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India - Navy Modernization

The Indian Navy (IN) has been in forefront in indigenisation of its platforms, systems, sensors and weapons. As a fall out of the capabilities, yards were now being recognised world over. In the field of indigenous development of naval armament, IN had adopted a two pronged approach. Firstly, it was self-reliance which has helped in harnessing potential of DRDO establishment and industries. Secondly, wherever technology was readily available and collaboration was possible, IN has considered the option of partnership in the form of either Transfer of Technology (TOT) or Joint Venture (JV) between the appropriate players and the national industry. This has resulted in bridging the time gap between developmentand exploitation of a weapon system.

India entered the 21st Century with a small but formidable regional naval posture. Long considered a "blue water" navy, the Indian Navy faces major challenges as many of its major vessels near the end of their service lives. Indigenous shipbuilding efforts were struggling to achieve acceptable levels of productivity and efficiency. By the end of the 20th Century the Indian Navy had emerged as the fifth largest in the world. It appeared that the Indian Navy (IN) continued to have procurement problems with delays in both domestically produced weapons systems and foreign purchases; potentially impacting its self envisaged roles of sea control and sea denial.

In the mid-1990s the Indian fleet numbered over 100 combat naval vessels, of which 15 were submarines, 2 were aircraft carriers, and another 23 were destroyers and fast frigates. Problems with funding and the lack of spare parts meant that only about one-half of India's warships were operable at any one time, while the other half were merely sea-worthy. This situation had persisted since the early 1980s, due to under-funding.

By the mid-1990s, India was preparing for a long-overdue major modernization program that was to include completion of three 5,000-ton Delhi-class destroyers, the building of three 3,700-ton frigates based on Italian Indian Naval Ship (INS)-10 design, and the acquisition of four hydrographic survey ships. Also to be built were an Indian-designed warship called Frigate 2001; six British Upholder-class submarines; an Indian-designed and Indian-built missile-firing nuclear submarine -- the Advanced Technology Vessel -- based on the Soviet Charlie II class; and an Indian-designed and Indian-built 17,000-ton air defense ship capable of carrying between twelve and fifteen aircraft.

The air-defense ship was to be, in effect, a replacement for India's two aging British aircraft carriers, the INS Vikrant, the keel of which was laid in 1943 but construction of which was not completed until 1961 and which was slated for decommissioning by 2000, and the INS Viraat, which entered service in 1987 and was likely to be decommissioned by 2005. The problems encountered with modernizing these and other foreign-source ships led India to decide against acquiring an ex-Soviet Kiev-class aircraft carrier in 1994.

In the spirit of international military cooperation, India made moves in the early and mid-1990s to enhance joint-nation interoperability. Indian naval exercises had taken place with ships from the Russian navy and those of Indian Ocean littoral states and other nations, including the United States.

The Navy was allocated approximately 18% (US$3.57 billion) of the total defense budget in FY2003-2004. It was struggling to find replacements for a fleet that was having vessels decommissioned due to old age faster than they can be replaced. Senior IN officers envisage that by 2010 the service will be a strategic force, centered on two aircraft carrier battle groups, nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) and strategic bomber/maritime strike aircraft, playing a dominant role in the Indian Ocean Region.

"The IN will principally be an ocean-going navy by the end of the decade, with few ships less than 1,200 tons," outlined a senior officer in mid-2003. However, its strategic assets will determine its future role and power projection capability, particularly with regard to China, which the navy considers its principal adversary. India has a 5:1 advantage over the Pakistan Navy in terms of combat vessels, air assets and manpower and does not consider it a maritime threat; merely an "irritant" with limited sea denial capability. The IN was more concerned about having a strong presence in the eastern South China Sea to counter Beijing's growing influence in the Indian Ocean, Myanmar and on Pakistan's western seaboard, where China was helping to develop Gwadar port that will provide it access to the Persian Gulf.

Focused on developing a blue water capability, the IN took several strides forward in 2003 in weapon systems procurement and in exercise participation. Of key importance was the procurement of new aircraft carriers. Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Madhavendra Singh said earlier in 2003 that India needs three more carriers in addition to the one it currently has.

In 2003 the Defence Acquisition Council approved the 10-year Plan for Navy to acquire 23 more warships including an indigenous air defence warship. At that time the Navy had 140 warships and submarines but it required at least 198 warships, because about 80 ships were on the verge of replacement.

Critical to New Delhi's push for blue water navy was the purchase of Russia's Admiral Gorshkov as a replacement for its aging INS Vikrant and possible further acquisition of additional carriers. With continuing slow procurement problems and the likely retirement of Viraat in 2010, further delays could meant gaps in operational coverage during a potential time of increased Chinese naval activity both in the South China Sea and in the Indian Ocean.

The navy agreed to buy the Russian aircraft carrier, the Admiral Gorshkov, for a nominal fee. But it required a $670m refit and will eventually have between 18 to 20 Mig 29 fighters which will cost in excess of $1bn. Gorshkov, which was slated to join the Indian navy in May 2008 after a refit. The indigenous version - the 'Air Defense Ship' would take at least a decade to complete. India needed to replace a former Royal Navy carrier, HMS Hermes, which it bought from Britain in 1986. Replacing the INS Viraat was a priority to maintain a three-carrier fleet.

Increasing the stealth frigate fleet, IN received its first indigenously produced ship, INS Shivalik (two more were expected to be commissioned in Dec 2006 and Dec 2007) and two Russian-produced frigates, INS Talwar and INS Trishul, based on the Krivak III; with a third to be delivered later.

IN also agreed to purchase six French Scorpene subs while ongoing efforts to upgrade its Kilo-class submarines into 'missile-capable' vessels continue. The six submarines from France will cost of $700m. The Indian Navy will acquire technology to build the advanced Scorpene submarines in state-run shipbuilding yards.

Under the Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan 2022's indigenous construction component, the Navy will acquire two Cadet Training Ships, five more offshore patrol vessels (OPV) to add to the four already ordered from Goa Shipyard Ltd, three LPDs, seven Project 17A FFGs, six SSKs under Project 75(I), eight guided-missile corvettes under Project 28A (to add to the four Project 28 ASW vessels now being built by Garden Reach Shipbuilding & Engineering), eight GRP-hulled MCMVs, and another integrated aircraft carrier.

In an unprecedented naval construction program, by 2008 the Indian Navy had an indigenous order to construct 38 vessels, which included an aircraft carrier, three destroyers and three frigates, four anti-submarine corvettes, six submarines, 10 waterjet-propelled fast attack craft, a landing ship, six survey vessels, and four offshore patrol vessels, with many more orders anticipated. "By 2022, we plan to have 160-plus ship navy, including three aircraft carriers, 60 major combatants, including submarines and close to 400 aircraft of different types. This will be a formidable three dimensional force with satellite surveillance and networking to provide force multiplication," Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said in October 2008.

By 2020 the Indian Navy surface combatant fleet will be

  • 3 carriers
  • 10 destroyers [ 3 Delhi + 3 Kolkata 15A + 4 Project 15B]
  • 24 frigates [9 Krivak + 3 Brahmaputra + 3 Shivalik + 7 Project 17A + 2 Project 17B]
  • 20 Corvettes [ includes 12 Project 28 and 28A ]
There could be as many as 34 submarines in total by 2020, while the Kilo's and 209's will be retired before 2025
  • 3 ATV SSBN
  • 2 Akula II improved
  • 6 U214 / S-80 / Marlin / Amur 1850 (Procurement under discussion)
  • 6 Scorpene
  • 10 Kilo Improved
  • 4 U-209

In the FORCE November 2008 issue the Controller of Warship Production and Acquisition stated "a total of 7 destroyers, 13 frigates..." as the major warship construction that would have been accomplished by 2022. That would indicate (3 P15A + 4 P15B} destroyers and {3 Krivaks + 3 P17 + 7 P17A} frigates. Interviews of senior Indian navy officials in the December 2008 issue of FORCE talk of future warship construction projects, with the seven Project 15B DDGs and seven Project 17A FFGs clealy identified. The Improved Krivaks were of imported origin and do not form part of the domestic warship construction package. That still leaves a shortfall of six yet-to-be-built FFGs and this void was to be filled by an additional 3 Project 1135.6 FFGs to add to the six, plus ordering an additional three more Project 17 FFGs as a Batch 2 package.

Arihant, which was the first submarine under the Advanced Technology Vessel Programme (ATVP), was launched on 26 July 2009 at Visakhapatnam. It demonstrated a quantum leap in the shipbuilding capabilities of the country.

By 2011 the Indian Navys perspective-planning of force-levels concentrated upon capabilities instead of numbers alone. In terms of force accretions in the immediate future, the Navy was acquiring ships in accordance with the Navys Maritime Capability Perspective Plan. There were 49 ships and submarines on order. The preferred choice of inducting ships has been through the indigenous route. For instance, the GRSE had already delivered all three of the large amphibious ships and ten water-jet Fast Attack Craft. The yard was constructing four advanced Anti-submarine Corvettes (P28) and was recently awarded a contract to build eight Landing Craft Utility (LCUs).

In the South, Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) was progressing the construction of India's most ambitious ship yet the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC). As of 2011 the ship was scheduled for launch in early 2012 [later slipped to August 2013]. At Mumbai, the premier warship-building yard Mazagon Docks Limited, was engaged in the construction of three Kolkata Class destroyers and four Project 15 B destroyers besides one stealth frigate of the Shivalik Class,(two had already been delivered on 29 April 2010 and 20 August 2011). Six submarines of the Scorpene Class were also under construction at MDL. Goa Shipyard Limited, which had built a number of Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Navy and the Coast Guard, had four advanced versions of this type under construction. Alcock-Ashdown Gujarat Limited was entrusted with the construction of six catamaran-hulled survey ships for hydrographic duties, Pipavav Shipyard at Gujarat was making five NOPVs, and ABG Shipyard, Gujarat was constructing two Cadet Training ships for the Indian Navy.

The indigenous warships construction had come a long way since the commissioning of INS Nilgiri on 03 Jun 72. There were not many countries in the world having capability to produce such a wide variety of warships ranging from Fast Attack Craft to Aircraft Carrier. However, a few ships were being inducted from abroad also to bridge the gaps in the capabilities that had been envisaged in the Master Plan of Navy. These included the carrier Vikramaditya and three follow-on ships of the Talwar Class from Russia.

The induction programd continued apace and over the five years 2012-2017 the Navy expected to induct ships/submarines at an average rate of 5 ships per year provided the yards deliver as per contracted timelines. In 2011 the Navy concluded eight important contracts which include contracts for four destroyers, five Offshore Patrol Vessels, two Cadet Training Ships, eight Landing Craft Utility and Fast Interceptor Craft for coastal security duties. It was also looking forward to soon concluding contracts for Mine Counter Measure vessels and P 17A frigates.

Under the Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan 2022's indigenous construction component, the Navy will acquire two Cadet Training Ships, five more offshore patrol vessels (OPV) to add to the four already ordered from Goa Shipyard Ltd, three LPDs, seven Project 17A FFGs, six SSKs under Project 75(I), eight guided-missile corvettes under Project 28A (to add to the four Project 28 ASW vessels being built by Garden Reach Shipbuilding & Engineering), eight GRP-hulled MCMVs, and another integrated aircraft carrier.

As of January 2016 :

  • Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) INS Vikrant was being built at Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), Kochi. Feasibility study for IAC-2 project was being progessed.
  • Project 15A Indigenously designed, these three ships follow-on to the Delhi class destroyers, with construction by Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL), Mumbai. The first ship, INS Kolkata, was commissioned in 2014.
  • Project 15B Project 15B consisted of four ships that follow-on to Project 15A. Under construction at MDL, the first ship INS Visakhapatnam was launched in 2015.
  • Project 28 Four ASW stealth corvettes were being constructed by GRSE, Kolkata. Indigenously designed, the first ship, INS Kamorta was commissioned in 2014 and the fourth launched in 2015.
  • Project 17A Seven stealth frigates follow-on to Project 17 (Shivalik class) under this project. Four ships will be constructed by MDL and three ships by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE).
  • Naval Offshore Patrol Vessel (NOPV) Five ships were under construction at Pipavav Shipyard, Gujarat.
  • Training Ship Three ships were under construction at ABG Shipyard, Surat.
  • Project 75 Six Scorpene submarines were under construction at MDL in collaboration with DCNS of France. The first submarine, INS Kalvari, was launched in 2015.
  • Project 75(I) This project envisaged construction of six submarines in Indian shipyards with foreign collaboration.
  • Survey Vessel Order for six catamaran hull survey vessels has been placed on Alcock Ashdown, Bhavnagar. The first ship, INS Makar, was already in service.
  • Landing Craft Utility (LCU) Eight LCUs were under construction at GRSE. Four of these had been launched.
  • Fast Attack Craft (FAC) Four FACs were under construction at GRSE. Three of these had been launched.
  • Immediate Support Vessel (ISV) Order for 14 ISVs was placed on SHM Shipcare, Mumbai, and 11 of these had been commissioned.

A multi-pronged plan will be pursued to harness national capabilities and enhance support structures. This was based on identifying and building upon the core national strengths in the maritime domain, with a view to focus investment in niche areas and best practices for longer term developmental gains. The Indian Navys efforts will supplement those of other government agencies, as also the private sector. The Science and Technology Roadmap (2015-2035) and Indian Naval Indigenisation Plan (2015-2027) will steer the efforts to synergise overall Research and Development (R&D) efforts in the maritime sector.

Speaking 04 December 2018 on the eve of the Indian Navy Day, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba unveiled the blueprint for a relentless naval build-up intended to retain Indias position as the leading military power in the Indian Ocean Region. Lanba observed: If I crystal gaze ahead to 2050, we will be a 200 ship, 500 aircraft world class Navy. disclosing the intended force levels. The build period for the new lot of 62 warships and submarines will be spread over a decade. The current strength of Indian Naval warships is about 140. Some of the ships in the lineup under construction will be replacement for those being phased out. Among the significant announcements he made were commencement of construction of Indias third aircraft carrier within three years, and impending approvals for programs to build six additional conventionally-powered Project 75 (India) submarines with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP).

The case for import of 24 MH-60R Multi-Role Helicopters, with anti-submarine warfare capability, initiated with the US for a government-to-government deal, is intended for commencement of delivery in two years. Two additional programmes are being processed for building 123 more multi-role and 111 utility choppers under the Strategic Partnership Programme.

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