity aug­men­ta­tion of var­i­ous stake­hold­ers as well as set­ting up of ad­e­quate sur­veil­lance in­fra­struc­ture had been adopted and that he was op­ti­mistic that the mo­men­tum that has been built will sus­tain to en­sure fruc­ti­fi­ca­tion of the projects and ini­tia­tives en­vis­aged.

Pho­to­graph: MOD

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.