Ranjit B Rai

Navy week just ended and this is an IDF Report.

With poor media coverage, INDIANS who have a low respect for research or history did not recall the fourteen day 1971 December war when Navy’s Osa Class missile boats with P-15 radar guided missiles sank five Pakistan Navy ships on 4th and 8th December nights off Karachi in Op Trident and Op Python respectively. Many died.

Navy set Kemari oil tanks on fire again in Op Python on 8th Dec by firing the first missile directly over the sea (Lt Cdr V Jerath in INS Vinash studied why last missile hit the beach in Op Trident), after Indian Air Force Hunters had attacked Kemari on 4th December morning from OCU in Jamnagar under Wing Cdr Don Conquest, Sqn Ldrs SN Medhekar, PK Mukherjee and Flt Lt SK Gupta (From log books) by happenstance and Pakistanis from Burmah Shell had put out the fire. In Op Trident the last missile fired fell on the KARACHI beach as the radar locked on to land and Cmde Gopal Rao Task Force Commander (OTC) in Op Trident wrote about it in USNIPS. In Op Cmde KMV (Curly) Nair was OTC on INS Trishul as he had just taken over from then Capt RH Tahiliani who was in plaster as he had fallen off a horse riding with Adm MP Awati. Nair called it his luck in war to get a Vrc as Tahiliani had worked up Trishul.

All above is in the book Warring Nuclear Navies—-India Pakistan, and in Pakistan’s official history of the Navy. India has not officially released the official history of 1962, 1965 or 1971 wars or given access to papers or the Henderson Brooks Report but reports from actors and writers like IDF but IDF tries to ensure veracity.

In the East in 1971, the aircraft carrier Vikrant’s Seahawk and Alize planes attacked Pakistani air fields and targets on the coast to hasten Pakistan’s surrender on 16th December. The Army had moved rapidly with Mukhti Bahini support as guides and intelligence agents to Dacca, signifying importance of Intelligence which Navy used in Op Pawan also in the book quoted. Army lost 1400 souls …..Navy none or a boat. After 1971 and Op Pawan Navy has not looked back but sea blindness prevails

In India with a capital 800 km from the sea. Rightly the nation celebrated Navy Week and Navy Day on 4th December and PM Modi attended with the President this time and this year the motto is, Indian Navy-Silent-Strong and Swift.

The Navy has since become a builder’s Navy but a small effective maritime force with 122 warships, 16 submarines which includes two nuclear submarines and 200 aircraft, helicopters and UAVs, which accomplishes big deeds with laurels for the nation in humanitarian and relief operations, diplomatic visits which even support Prime Minister’s visits to island states, and takes part in over twenty international and national exercises with élan. The Navy took part in the Kargil war with Op Talwar prepared to blockade Pakistan, and is part of the Triad with nuclear submarine INS Arihant with 750 km K-15 nuclear tipped missiles.

The path of Navy’s growth began when a Leander design was licensed from Yarrow Shipyard Ltd in Scotland and Vickers Ltd to build the 3,000 ton Leander named Nilgiri, in India at Mazagon Docks Ltd(MDL). On 23rd October, 1968 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi applied ‘Kum Kum’ on Nilgiri’s stern and launched her at MDL, and on 3rd June 1972 she commissioned INS Nilgiri with latest sonars, a twin hydraulic 4.5 inch gun and Seacat AA missiles which shot down three Royal Navy pilotless target aircraft (PTA) off Singapore and set a record. TheNavy’s shipyards and dockyards imbibed modern naval technology and best ship building practices, and set up a Naval Design Directorate to design indigenous platforms, and established the Weapons Electronics Engineering Systems Establishment(WEESE) in in private houses New Delhi for R&D and self help in communications and command systems, sensors, cyber and space applications for GSAT-7 satellite. Nilgiri became the base design which was elongated and broadened for the next lot, and the larger Shivalik class frigates and Delhi class destroyers that are now armed with supersonic BrahMos missiles and Barak-8 missiles and Command Control Systems manufactured in India.

The Navy had set a target to become a 200 ship and 400 aircraft strong navy by 2027 and the Navy does have a good order book of around ( 4 Type 15Bs, 7 Shivalik 17As, 4 latest Krivacks, 4 Scorpenes, 4 Survey ships, 1 ASW Corvette), and eight Boeing 737 P8i maritime reconnaissance aircraft with Mk 84 torpedoes and Mk 48 torpedoes as work horses have joined. However in the last two years the Navy has only been able to commission two delayed Scorpene submarines and three small LCUs and decommissioned over six platforms. Orders for three training ships at ABG and five Catamaran Survey ships at Alcock Ashdown have failed as both yards have closed. Five Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels at Reliance Naval Defence are languishing. Ships on order in PSU yards have escalated in costs with delays and Navy’s forays worldwide and inflation and rise in cost of fuel have put pressure on the revenue budget and the capital budget. Navy’s plans for a third aircraft carrier has been shelved and order for four LPDs withdrawn.

Indian Navy is therefore celebrating Navy Week 2019 with mixed feelings. India’s Navy was ranked fourth in the world but this year it has fallen to fifth position after USA, Russia, China and Japan with UK and France, as Japan has added Soryu class submarines with lithium batteries for longer underwater endurance than with Stirling AIP, and converting two 20,000 ton Hyuga helicopter carriers to operate F-35C fighters as aircraft carriers do, and added defensive air launched anti ship missiles.

Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh confirmed that the Navy’s budget had come down to 13% from 18% of the Defence budget, and added, “we are moving at the pace we are capable of”, when questioned about the expansion of the PLA Chinese Navy he said they move at the pace they can. The Chief stated few PLA(Navy) ships are always in the Indian Ocean Region(IOR) but assured the nation that, “the Navy is fully prepared to deal with national security challenges”, and cited how a Chinese research vessel had been turned out of India’s 200 mile EEZ as per UNCLOS 1982. He disclosed the Navy will take over the second aircraft carrier Vikrant with MiG-29K fighters in 2021 (possibly for flying trials of Mig-29K) and be operational by 2022, which is making progress at Cochin Shipyard Ltd, and reiterated Navy’s need for three aircraft carriers.

In the 21st Century it is witness to the Indo Pacific unfolding itself as the strategically important water body with sea lanes that carry valuable and increasing world trade, but the region is also witness to increasing security challenges. China has claimed the South and East China Seas from its rightful owners to possess a larger EEZ and is attempting to dislodge US influence and interests in the region. It is also predicted that the region will be an area of competition between India dubbed the elephant, and China dubbed the dragon but whether it will be peaceful or conflict laden cannot be assured.

In March 2015 Prime Minister Narendra Modi articulated India’s policy as, “we seek a future for the Indian Ocean that lives up to the name of ‘SAGAR’-Security And Growth for All in the Region.” Two years earlier on 13th August 2013 Prime Minister dubbed the Indian Navy as the Net Security Provider(NSP) in the Indian Ocean Region(IOR). The contours of NSP and SAGAR place a heavy responsibility on the Navy with a Blue Economy and to show the Flag as India’s risen power needs, but China wants to be a resident Navy in IOR to safe guard its sea lanes and sees India in the US camp and heading to a QUAD.

China’s PLA Navy controls the captive ports at Gwadar in Pakistan, a base in Djibouti and leased Humbantoata, the realisation has to yet to dawn that India’s maritime postures, capabilities and policies in the Indian Ocean and Indo Pacific will weigh heavily for India’s destiny in this century. The Indian Navy undoubtedly needs more attention, healthier budgets and long term plans, as it is a capital intensive three dimensional force of quality, but lacks quantity with adequate nuclear and conventional submarines and warships including the mandated three aircraft carriers, to be called a true Blue Water Navy behooving the size .and rising status of India in the comity of nations. The Indian Navy is delivering on a shoe string budget but for how long is the big question. Shan No Varuna may Lord Varuna Bless Our Navy.

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