‘Fully Ca­pa­ble and Al­ways Ready’

VAYU In­ter­view with Ad­mi­ral Su­nil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Aviation Defence & News -

On the eve of In­dian Navy Day 2017, Vayu in­ter­viewed with Ad­mi­ral Su­nil Lanba on a range of is­sues and was as­sured that the In­dian Navy is fully ca­pa­ble of tack­ling all the ex­ist­ing and emerg­ing chal­lenges in the mar­itime do­main.

VAYU : Ob­serv­ing the cur­rent de­fence pre­pared­ness sce­nario, an­a­lysts have pin­pointed the ex­is­tence of ‘ crit­i­cal hol­low­ness’ as re­gards de­fi­cien­cies in weapon sys­tems, am­mu­ni­tion and equip­ment. Force struc­ture and mod­erni­sa­tion con­stantly come up against fis­cal chal­lenges, es­pe­cially with a shrink­ing de­fence bud­get (in real, if not ab­so­lute terms) and in­creased pen­sion bur­den. What steps are be­ing taken to over­come this in the con­text of the In­dian Navy?

CNS: The In­dian Navy re­mains com­mit­ted to trans­late its mod­erni­sa­tion plans into ac­tion in a time- bound and ef­fec­tive man­ner. While do­ing so, we also re­main pre­pared to re­spond to the present and emerg­ing chal­lenges in the mar­itime do­main. The fis­cal con­straints in the mod­erni­sa­tion process, if any, are ad­dressed jointly with all con­cerned stake­hold­ers. More em­pha­sis is be­ing laid on pri­ori­ti­sa­tion, ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion and econ­omy of ex­pen­di­ture. Greater value for money is be­ing achieved by en­cour­ag­ing procurements from in­dige­nous sources. Man­power re­quire­ments are also be­ing ra­tio­nalised through au­to­ma­tion of plat­forms and out­sourc­ing of non- core func­tions. The gov­ern­ment has re­cently del­e­gated cer­tain fi­nan­cial pow­ers to the Ser­vice Head­quar­ters for pro­cure­ment of crit­i­cal am­mu­ni­tion and spares. These would help us in over­com­ing some of the ex­ist­ing shortages. Let me take this op­por­tu­nity to as­sure your read­ers that the In­dian Navy is fully ca­pa­ble of tack­ling all the ex­ist­ing and emerg­ing chal­lenges in the mar­itime do­main.

VAYU : The In­dian Navy cur­rently op­er­ates only 13 old con­ven­tional sub­marines, 10 of which are older than 25 years, and with low avail­abil­ity rates re­ported for the fleet. What are the key goals for Project 75 (In­dia) with re­gard to timely in­duc­tion of new boats, and how will the pro­gramme be man­aged to min­imise the de­lays and es­ca­la­tions that plagued the pre­ced­ing Project 75 (Kal­vari-class)?

CNS: As on date, the In­dian Navy op­er­ates 14 con­ven­tional sub­marines in­clud­ing the first sub­ma­rine of Project-75, Kal­vari, which was de­liv­ered re­cently. Tri­als of the sec­ond sub­ma­rine un­der this project, Khan­deri, are also pro­gress­ing well. We have im­bibed cor­rect les­sons in the process and I am cer­tain that the sub­se­quent de­liv­er­ies will ma­te­ri­alise as per sched­ule. INS Chakra,

the nu­clear pow­ered sub­ma­rine ( SSN) in­ducted into the Navy in 2012 has added fur­ther teeth to the un­der­wa­ter war­fare ca­pa­bil­ity. The in­dige­nously built nu­clear pow­ered bal­lis­tic mis­sile sub­ma­rine (SSBN) Ari­hant has put the Navy in a se­lect league of na­tions ca­pa­ble of op­er­at­ing SSBNs. While we work upon these projects, the in­terim de­fi­cien­cies are be­ing made good through mod­erni­sa­tion of older sub­marines by Medium Re­fit-cum-Life Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to main­tain the op­er­a­tional edge. You would be aware that Project 75(I) which will add six more sub­marines to our in­ven­tory is be­ing pur­sued un­der the new guide­lines for ‘ Strate­gic Part­ner­ship ( SP) Model’. This model fa­cil­i­tates faster ab­sorp­tion of new tech­nolo­gies and cre­ation of a ro­bust do­mes­tic ecosys­tem for sup­port­ing the en­tire life cy­cle of the plat­form. We are op­ti­mistic about early con­clu­sion of con­tract and timely ex­e­cu­tion of this project.

: China is re­ported to have built new mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties on the dis­puted Spratly Is­lands in the South China Sea, and have com­mis­sioned their first over­seas base in Dji­bouti on the African east coast, in ad­di­tion to de facto bases in Pak­istan (Gwadar) and Sri Lanka (Ham­ban­tota). With a clear drive to­wards ex­pan­sion of Chi­nese in­flu­ence in the IOR, what steps is the Navy tak­ing with re­gard to se­cur­ing is­land ter­ri­to­ries and coun­ter­ing Chi­nese naval in­flu­ence in the re­gion?

CNS: We are fully seized of the grow­ing con­cerns re­gard­ing the pres­ence of ex­trare­gional mar­itime forces in the In­dian Ocean re­gion. As a pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary force, we lay a lot of stress on Mar­itime Do­main Aware­ness (MDA) and con­stantly eval­u­ate the mar­itime se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment in our ar­eas of in­ter­est. Our de­ploy­ment phi­los­o­phy is also re-worked pe­ri­od­i­cally to ad­e­quately ad­dress the cur­rent and evolv­ing se­cu­rity threats. The In­dian Navy op­er­ates a bal­anced force com­pris­ing air­craft car­ri­ers, de­stroy­ers, frigates, tankers, am­phibi­ous ships and a mul­ti­tude of avi­a­tion and sub-sur­face com­bat­ants. To­gether, these plat­forms are ca­pa­ble of un­der­tak­ing all man­dated op­er­a­tions in the In­dian Ocean Re­gion and be­yond. Our ca­pa­bil­i­ties will con­tinue to grow in con­so­nance with our well thought out per­spec­tive plans. Let me also high­light that, over a pe­riod of time, we have de­vel­oped very healthy, mul­ti­lay­ered and mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial mar­itime co­op­er­a­tion struc­tures with most of our mar­itime neigh­bours. We have a shared vi­sion of mar­itime se­cu­rity and all at­tempts are made to ad­dress these con­cerns to­gether. As re­gards your spe­cific query on se­cu­rity of our own is­lands, let me as­sure you that the force ac­cre­tion and in­fras­truc­ture de­vel­op­ment at both our is­land groups is very high on our agenda. Our Navy is fully ca­pa­ble and al­ways ready to meet any chal­lenges that may arise in the fu­ture.

: Although cap­i­tal ships re­ceive sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic at­ten­tion, a large pro­por­tion of the Navy’s smaller ves­sels – corvettes, mis­sile boats and the like – are age­ing or ob­so­les­cent. What is the Navy’s pri­or­ity for re­newal of the sur­face ves­sel fleet in the near fu­ture?

CNS: As you rightly brought out, in­duc­tion of smaller ves­sels may of­ten miss the pub­lic eye. How­ever, our mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme in­cludes in­duc­tion of smaller ves­sels, which play an im­por­tant role in en­hanc­ing the over­all mar­itime se­cu­rity of the coun­try. The first three Anti Sub­ma­rine War­fare (ASW) corvettes un­der Project-28 have al­ready been com­mis­sioned with the fourth one also likely to join the Navy in an­other two years. Con­struc­tion of Naval Off­shore Pa­trol Ves­sels (NOPVs) is well un­der­way at M/ s Reliance Naval and En­gi­neer­ing Lim­ited ( RNEL), Gu­jarat. The first three of these ships are ex­pected to be de­liv­ered very soon. This year, we also in­ducted two Land­ing Craft Util­ity (LCU) MK IV ships built at M/s GRSE, Kolkata and more of these ves­sels will fol­low over the next two years. In­duc­tion of Wa­ter Jet Fast At­tack Crafts (WJFACs), Fast In­ter­cep­tor Crafts (FICs) and In­ter­me­di­ate Sup­port Ves­sels (ISVs) has aug­mented our coastal

se­cu­rity sig­nif­i­cantly. Some of the other projects that are be­ing pur­sued in­clude Mine Counter Mea­sure Ves­sels (MCMVs), Anti Sub­ma­rine War­fare (ASW) Shal­low Wa­ter Craft as well as Next Gen­er­a­tion Mis­sile Ves­sels (NGMVs). It is in­deed a long list; but these smaller ves­sels are equally im­por­tant for the Navy and ad­e­quate fo­cus is be­ing ac­corded to these projects.

VAYU : The Navy has is­sued RFIs for 234 much- needed ro­tor­craft, split into 111 util­ity he­li­copters and 123 mul­ti­role he­li­copters. What has the in­dus­try re­sponse been, and what is the Navy’s de­sired time­line to be­gin in­duct­ing these ro­tor­craft types? CNS: You must be aware that these two projects are be­ing pur­sued un­der the newly in­tro­duced ‘ Strate­gic Part­ner­ship ( SP)’ model. The re­sponses to both these RFIs have been very en­cour­ag­ing. Sev­eral OEMs have shown in­ter­est to­wards man­u­fac­tur­ing these he­li­copters in In­dia. We are hope­ful that the in­duc­tion of Naval Util­ity He­li­copter ( NUH), which is the ba­sic ship borne util­ity he­li­copter, will fruc­tify in an­other five to six years. How­ever, the

Naval Multi Role He­li­copter (NMRH), as the name sug­gests, is a rel­a­tively larger he­li­copter with so­phis­ti­cated weapons and sen­sors. There­fore, the in­duc­tion of NMRH may take few years more than the NUH project.

VAYU : Dur­ing Fi­nance Min­is­ter (and then- De­fence Min­is­ter) Arun Jait­ley’s visit to Ja­pan in Septem­ber this year, the ac­qui­si­tion of US-2 am­phibi­ous air­craft did not come up as promi­nently as it has in the past. Is this re­quire­ment be­ing re­assessed by the Navy?

CNS: An am­phibi­ous air­craft does have added ad­van­tages with re­gard to greater op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­ity in cer­tain roles. These air­craft can en­hance the mis­sion ef­fi­ciency in in­ter-Is­land op­er­a­tions, since it would not re­quire a land based run­way. Such air­craft can also un­der­take a va­ri­ety of tasks in­clud­ing spe­cial op­er­a­tions, lo­gis­tics and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance to ships at sea, long range search and res­cue, med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion and Hu­man­i­tar­ian As­sis­tance and Dis­as­ter Re­lief ( HADR) op­er­a­tions. You would per­haps re­call that the avi­a­tion arm of the In­dian Navy was ini­tially es­tab­lished with in­duc­tion of the am­phibi­ous air­craft ‘Sealand.’ It would be ad­van­ta­geous, on many counts, to re­claim that ca­pa­bil­ity.

: There has been a flurry of press re­ports in re­cent months re­gard­ing In­dian car­rier avi­a­tion. The Navy re­ceived re­sponses to its RFI for 57 Multi-Role Car­rier Borne Fighters (MRCBF) but re­ports in­di­cated is­sues with some fighters’ abil­ity to safely op­er­ate from cur­rent and planned air­craft car­ri­ers. Could you clar­ify the rea­sons for this fighter re­quire­ment as well as the car­ri­ers in­tended to host these air­craft? CNS: There have been con­cerns re­gard­ing the abil­ity of some of the con­tenders of the Multi Role Car­rier Borne Fighters to op­er­ate from the ex­ist­ing car­ri­ers. This is mainly due to their wing­span in re­la­tion to the di­men­sions of the lift. The con­cerned man­u­fac­tur­ers have been asked to work out meth­ods to over­come these lim­i­ta­tions. Sev­eral so­lu­tions have been of­fered by the OEMs, which are be­ing ex­am­ined in de­tail. We are pri­mar­ily look­ing at these fighters for op­er­a­tions from our ex­ist­ing and un­der con­struc­tion air­craft car­ri­ers.

The Air­bus AS565 Pan­ther (above) and Siko­rsky Sea Hawk (be­low) are con­sid­ered as lead­ing con­tenders for the In­dian Navy’s NUH and NMRH re­quire­ments re­spec­tively

The In­dian Navy has al­ready com­mis­sioned three Project 28 ASW corvettes (lead ship INS Kamorta pic­tured)

Thank you Sir ! Push­pin­dar Singh, of Vayu, with the Navy Chief (photo: In­dian Navy)

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