India has a rich maritime heritage going back over 5,000 years. The world’s first tidal dock was built at Lothal (2300 BC) during the Indus Valley Civilization, a tourist attraction near the port of Mangrol on the coast of Gujarat. Modern India aims to reclaim India’s maritime heritage and the Indian Navy is an important constituent in that strategy in the 21st Century called the Century of ‘Maritimization’ – coined by Adm Bernard Rogel. The compendium ‘India’s Modern and Future Indian Navy’ is an effort to explain and receive support for India’s maritime aspirations, in a land seeped with a large ‘Sea Blind’ population. Most from UP Bihar, Northern States, Punjab and Haryana have not seen the seas. Gen JJ Singh who became COAS and Governor confessed at the release of the Naval Year book & Dairy-2017 that he saw the sea from the first time when he came down from NDA Pune for a naval camp.
The Indian Navy (IN) was established in 1830, and became known as the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) as monarchist Britain ruled India. Its beginnings however, could be traced back to 1620, when the East India Trading Company set up a naval force to protect its ships and trade routes. The RIN mutiny by Indian ratings in 1946, gave a jolt to the British, possibly awakening them to the realization that it was time to leave. India gained its independence in 1947, and on 26th January 1950, RIN became the Indian Navy (IN).
The IN held fast to its Royal Navy pedigree, moorings and traditions. Surprisingly RN Admirals Sir Charles Thomas and Mark Pizey and Sir Stephen Hope Carlill were Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) till 28 April 1958, when Vice Admiral R D Katari took over – as the first Indian CNS. This intrigued Stalin who wondered why India could not find an Indian leaderfor eleven years. Currently Adm Sunil Lanba is the CNS, a second-generation naval officer and a graduate of RCDS and slated to serve till 2019.
From beginning with twelve sloops and smaller ships in 1947, to the surprise of many, the Indian Navy now boasts of a fleet with 140 ships and submarines and 225 aircraft, placing it behind America, Russia, China, Japan, Korea, France and with the European Navies. The Navy’s actions with alacrity- when 32 ships sailed into the Indian Ocean during the 2004 Tsunami made a favorable effect on Indian attitudes and planning.
The Chinese Naval expansion made Indian planners realize it had been out numbered and in some cases, even out-classed, by China’s intention to be a major world Naval power which would definitely interfere in the Indian Ocean where Indian Navy has been mandated to be the ‘Net Security Provider’. This has fructified, China has taken over CEPC and Gwadar with funding and Pak military support . The Navy, despite the “funds crunch” a mere 12 % of defence budgets and now 15%,was planned for such a scenario, all along.
The terrorist attacks (26/11) in Mumbai in 2008 sent shockwaves through India, and helped push through major construction programs and a strong coastal security net work (NC3I) with a Maritime Analysis Centre (INMAC), near New Delhi, and GSAT 7 satellite internet with Israeli Orbit Technologies supplied terminals (Rukmini) based on the Centrix systems loaned by the US Navy in Malabar Exercises. This also helped many other smaller programs to link ships with internet transfers.
The Government decided to meet maritime China, and USA supported to remedy the maritime gap, and an in house naval effort called, ‘ Make In India’, saw Navy lead with a design bureau and WEESE (Weapons Electronics Engineering Systems Establishment) which have helped support technology in 46 ships ordered in Indian yards and 20 approved by DAC, listed in the diary.
In Aug 2016 Indian Navy silently joined the exclusive club of five countries who operate Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines with its home built SSBN INS Arihant (S2). Two more boats (S3&4) are in construction and S5 in planning. These are not only built in India but are also armed with Indian developed ballistic missiles (K-15/B-05/K-4) described in the diary. These missiles (currently 750km increased to 3500 km) can deliver a nuclear weapon (IRNS GPS) to its intended enemy.
The Navy’s “hunter-killer” submarine program despite a 30 year plan approved in 1999, will see the first ‘Scorpene’ enter service this year to augment the aging ‘4 HDW-1500 and 9 Kilo’ class boats which are being modernized with new missiles.
New Aircraft Carriers are also under construction. ‘Vikrant’ is being built and ‘Vishal’ later, about the same size as the “Queen Elizabeth”, with nuclear propulsion being debated to operate modern fixed wing aircraft in an Indian Blue Water Battle Task Force with SSBNs.
A new class of destroyers Type 15B Visakhapatnam and Marmagaoa are being built, and newer frigates have joined the fleet, with the six “Talwar” and three “Shivalik” classes. A new class, “Project 17A”, will begin commissioning from 2019 onwards, to replace the older ships thus giving the navy a boost in capability. A new Project 18 something like USS Zumwalt is in the thinking.
The corvette fleet is being updated with new ASW Project 28 “Kamorta” class with 90% indegenioyus content. .
These vessels are the size of frigates and are very well armed. Patrol boats are being added in the shape of the “Saryu” class and the re-opening of the “Car Nicobar” production line. Additionally over a hundred small, fast patrol craft have entered the service. Despite the down turn the Indian Government is seen to be supporting the large number of platforms with determination as the cost has escalated. Minesweepers from Kangnam South Korea and DSRVs from James Fisher UK are being inducted.
Decisions for the Amphibious fleet, have yet to be taken and tenders languish for the 4 new helicopter-capable, “Dock Landing Ships” to be based on the French “Mistral” or the Spanish “Juan Carlos” class. Discussions are on for the replenishment ships from Hyundai at HSL that will be needed. Many believe that the Indian Ocean is where the Indian Navy should be, and not further afield. If the Indian Navy is to challenge China, it will have to start deploying to the Greater Indian Ocean on a regular basis, in which case, a large replenishment force and air-sea co-operation will be essential.
MIG 29Ks are settling in as Navy’s main air superiority fighter. New long-range, land based, maritime patrol aircraft P8i are being added. Indians are looking more to the West and Israel for its aviation and UAV equipment but also balancing the requirements with Russia. The new carriers could be equipped with an
indigenous fighter. The “Tejas” may be deployed on the “Vikrant” as a trainer all being equal, not a fighter.
The Indian Navy looks forward to a brighter future to face the many challenges ahead. By 2027, it intends to have at least 160 frontline warships and over 400 aircraft. With such a Fleet India could possibly be the fourth largest in the world.
Finally, timing is everything. Naval and Military modernization programs are extraordinarily capital intensive and the life cycles of big-ticket defense items like warships—- from research and development to serial production to regular service life to deactivation —-are measured in decades.
As such, IN’s programs were invisible to outsiders which pursued major construction and systems, and the Navy is hoping to leapfrog forward in weapons technology too. Man power and training will be the challenges along the way all navies that expanded faced. Innovative policies will be needed. Shan No Varuna.
The Modern & Future Indian Navy-NAVY YEARBOOK DIARY-2017 Pages 114 Rs 300/200 in service stores. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to order by VPP/CHEQUE.