The Song of the Missile Boats, 1971 by Author.

“Now take courage my lads, ’tis to Karachi we steer
To add something more to this wonderful 1971 year,
’Tis to honour I call you, as free Indians, not slaves
For who are so free as the sons of Bharat’s waves.
Come, cheer up my lads, ’tis to Karachi we steer
The prize clearer than all, to the Indian’s dear,
To honour your country, and your Navy,
Be always ready sailorman, and stand steady.
Come load up my lads, ’tis to targets we steer
Missiles we’ll fire, build on the crest of none we fear,
Again and again let’s repair to Karachi my hands,
And yet retire to Mother India, our beloved land”.

Midnight 3rd Dec 1971 war was declared and CNS Nanda was expecrting the Fleet with one missile boat in tow to strike KARACHI. On 4th Dec morning a disappointed CNS Nanda appreciating the Western Fleet had turned away on sighting a civil plane towards Makran coasr with radio silence reviewed plans and ordered Op Trident to C-in-C Vadm SN Kohli.

The three high points of the 1971 ‘war’ was the Navy’s landmark missile attack on Karachi by the Osa class missile boats on the night of 4th December in Op Trident and 8th December in Op Python. On 4TH Dec morning 4 IAF Type 56-A Hunters of the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) under Wing Cdr Don Conquest from Jamnagar attacked the Kemari oil tanks in the ‘opening bell’ of the war.

The previous evening when war broke out, the Hunters’ OCU experienced pilots had no task, but Conquest aware the Navy wanted Karachi attacked, requested permission to set the Kemari oil tanks on fire. The four Hunters’ larger drop tanks allowed them 5 minutes on task flying a high-low-high mission. The luck and boldness that favoured Don Conquest that first fateful day, also ensured the Navy’s Killer Boats sank ships off Karachi on 4 and 8 December nights and on 8 again hit the Kemari oil tanks, just after fires were doused.

The low silhouette of the boats ensured radars were unable to locate them till quite close. This ensured Pakistan’s Drig Road and other American supplied radars at Badin did not detect them operating 30 miles from the Karachi coast, and for quite some time the Pakistan Navy with headquarters at Karachi under Admiral Muzaffar Hasan assumed it was an air attack as Karachi had witnessed on 4th morning. Hasan was retired on 22 December 1971.

“Pakistan initiated the 1971 war on 3 December. On the 4th morning, a chance IAF Hunter attack set Kemari oil tanks on fire, across the harbour from the Pakistan Naval Academy PNS Rahbar, where the Naval Band played on at the Passing Out Parade. The young officers were enthused to join the war and serve Pakistan, the ‘Land of the Pure’.” – From the book “25 Missile Boat Squadron”.

The Indian Navy’s stars of the 1971 war were the recently acquired Osa missile boats which offered minimum radar targets, had speeds over 30 knots with 4 SS-N-2 (P-15) Styx missiles with 40km range flying at 9 mach, fitted with ingenious towing necklaces. With months of arduous work-ups and practice missile firings in Vladivostok’s harsh climate, the crews exhibited professionalism and camaraderie to the Soviet Navy. Captains and ships’ companies from the 25th Missile Squadron and technical personnel prepared the volatile liquid fuel Styx oxidizer rocket engines meticulously to sink Pakistani targets off Karachi over 30 km away by November. The boats powerful I band Rangout radars in high power mode performed brilliantly to track targets for the kill in Op Trident on 4 and in Op Python on 8 December nights.
IAF Hunters’ Serependitious Attack on Karachi

By sheer happenstance and luck which favours the brave, four
IAF Hunter aircraft of the IAF’s Operational Conversion Unit (OCU)
carried out a daring mission early on 4 December 1971 by setting
Karachi’s Kemari oil tanks ablaze, though credit was inadvertently
claimed by the Indian Navy for many years.

At dusk on 3 December, the Pakistan Air Force struck seven IAF airfields. The IAF could respond only next morning, not having night fighting capabilities.
At midnight Mrs. Indira Gandhi broadcasted, “The war on Bangladesh has become war on India. We have no option but to put our country on war footing.”

During the planning, CNS Nanda had asked Air Chief Lal for a strike on Karachi, but Air HQ staff, unaware how crucial it was for the Navy fighting its first war, opined that Karachi was out of range for the Hunters, and only after the Badin (Pakistan had set up dummy radars too) and Drig Road American supplied radars were neutralized by the MiG-21s from Jamnagar, was a mission to Karachi feasible. The Navy got low priority.

Yet, in the late hours of 3 December, when the Jamnagar air base was pitch dark and wives re-located to the city, the OCU head, Wing Commander Don Conquest learnt they, the ‘Top Guns’, had no assigned role for the morning. Conquest approached his OC, the legendary Air Commodore Pete Wilson, and told him that his boys were now capable of a strike on Karachi, as they had
recently inducted Hunters Type 56A and 235 gallon drop tanks, “What will our wives and children who were shunted from the base’s Bhangi Barracks to Jamnagar town say? That we stayed on ground?”

Pete Wilson, busy readying MiG-21s to hit Badin and Drig Road
at first light, let Conquest plan his mission. Air HQ Ops Room cleared it with, “ Do what you want. We are too busy here”. Early on the 4th morning, four OCU “Top Guns” took off for “target Karachi” with road maps in a formation take off. The Hunters could not carry rockets. Two 235 gallon drop tanks were slung on the pods, to enable a high-low-high sortie with five minutes over
target, with 20mm cannons. Strike leader Conquest (now in Australia), Sqn Ldr (later Gp Capt) S.N. Medhekar his winger in Pune, Flt Lt. (later AVM) P.K. Mukherjee in Kolkata and Flt Lt. (later Wing Cdr) S.K. Gupta recall that mission.

Don Conquest recounts, “As per SOP (standard operating procedure) we dipped our noses off Karachi and fired a few rounds into the sea to test our guns. Mukherjee’s guns had jammed, so three pressed on at 500 ft along the coast. As we neared the city, the large oil tanks loomed out of the skyline, their silver paint shining in the rising sun. We made two runs without difficulty and after the first, there were huge balls of fire and volumes of smoke coming out of the storage. The smoke haze made flying dangerous; we
aborted the other runs and flew back. Some ships opened ack ack fire.” Before Conquest could file reports, he was ordered to fly his OCU to Jaisalmer. Indian Army tanks were under siege.

Air HQ was not made aware of the damage caused at Karachi till much
Later as IAF declares KILL after analyzing the films.. This is common in the “fog of war”, so well described by Churchill in his Nobel Prize Volumes on the Second World War. The sight of balls of fire seen from the Naval Academy Karachi close by is still etched in the memory of the Pakistani, UAE and Saudi officers who took part in a parade on that fateful morning.

RADM Khalid Wasay recalls, “I was a lieutenant at the Navac. On 4 December, we were to hold a Passing out Parade and at about 0830 (PST) three aircraft appeared overhead and the next thing we heard was explosions. Later smoke billowed from the oil tanks.

Four days later, when we had doused the fires the tanks were hit
again.” Baluch Engineer Cdr (late) Iftikar Ahmed [known to the
author], recalled how the IAF planes flew over the Naval Dockyard
at Karachi. He knelt and thanked ‘Allah’ that they did not attack the
Daphne submarine he was supervising to send to sea.
Rear Admiral K.M. Alam, Captain of the Pakistan Naval Academy, in Rear Admiral Zahir Shah’s book, says: “When the war with India spread to West Pakistan on 4 December, an air attack on Karachi was expected. But that was the very morning the Passing out Parade was scheduled in PNS Rahbar. Commander Riaz, my XO and I, both had our fingers crossed. The sirens started wailing and an air raid followed. The ack ack guns opened up,
including those around the Academy. During the attack one of the oil tanks in nearby Kemari was hit and burst into flames with a big whoosh! The Academy shook, some windowpanes were smashed.

Everyone wondered how there could be a parade. Rear Admiral Rashid Ahmad, called to say he would take the salute. I assembled the cadets and ordered that even if Manora came under attack, they were to carry out the drill. There were Saudi and Gulf naval cadets. Avoiding the conflagration at Kemari — and the ceremonial boat ride — Admiral Rashid took the circuitous road to Manora. The air raid warning was on, when he arrived. With a look at the empty sky, and prayers in our hearts, the parade began. The country
was in the midst of a war; oil tanks across the harbour were burning fiercely, but the band played on.”

Why did the IAF not make much of this amazing achievement right then? The simple answer is that by 5 December Navy’s C-in-C at Mumbai, Vice Admiral S.N. Kohli received the code word “Angar,” signifying success of the killer boats in Op Trident, and BBC radio reported oil tanks at Karachi were on fire, nothing more. BBC on 4th afternoon reported Kemari tanks on fire but India heard it only on 5th morning !

Kohli announced to the media that the “Osa Killers” had sunk three ships later identified as the PNS Khaibar, PNS Muhafiz and MV Venus Challenger (which disappeared for 2 days). The strike on the oil tanks, was claimed as one last missile was fired towards the shore. Commodore Vijay Jerath’s book ‘25 Missile Squadron’, clarifies that the last missile fired landwards by Nipat did not have a clear line of sight and run towards the tanks and would have had
to fly over the city. The Styx missile radar gate opens and locks on and dives on to the first strong radar echo, and a land echo is strong. [Newer missiles in the Indian Navy like the Klub and
BrahMos are more discerning, with better radars and GPS homing
and finger-printing for land targets].

Describing the fate of the land bound missile, the Officer in
Tactical Command (OTC) of Op Trident, Captain Gopal Rao in
INS Kiltan, saw it ditching into the beach. He wrote so in USNIPs
and is quoted in Triumph to Transition. When the Hunter attack
came to the notice of late Air Chief P.C. Lal by P.K. Mukherjee, Lal
magnanimously said, “Let the Navy take the credit. War is on.”
Don Conquest is content that he was awarded the Vir Chakra for
his bravery in the Battle of Longewala. The battle was dramatised
in a controversial film, Border by J.P. Datta, with the Hunters given
a reduced role.

Op Trident 4 December and Op Python 8 December
On 4th evening INS Kiltan (OTC Cdr Gopal Rao) and INS Katchall (Cdr K.N. Zadu) were ordered to R/V with INS Nipat (CO Lt. Cdr B.N. Kavina Cdr Babru Yadav, K-25 embarked), INS Nirghat (Lt. Cdr I.J. Sharma), and INS Veer (Lt. Cdr O.P. Mehta). They fueled at Porbunder from Poshak to execute Op Trident,
under shore control. The Fleet, to Nanda’s disappointment, had
failed to hit Karachi with INS Vinash. Electrical officer Lt. Promod
Bhasin (later Vice Admiral as Chief of Material and builder of India’s
first nuclear submarine INS Arihant) USSR trained, prepared the
missiles, which performed superbly. He was the youngest officer
to be awarded a VSM.

Pakistani officers in the control room did not realize it was a seaborne attack. Assuming it was an air attack, like that fateful morning, the confused Pak defences were utterly in disarray to arrange seaward defence. Searchlights got turned on, and star shells fired. The missile boats attacked without retaliation, and retired with 5 of 12 missiles still intact. CNS Muzaffar Hassan at NHQ in
Karachi asked Air HQ at Rawalpindi for a strike on the retiring boats. The answer: “Cannot spare a sortie!”

Commander B.B. Yadav, who commanded Operation Trident was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra. Lieutenant Commander B.N.Kavina (Nipat), Petty Officer M.O. Thomachan, Petty Officer R.N.Sharma and L.K. Chakravarty and Lieutenant Commanders Inderjit Sharma (Nirghat) and O P Mehta (Veer) received the Vir Chakra for their roles in Operation Trident. Lieutenant Commander Vijai Jerath, was awarded the Vir Chakra for Operation Python.

It was luck, and the ingenuity of the young naval constructors’ creativity. The Nylon necklace was the starting point to plan the missile attack on Karachi in 1971. Since then naval architects and young officers have made many innovations to modernise a rising Navy.

The Indian
Commanders were decorated for their heroic foray, with 2 MVCs
(Rao and Yadav) and 3 VrCs.
Keesing’s Archives says: “In the biggest naval battle since the
Second World War, an Indian Task Force sank the Pakistani
destroyers PNS Khaibar (formerly HMS Cadiz) and Shah Jahan
(formerly HMS Charity) and two mine sweepers off Karachi in the
early hours of 5 December and subsequently shelled naval
installations in the port”. In fact, PNS Khaibar D-163 under Capt
Nasseem Mallik/ Lt Cdr Fazal Ahmed sank with 8 officers and 213
sailors and minesweeper PNS Muhafiz M-163 sank under Lt Arshad
Aleem with 32 sailors at 2235, and MV Venus Challenger
floundered in minutes. The credit of rescue work goes to German
built patrol boat PNS Sadaquat, gifted by Saudi Arabian Navy.
The Times of India of 6 December wrote, “An Indian Naval
Task Force inflicted a crippling blow on the Pakistani Navy, sinking
two destroyers and damaging another in a surprise attack on Karachi.
Units of the task force then went as close as 25 kilometers off
Karachi harbour and shelled several strategic installations”. The
‘fog of war’ was evident. What was unreported: Veer suffered an
engine problem and limped back when Cdr BB Yadav K25 asked
the missile boats to retire. INS Kiltan did not receive the message
and pelted on to Karachi. Veer nearly fired a missile on her seeing
her so close to Karachi. Engineer officer Lt. Puri on Veer, heroically
put boothas (cloth pieces) on a hot leaking oil pipe to stop the leak
with bare hands, allowing Veer to get away from Karachi.

On 8 December at 2230, Lt. Cdr Vijay Jerath [a shipmate of the
author on training ship Tir], known as ‘Jerry’ was let loose off
Karachi in INS Vinash in Op Python by Capt Curly Nair( F15) on
INS Trishul (Nair having taken over a worked up ship from Capt
Ram Tahiliani) with INS Talwar ( Cdr SS Kumar was our XO on
Tir). Jerath executed a magnificent attack and fired all four missiles
in succession at four different targets at Manora anchorage.
In the words of the Pakistan Navy, “The first missile flew over
the ships at anchorage, crossed Manora island and crashed into
the Kemari oil farm… The missile was reported to COMKAR who
passed it on to Air Defence Korangi. There was a huge explosion
and flames shot up high. The fire caused by the air attack on 4
December had been put out only a day earlier after concerted
efforts… The British owned MV Harmattan sank immediately and
SS Gulf Star flying a Panama flag and tanker PNS Dacca (Capt
SQ Raza Sitarra-I Jurrat) were damaged, as they took one missile
each around 2245”.


Chapter 10
L’audace, L’audace, Toujours de L’audace.
(Boldness, Boldness, Always Boldness) – Napoleon

India started acquiring Soviet ships and submarines in 1965 when Britain stopped its line of credit and refused funding to build Oberon class subs. Mountbatten observed “I managed more favourable terms for the construction of a British submarine but it all took so long that this transaction fell through”. Pakistan had acquired USS Diablo (PNS Ghazi sunk in 1971 off Visakhapatnam), and the Indian Navy was concerned. In September 1965, an Indian delegation in Moscow agreed to acquire 4 Foxtrot submarines (Kalvari class), 5 Petya anti submarine vessels (Kamorta Class), a depot ship (Amba).

Defence Minister Y B Chavan had seen the Osa class missile boats offered by Admiral Gorshkov operating in the Black Seas for port protection. Their short range and seaworthiness were dissuading, though China Indonesia and Egypt had acquired them. The submarine support ship Amba was acquired for Submarine support and the vital security of Andaman & Nicobar just 60 miles from Indonesia. Because in the 1965 war President Sukarno loaned Pakistan two small W class Soviet submarines Nagarangsang and Bramaastra in the 1965 war. Lt Basuki and Lt Sultan Ahmed(Later CNS Pakistan) with small crews sailed them to Karachi from Jakarta on surface. Admiral YH Malik CNS of Pakistan Navy then a junior officer on Bramaastra, stated no Indian warship was ever sighted on passage Jakarta to Karachi. Navy did not take part in the 1965 war on orders of Jt Secretary HC Sarin in absence of Def Sec Rao and DM Chavan and PM Lal Bahadur Shastri told CNS BS Soman it was a Cabinet order.

On 21 October 1967 in the six day war the Egyptian Navy Osa missile boats sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat (ex Z Class Royal Navy) with 47 dead. The P-15 missiles were fired from boats in port, when the Eliat was operating near the Sinai coast. This revived Navy’s interest in the Osas.
Chapter 11 Page 139
Osa Missile Boats’ Nylon Necklace
The low silhouette and stealth characteristics of the Osa boats gave them the advantage of surprise. The Indian Navy, yearning to enter the missile age, recommended their acquisition to deter ‘hit and run raids’’ on the Saurashtra coast, the kind the Pakistan Navy conducted off Dwarka by their Destroyer squadron of 5 ships led by PNS Babur in the 1965 war. They falsely claimed to media that a ship was sunk, when only one cow died!

In his book Admiral Kohli states: “Intelligence had suggested that the Pakistan Navy was considering acquisition of missile fitted frigates. To forestall the dangers of a missile attack by Pakistan on Bombay, I had enquired from Admiral Gorshkov whether they had a mobile missile battery which could be deployed for the defence of Bombay. He replied in the negative. He later persuaded the Indian Navy that for defence of Bombay and major ports, the small Osa class missile boats would be ideal.” Project Alpha Kilo for Rs 20 crores for 8 boats and 11 months training in Vladivostok was signed.
The Osa Boats And The Towing Necklace

It was a stroke of luck for eight 240 ton Osa Class missile boats to arrive aboard heavy lift ships at Calcutta’s Kidderpore docks, in early 1971 just before the war. Russian agency Chinoy Chablani who serviced Bhilai steel plant machinery, used the large crane to unload, for training ship INS Cauvery (Cdr IK Erry Lt Cdr Ranjit B Rai) and INS Tir (Cdr GM Hiranandani Lt Cdr SK Chand) to tow two boats each to Bombay.
Each missile boat was armed with 4 SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missiles (instead of the normal two), fitted with 3 Russian 4000 hp M-503G diesel engines for 35 knots at full power for short ranges, and the boats’ Rangout radar (NATO Square Tie) with bursts of directed power could detect surface targets over 40 miles in anomalous weather well beyond the Styx maximum missile range of 30 miles.

It is interesting how the bold attacks on Karachi by the short range Osa missile boats germinated. Innovative constructor officers of the Naval Dockyard at Vishakhapatnam used Garware nylon ropes sent from Pune for trials as berthing hawsers, converting them into a towing ‘Necklace’ with brackets welded. The author as First Lt. under INS Cauvery Cdr IK Erry had towed 2 boats from Calcutta in rough monsoon. seas. Two towing hawsers had parted and splicing them at sea was a challenge which I mentioned to Chief of Staff Commodore M S Randhawa (Ex boss in ND School) while requesting spare towing hawsers. He called ND(V) whose constructors, after consulting Soviet guarantee specialists, inserted light nylon hawsers all round the Missile boats in clamps fixed on the boats for towing, like a necklace.
They welded more clamps in a system to connect a tow and easily release it. This generated an idea to enhance the range of Osas (literally ‘wasps’) from home base under tow, then let them loose for attack, an operational ploy the Russians had never thought of.

Vice Admiral N Krishnan used this in his plan for the 1971 war as CNS Admiral SM Nanda gave the task to make out plans to Krishnan, his NA Capt Duggal and DNO Cmde OS Dawson and later dictated the war plans himself. The 8 Osa boats fortunately enabled Admiral Suerendra Nath Kohli the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command to set up facilities and commission the “25th Missile Boat Squadron”at Bombay under Russian trained Cdr Babru Yadav at INS Angrewith access to berths in Naval Dockyard.

The Technical Position (TP) that caters for missile testing and stowage was set up under Russian trained Cmde B G Madholar at Mankhurd in suburban Bombay. The missiles were sent to Lion Gate dockyard after preparation by Vladivostok-trained electrical officers Lts Promod Bhasin (later awarded VSM) and BVM Rao. Western Command simulated attacks on Karachi and one Osa was attached with the Western
Fleet in tow.
Admiral Nanda’s Ingenious War Plans
Napoleon believed in lucky generals and he attributed decisive victories to ‘luck and timing’. So did CNS Admiral SM Nanda the ‘Bomber of Karachi’, citing ‘boldness and secrecy’ as important attributes in the ‘Indian Principles of War’. Few know that Nanda did not dictate the key Operational Orders for the daring attack on Karachi to his HQ staff but to a young relation sworn to secrecy.

These were sent to Western Naval Command as charge documents. He took Vice Admiral S N Kohli, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Command into confidence, to exercise the Osa boats for the intended operations. He informed PM Mrs. Indira Gandhi of his plans to attack Karachi, and in a closed door Chiefs of Staff
meeting chaired by Gen Sam Manekshaw, asked Air Chief Marshal PC Lal for an air strike on Karachi at dawn the first day of the war.

When Manekshaw found Lal considering this suicidal, Sam said in Punjabi, “Chotta brah ek strike mang raha hai. De de,” (small brother is asking for just one strike, give it) and added “Marange to marenge, asi ladayi karan ja rahi hai, mohabaat nahi.” (Die if we must, we are going to war, not to make love). Thus would flamboyant Manekshaw confront operational issues head on. He spoke to Mrs. Indira Gandhi in a tone of confidence and acted like Chief of Defence Staff which irked Air Chief Lal. When Manekshaw was promoted to Field Marshal as Army Chief after the war and
was being considered for CDS, ACM Lal objected and is in his auto biography My Years With The IAF. Nanda, on tour in Bombay was sounded by Defence Secretary Govind Narian, and smiled, “You can promote any one with as many stars as you like – as long as you do not take away any of mine”. The IAF since then till 2012 has objected to a CDS, a seminal loss to the nation, brought out in the Kargil war.

Nanda employing the RN Staff College tri-appreciation technique, asked for three independent operational war plans from his DNO Commodore O S Dawson, NA Capt. V P Duggal and Vice Admiral Nilkanth Krishnan (appointed as Flag Officer
Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command). He allotted one missile boat to be in tow to Rear Admiral Chandy Kuruvilla the Western Fleet commander to lead the strike on Karachi. The Fleet Operations Officer feared the fleet was spotted on 3rd December by a civilian Pakistani plane flying though close to the Makran coast, steered away and failed to strike, belying Nanda’s expectation. Nanda had made the war signal and Mrs. Gandhi had broadcast that war had broken. A disappointed Nanda reviewed plans and ordered Op Trident.


The story of a path setting ship INS Nilgiri of the Indian Navy needs to told. It is the operational performance of the 3,000 ton modern Leander frigate(F33) that set the pace of confidence to the Executive and Technical Brass of India’s Navy to become a builder’s Navy. She served from 1972 to 1996.

The Indian Navy selected the proven Leander design and it from Yarrow Shipyard Ltd in Scotland and Vickers Ltd to build Niligiri at Mazagon Docks Ltd(MDL) Bombay. On 23rd October, 1968(Writer’s wedding anniversary) PM Indira Gandhi applied ‘Kum Kum’ on Nilgiri’s stern and launched her at MDL, and on 3rd June 1972 (Adm Madhevendra’s wedding day or birthday writer forgets), she commissioned Nilgiri into the Indian Navy. Equipment was selected by Capt DS Paintal (TAS) as DCPT in NHQ later appointed Captain by CNS Adm SM Nanda over others as he had commanded a Khukri class with elan.

The Leander Project at NHQ and its team in Yarrow Shipyard Ltd under Commodore Kapadia and course mate Lt Cdr Rishwadkar(E) worked out scheduling of supplies. That is when Navy’s indigenisation started in earnest to cut costs. Valves came from Leader in Jullundur, SRE from Motwani and pumps from companies in Pune and hull fittings from merchant ship suppliers in Bombay. Officers took initiative.

Nilgiri’s performance at sea gaveIndian Navy’s rank and file, shipyards and dockyards a spurt to imbibe the world’s latest naval technology and ship building practices, which has been taken to heights by today’s Navy with self help, and a will to ‘Make in India’. CMDs of PSU yards came from the Navy. This has paid dividends and Navy set up a small Naval Design Directorate and the Weapons Electronics Engineering Systems Establishment(WEESE) in private premises in New Delhi. Some officers from Nilgiri later joined WEESE which has done yeoman R&D work for the Navy.

Continue reading


The history, philosophy and pedigree of a Navy matters. India’s Navy began as the Honourable East India Company’s Marine on 5th Sept, 1612, and after many designations, a Royal Charter designated it the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) operating from Bombay on 2nd October 1934 as a daughter Navy of the Royal Navy. The RIN got blood lined with its parent victorious Royal Navy by fighting alongside in the Second World War with heroic actions on ships manned by officers and ratings from India, and those seconded from the Royal Navy. Few served on RN ships in the Atlantic too.

From 18 ships the strength of RIN rose to 50 odd small RIN sloops and minesweepers by 1941, manned by some 20,000 hurriedly trained ex Merchant Navy officers and ratings in UK, Cochin, Bombay and Karachi, where schools were set up and operate even today. Indian Navy treats training as its forte, and now simulation. It has converted and regularly updated RN and NATO books on Signals (ANSB) and Tactical Procedures (ATPs) into Indian Publications by the Rule Writing Groups exposed to the Soviet Navy for tactics,  and recently United States Navy for strategy.

 In WW II the secular RIN with Brits, Hindus, Muslims, Anglo Indians and Parsees, eating out of each other’s plates as one operated in the Indian Ocean, off Burma and in the Red Sea. Many were decorated by the King with DSOs and MBEs and Mentioned in Dispatches to mention later Admirals Soman, Krishnan and Karmarkar who was the first Indian Commander to command HMS Cauvery and later INS Delhi briefly with British ratings and officers under him. He was an Ex Dufferin Merchant Navy Captain who joined RINVR as a reservist so was superseded by Katari, Soman, Chakravty and Chaterjee in the Navy List and opted to serve on.

RIN’s war actions are chronicled in Timeless Wake by the Maritime History Society of India. The sinking of the armed Japanese raider Hokuko Maru (10,000 tons) and chasing away of the second Aikoku Maru (8,000 tons) by 650 ton Bathurst class minesweeper HMIS Bengal with its 15 pounder gun while escorting a convoy under Lt Cdr WJ Wilson, RINR on 11th January, 1942 from Australia is also vividly described in An Underhand Affair. The Royal Navy down played RIN’s actions in the Naval history of the Royal Navy despite being its daughter Navy, because the 1946 Indian Naval Mutiny coloured the impression of the Royal Indian Navy as mutineers in the eyes of the British Admiralty. The mutiny heralded India’s Independence. The details are in the novel by Ranjit B Rai titled An Underhand Affair The Travails of a Dalit Girl and a Sacked RIN Sailor. Variety/Adhyyan Books/ ISBN 9-789388-644167 Rs 250 on Amazon. Money back if you do not enjoy it. 

When India gained Independence on 15th August 1947 the RIN retained its name, and its ceremonials including flags with the St George’s cross(even today), and continued with the RN traditions and operational philosophy as a Dominion Navy within the Commonwealth and exercised with the Commonwealth Navies including Pakistan in JETs off Colombo. IN and RIN links had grown stronger when HMS Achilles of the Battle of River Plate fame was commissioned as HMIS Delhi on 5th July 1948 at Birkenhead, under Captain HNS Brown RN, with 17 British officers and petty officers and the large 700 crew was Indian. Commander RD Katari was her Executive Officer while Lieutenant SM Nanda was her First Lieutenant. Both became Chiefs of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy. Nanda steered the Navy as the Bomber of Karachi in the 1971 war to liberate Bangladesh.

 Between 1950-60  11 frigates joined from UK. These included the 3 Type II Hunt-class destroyers led by HMS Bedale in 1953. Then followed the 3 new Leopard Brahmaputra class AA frigates with CPP propellers and FPS 5 gunnery system from Vickers at New Castle on Tyne; 2 Whitby anti-submarine Trishul class frigates from Cammell Laird, at Birkenhead, and 3 anti submarine Blackwood 2nd Rate Khukri class frigates from J Samuel White at Cowes on the Isle of White. The Whitbys were later refitted with P-15 missiles aping the Soviet ships.

In 1961 the aircraft carrier HMS Hercules with British Sea Hawk and French ASW Alize planes joined the Indian Navy as INS Vikrant. Later in bold move Indian Navy decided to make a 3,000 ton Leander at Mazagon Docks in Bombay. Spares and machinery began being shipped out from Yarrow in Glasgow for India’s first Leander the INS Nilgiri which is the base design for all ships that followed with improvements and Soviet Navy weapons. The West restricted supply of arms to India. The last nail in the coffin was when Britain refused to supply the Oberon class submarines after training Indian submariners at HMS Dolphin. Links with the Royal Navy came under strain which Lord Mountbatten lamented in writing.

In that period Pakistan tilted to the United States and joined the Baghdad Pact and SEATO. India professed non-alignment but was dependant on Soviets in UN too. USA leased Pakistan a Tench class attack submarine PNS Ghazi, Patton tanks and F-86 Star fighters which emboldened it to start a 17 day war in September of 1965. Navy was not allowed to participate.

Only from 1967 Soviet Union supplied 8 Foxtrot class class submarines with tender INS Amba and 8 Petya class ASW ships and 8 IL-38 Maritime Patrol aircraft. As Liaison Officer to Admiral of the Fleet Sergie Gorshkov during his three visits to India between 1964-1985, this writer as Director of Naval Operations was witness to changed IN’s operational and fighting strategy to be ready for war and was given commanded a Soviet supplied Petya INS Kavaratti. In the 1971 war 8 OSA class P-15 missile firing boats from USSR were ingeniously towed off Karachi in Op Trident and Python respectively. The IN heralded missile warfare on land from the seas and the Navy became and is missile centric.

The Soviets supplied ten Kilo class submarines and two Nuclear submarines INS Chakra, the first operated from 1987 to 1991, and an Akula in 2014 which is currently operating with the IN and helped build nuclear submarines in India under the Advanced Technology Vehicle(ATV) project. The 6.000 ton INS Arihant equipped with K-15/B-05 nuclear tipped 750 km range got commissioned in 2016. The missiles and Indian built nuclear reactor are the pride of the Nation’s Triad.

On 14TH June, 2014 Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Russian re-furbished $ 2.3 bill 44,400 ton aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (Ex Gorshkov) with MiG-29K fighters and Ka-31 AEW helicopters to the nation, and declared, “Indian Navy’s Potential Must Be Harnessed For India To Rise”.


A thaw commenced in military relations with USA post 9/11/2001 terror attacks in New York. Navy begun exercising with the US Navy and more officers began to go to USA for Naval training including aviators for carrier flying training and acquired 10,00 ton LPD INS Jalashwa on FMS. Six former naval Chiefs graduated from the US Naval War College. The series of Malabar exercises became annual and India was no longer non aligned, but advocated Strategic Alignments. The IN was exposed to USN and other Navies’ operations and procedures. In Malabar the Navy carried US Navy’s CENTRIX system for digital internet communications and maritime domain awareness(MDA) and Navies exchanged officers. Navy’s expansion took on a larger strategic approach with the Government declaring the IN as the Net Security Provider(NSP) in the Indian Ocean Region(IOR) in 2013, on Robert Gates goading. The US Navy philosophy of ‘big brother’ was being adopted. Eight modern P8i Boeing 737 Maritime Reconnaissance planes out of 12 ordered equipped with a CAE AN/ASQ-508A magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) system, APS-143C(V)3 multimode radar and a global version of the Raytheon APY-10 surveillance radar have joined. They are armed with MK 84 Harpoons and MK 48/58 torpedoes and the planes are operating from INS Rajali near Chennai.


The Navy’s philosophy has calumniated in Mission Based Deployments and strategy is like the US Navy with ready ships and aircraft along critical sea lanes of communications and choke points in FONOPS, and in International exercises. Indian Navy is aware of an expansionist China backed by its rapidly rising naval and military muscle with economic power, to assist Pakistan in the $56 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to gain access to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean which of course, presents a much bigger challenge for India, if Navy is not funded and its strength increased with long term support. The Indian Navy, however, is quite confident of its dominance in its strategic IOR backyard for now. The IN knows the Chinese PLA Navy is here to stay, but it faces the tyranny of logistics in the IOR which Navy can shear. Shan No Varuna.

A larger version of this article has been published in NAVAL REVIEW UK November issue considered the acme of Naval writing in History and analysis and maritime thinking.


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.


As a preamble in this Pot Pouri post  IDF must praise Prime Minister Modi for a successful visit to Saudi Arabia with promises of money to invest.  India needs  a dose of investment badly. India is a gold mine for investment with a consuming population of 1.3 billion. That is why India is sought by all nations and even World Bank to raise the world’s  lagging economy. Chancellor  Merkel is here to say so too !

IDF recounts what a Chinese Think Tanker said, “ India is a fair maiden every one wants to woo”. India must take advantage of this.

FIRST  challenge is to bring normalcy in Kashmir and though  the threat of a India-Pakistan nuclear war is remote, but if it happens it could kill more than 100 million, a study warns in  South China Morning Post of  3rd  October, in a make believe scenario. It relies on PM Imran Khan’s threats on Red Lines of Pakistan and paints a scenario, “New Delhi retaliates Pakistan’s actions on terror by sending tanks into the part of Indian Occupied Kashmir (POK) controlled by Pakistan. Nuclear Armageddon would be only the beginning”.

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This is an IDF Deepavali ‘State of Affairs’ pot pouri analysis of India’s external challenges with an accent on security and maritime issues after abrogation of Article 370 and PM Modi’s informal summit with President Xi Jinping at Mallampuram.

The preamble to this post has to be Internal as External affairs of a nation have a connect, and suddenly India’s internal challenges of Kashmir (vis a vis Pakistan and China), a cascading Economy and the Brand of the BJP Government as a Government with a Difference seems  a bit dented. This will heavily occupy the Government internally.

The results of the Maharashtra and Haryana elections came as a unexpected blow to  the powerful BJP & RSS combine, and the tilted media, just as the FATF result surprised India’s MEA. Pakistan escaped the Black List by garnering 3 needed votes provided by Malaysia (Mahathir) and Turkey (Erdogan) and China. Two nations have been punished by stopping Palm Oil imports; and cancelling a three tanker contract at MOU stage to Turkey and a visit by PM Modi respectively.

This may be a blessing. Navy needs more tankers for its high tempo operations and has looked to Italy, Korea and Turkey despite L&T assuring that if provided with a design that Navy has operated with Fincantieri built INS Shakti/ Deepak,  L&T can build tankers. The long Agusta Westland witch hunt against Italy has hurt Indian economy and Navy most. By BJP Black Listing Finmeccanica, Hum ne Apne pe Kulhari mar De, like Congress cancelled the HDW contract to hurt itself and Navy in the 1990s.

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IDF VIEWS Indian military jumping up a notch on the world scale by 2020-21 and IDF salutes the IAF on its 87th birthday which displayed its might in clear skies at Hindon. But the Chiefs, PSOs there, and MOD in South Block should be worried as Indian economy is down and no money means no new big defence spending. Yet if you cut your coat better to India’s military cloth much can be done with tri service energy and weaponry. It is said NSA and soon a CDS will do that in earnest but time does not wait in this era. Bringing normalcy in Kashmir is consuming energy of decision makers as Trump confirms IDF view that USA China trade war is actually a technology war to throttle China and India has to decide where its stands on that. PM Modi will discuss that with President Xi Jinping in Mallampuram. The world and IDF is watching with hopes of ‘Acche Din with China’, to settle Pakistan down in a India China deal when leaders meet. India needs investment too and China needs a market! Can the two meet ?

This then is an overall IDF Dusshera Vijaydhasmi greetings with a Puja analysis of how many conventional diesel and how many nuclear submarines India should aspire for as building submarines is time consuming and it is based on the premise that France, UK and USA have no conventional diesel submarines—and China and Russia are balancing their Order of Battle (ORBAT) with less diesel submarines and exporting them to Bangla Desh (Mings) and Pakistan (Yuans) and Thailand and Kilos to Vietnam and Myamar and increasing their own number of nuclear submarines. Navy did a coup for Russia as the Kilo INS Sindhukriti with Indian crew is getting ready to be given to Myanmar. Good ‘out of the box’ thinking Navy is known for !

Hence today Pakistan Navy is not so much of a concern in case of a war as much is the PLA(Navy) in the years ahead dominating India’s parish. The P8is have come as a boost to the Indian Navy’s power with Mk 84 Harpoons and Mk 48 Torpedoes and the BrahMos and Barak 8 LR SAMs and M/F Star radars on ships with reliable gas turbines that do not fail. The Mig-29Ks are settling in on INS Vikramaditya. The IAF with induction of Rafales and its IACC and AWACS with slaved BVR Meteor 130 km and Scalp 300 km .8 Mach cruise missiles will see IAF as a juggernaut in the air. This is time the synergy of India’s Air Sea Strategy needs thinking by both services as Army seems confident with its IBGs concept tried out in Exercise Him Vijay. EAM Jaishankar Subrahmanyam has come as a breath of fresh air in Foreign policy as that is in his DNA. India needs that in Defence too.

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This is an IDF ANALYSIS of the Indo Pacific which is unfolding as the strategically most important water body with sea lanes that carry valuable and increasing world trade, but the region is also witness to increasing security challenges. China’s displayed it’s capabilities on 1st October with a Parade IDF dubs as ‘China’s Second Coming Party’ after the Olympics. Only Hong Kong protests and falling economy are worrisome.

China lacks maritime geography and is determined to claim the South and East China Seas from its rightful owners to possess a larger rich Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and dislodge US interests and influence from the Indo-Pacific with maritime power. It is also predicted that the region will be an area of competition between India(the elephant), and China(the dragon), but whether it will be peace or conflict between the two, cannot be assured. Gen JJ Singh has elaborated on this and offered a border deal of sorts with China in his researched book, “The McMAHON Line”,(Harper Collins) but issues have been overtaken by the abrogation of Article 370.

In a change, Japan’s Researcher Akio Tanhara on 4th October at IIC admitted in a slide that JAPAN too has realized the pendulum has shifted to Eurasia from USA, so Japan may co-operate with China in selected BRI projects to provide Infrastructure goods for sake of Japan’s economy. As Groucho Marx would say, ”It’s the economy stupid”.

This is where Wuhan(2018) and the coming meeting of PM Modi and President Xi Jinping at Mahabalipuram (11 Oct) kicks in. The flip side is, the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) nations worry about what deals India makes and there are no issued guidelines for India’s Navy as the Net Security Provider(NSP) in IOR ordained by PM Manmohan Singh on 13th Aug.2013 or PM Modi’s call for SAGAR(Security and Growth for All) and LEMOA with USA which is secret. Sri Lanka wants to join LEMOA.

The Pathfinder Foundation in Sri Lanka led by Admiral Collambage and team under directions of the President Srisena consulted major IOR nations and scripted a ‘Code of Conduct’ in the IOR, titled Concerning The Repression Of Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Ships, and Illicit Maritime Activity in The Indian Ocean’, and offered it to the twenty one members of IORA to be signatories, but as Pakistan a close ally of China is not an IORA member, and Pathfinder has Chinese partner Think Tanks like Indian Think Tanks have, India is diffident to even look at it. Pathfinder has offered India ownership to modify as all fear the consequences in the China India competition in the IOR, more evident after 370, as China has sided Pakistan which may never use its nuclear weapons but always threatens. This got RM Rajanth Singh to review the No First Use(NFU) meaning.

India has risen as a military and economic power, with a large potential attractive virgin market. It is that, that President Trump is wooing as he knows India has a pragmatic and decisive effusive leader in his friend PM Modi that can temper China. So he talks of co-operation in security and a trade deal and calls PM Modi the “Father of the Nation”, and announces military exercises like Tiger Triumph first time heard in Houston over Howdy and the QUAD to rope India into a formal alliance with Japan and Australia. Trump always puts his cards on the table for America First and India figures high.

China and other nations also covet India’s juicy market and IDF many times heard the Deputy PM of Singapore Admiral Teo Chee Hean in the 1990s say to every Indian dignitary visiting Singapore, “A Benign Strategic Relationship is Great for Trade”. Today tiny Singapore is a big player with trade hitting $18 bill and security relations are the closest with a confidential strategic pact and 27 unbroken Simbexes. France as a Riparian IOR state has offered outside support to QUAD and its bases in the IOR to India, and UK has joined the chorus. For France that possibly counted for the 36 Rafale deal inflated  to $ 8 billion to support India on nuclear plants, but Areva that L&T was talking to, went bust.

On QUAD China had warned India that QUAD is like ganging up against China when former President Pranab Mukherjee was the Defence Minister. The provocations was QUAD nations including Australia and Singapore exercised in Malabar. Australia and Singapore were put out in 2007 but are knocking for entry. India has risen since and China and USA are in a trade war. India has to think how it can gain. In China leaders listen to Intellectuals who help economic decision making and are working on China’s falling economy and strategy with India.

IDF is tempted to what IDF learnt after exiting Navy at IIM(A). In any transaction IIM teaches you must be clear who is the ‘Vendor and who is the Customer’ and act accordingly. Vendors humour the customer and some say Customer is King (India is No 1 importer of defence wares). Trump looks to the market of India and PM Modi is balancing defence deals between USA and Russia. Trump has sanctioned Russia and Iran to get India’s large oil and gas market as USA has become a net energy exporter and gas prices have fallen. Price of oil is a crucial factor for India and China’s economy.

Two decades ago USA behaved like a vendor to the big Chinese customer market. China took full advantage. USA used cheap Chinese labour to set up US industries in China to sell and export. China grew in double digits and invested its surplus in USA. China bought technology, imbibed technology and grabbed technology by means fair and foul in Make in China, even from Russia and Ukraine to become a leader in many technologies. Hence the USA CHINA trade war, which is a technology war too. Huawei and ZTE are banned by USA. Xi Jinping may discuss Huawei and such issues along with QUAD when he meets PM Modi on 11th October. Wuhan 2018 saw borders cool after Doklam stand off and Chinese PLA and Indian Army officers meet regularly now, and it is reported daily in Doklam where a road to move troops and armour is readied. India is better prepared.

As a consequence, there have been many articles and talks and conferences in Think Tanks on China and USA with foreign and Indian speakers. Chinese warn China has 17.3% of the world’s economy with 1.4 billion people and India has 2.3% of the world’s economy and 1.3 billion, so ask, “are you with the East or West without naming USA or QUAD”. NSA Doval spoke at the  Goa Maritime Conclave at Fort Aguada in Goa on 4th October to littoral Navy Chiefs on “Common Common Maritime Priorities in IOR and need for Regional Maritime Strategy”.and subjects mentioned in this posting show their relevance as Adm Columbage was present from Sri Lanka.

In view of the above the Indian Navy needs more attention, healthier budgets for long term plans, as it is a capital intensive three dimensional force of quality, but lacks quantity called, ‘A Long Grey Line of Ships’. It deserves adequate warships and nuclear ISBN/SSN and conventional submarines including three aircraft carriers and Aerial power to be called a true Blue Water Navy as RM Rajnath Singh said.

Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh recently lamented that from 18% allotted to the Navy earlier the 2019-20 Defence Budget has provided only around 13%, from the allocated Rs3.18 Lac Crores ($46 Billion). The Army has got Rs 1.67 lac crores ($23 billion), the Air Force Rs 68,949 crores($10 billion) and Navy only Rs 45,368($6.5 billion).leaving little room for new naval orders, as escalation and time delays of the 34 ordered ships has taken a toll on the Navy’s plans to be a 200 ship and 400 aircraft Navy by 2027. Navies cannot be built overnight like ‘fly in planes’ in an Air Force, or on shoe string budgets. Yet India’s Navy is coping as well as it can with 134 ships and P8I planes like ships and quality manpower, hoping it is given more funds, well aware of the major committed payments of over $12 billion in trances for the Indian Air Force.

Much maritime India will depend on India’s economy which has dipped to 6.1% as per the RBI and so has the world economy. Shan No Varuna.


This is an IDF report on a well organized 25/26 July, INTERNATIONAL SHIP BUILDING SEMINAR by FICCI toiled by the Constructor officers under the Director General Naval Design DGND(Surface), Radm D M Harish in national interest this time. Earlier seminars were Navy centric.  

The suggestions were path breaking and moderated by the Navy’s Controller of Acquisitions(CWPA) Vadm AK Saxena with doyens of ship building. Two former Chiefs, Russian Minister of Industry, and many retired from Navy (IDF counted 37 in industry with lucrative jobs ) who earlier steered Navy’s Make in India from Buyer to a Builder were there to a over full hall. Overall each spoke with feeling that India is missing the Maritime money boat to rise fast on the world stage through ship building, like it lost out in the industrial regime. But that was forced. This will be a self goal.

CNS Admiral Karambir Singh, emphasised the seminar was on ‘Nation Building through Shipbuilding, a topical issue and lauded the intellectual pool of maritime experts in the hall, copying what President Jefferson said when he spoke to nation builders he had called to Monticello in Virginia who set  USA on its way. .

CNS propitious words ring loud. “The Government has plans to take our country’s economy on a trajectory to be a 5 trillion Dollar economy by 2024. I think ship-building is a sector that can contribute significantly. I’m sure several speakers today would discuss measures to spur our ship-building, especially commercial ship-building, in India” CNS called the  journey from a ‘Buyers Navy’ to a ‘Builders Navy’ as an arduous one and highlighted the plough back effect which needs replicating.

At the opening, President FICCI Sandip Somany said industry is unhappy and he rattled off trade figures. He said India has 3.4 percent of world trade but 1 percent of Shipping so explained potential of a trillion. Mr JD Patil Director L&T which builds nuclear submarines the most demanding in ship building, gave history how we have gone forward and then backward especially after gaining lot in Navy Shipbuilding. He deprecated Nomination of orders to PSUs that has strained private players. Patil was optimistic with hopes that five RFPS issued on Missile Ships (why two classes), FPVs Hovercraft  and others in strategic partnership and five more to come without details ended on a optimistic note hoping Private Players will get a bit of the cake.

JS MOD Defence Production Vijayendra was brief and listed achievements in warship building but avoided commercial ship building and said prospects are there. There lies the gap. IDF adds the Government had a repeat of building like old Niligiri planned in the 4 LPD contract to private and Government shipyards to compete. Bids came in but MOD got cold feet as Anil Ambani was involved but why not RM Rajnath Singh revive it as LPD is a national Tri Service Need to get to $ 5 trillion economy!

So IDF dubs the seminar as a “Wake up Call”, but it was the  converted speaking to the converted. Two Ministers, the Niti Ayog head of shipping and another Government head did not turn up. IDF wondered why? Was the subject daunting or were there were more pressing issues, like preparing for Man Ke Baat ! PM has hogged Radio for its reach but IDF cannot go give a sports or non political  Ship Building talk on private radio as AIR hogs Radio and has age limits. .

IDF has a suggestion . The RSS reps who advice BJP on self reliance in nation building should have been invited as they have a voice in policy and ship building needs attention urgently. A lot of private shipyard infrastructure is lying waste; and how to finance and use it came to the fore with Bankers advice in a session on financing. Ex IAS officer Mr Sandhu from KPMG spoke sense on energizing the ship building sector.

Why does IDF bring in RSS ? Navy knows the idiom that IDF as Commander Naval Academy taught wards. “You cannot change the direction of the wind (as you will compete with seasoned NDA trained officers), but you can always change the direction of your sails and attempted to groom them how to do that,” hence the RSS offer.  Nine wards became Flag Officers with ten in shipbuilding including Nuclear submarines and BrahMos and 40 of one batch are gathering in Cochin early August to relive IDF advice but this time on old age ! IDF talk will be based on Khushwant Singh’s advice and is in the novel, “An Underhand Affair, The Travails of a Dalit Girl,” on Amazon Rs 250/-.

At the seminar Navy had a crib, there is no budget. Ways of leasing, joint PSU and Commercial yard building and such were offered with the setting up of a Ship Building Development Fund and long term plans by Cmde Sujeet Samamdar with details for pay back. In any case  warship and commercial ship building as depicted in the logo has to be a  treated like a national strategy and commitment to grow, like Japan Korea and China. They looked at ship building  as a National & Naval Strategy, where it has done well. In India naval costs and delivery schedules of ships have gone hay wire. Commercial shipping will teach Navy competitiveness and how to freeze designs for the builder !

Speakers proved that If attended to, Shipbuilding and ancillary vendor partners for a maritime nation with a God provided geography given to  India, will bring about half a million direct and half a million indirect skilled jobs. Ship building has to be  an unending duty .In the economic down turn Russia and China made shipbuilders merge and China employed them in pipe line and rail building and in South China Sea and sold ships at cut prices with subsidy and their yards are reviving now with BRI and massive warship building and exports. China’s rise worries India’s Naval  Chiefs.

In USA the  Maritime Administration of USA —MARAD gives subsidy to shipping sector and  Waterman Steamship Ltd that IDF headed in India saw MARAD give the company $ 2 mill annual subsidy to employ only US seamen to compete with Japanese Korean and Chinese lines. One speaker asked why SCI bought 65 ships from Korea and China and said, “Look at Mazagon Docks which with no experience grew,  after Nilgiri in 1970s and now makes world class ships and Type 15 INS Delhi weathered a terrible cyclone with praise from Russian designers.”

INS Nilgiri was mentioned. as an example. It was the start point of the 1970s for raw Mazdocks to build big warships. IDF was part of the journey. It now makes Type 15A and Scorpenes. Cdr (L) SBN Singh Cdr (E) Dasgupta and Gunnery officer Lt Cdrs Madhvendra Singh later CNS, TASO Gulu Kumar SCO Iyer and IDF as Navigating Officer later XO were sent to UK with key sailors for six months. First Sea Lord sailed in Nilgiri for 5 hours and could not believe Indians had done it.

L&T Director Mr Jayant Patil and others reported that  Rs 1lac 35000 cr orders for ship building have been given to PSU shipyards and only Rs 9000 to private yards. So, the big debate humming through the Conference was that PSU ship yards have a back log of Rs 85000 cr of warship orders with rising costs for years to complete. Why cannot the Navy tell Government to make JVs and use the facilities with closed down yards like Reliance  ABG,  Alcock Ashdown in bankruptcy and the less employed L&T with ship lift which has built nuclear submarines like INS Arihant and delivered 37 ships in few years ahead of time. The subject of DRDO’s Arihant was taboo and the Private Public Partnership (PPP) model used for Arihant was never discussed to learn from.

Private ship designers lamented they  are not supported and asked DGND to allow use of software on ‘pay for time’ basis. It will help mutually as they cannot afford expensive digital software. Adm RM Bhatia CMD Mazdocks explained how small Korea in the 1970s saw the future seeing Japan through shipbuilding. President Pak Chung Lee (1963-79) as President took over President of the Shipbuilders Association and asked a Mr Song an MIT trained Constructor to set up shipyards and rest is history for what Korea has achieved by copying Japan and then innovating. Wikipedia says, “One of the most striking features of Asia‟s increasingly important position in the global economy is the region’s crucial role in the international shipbuilding market. Today, more than 90 per cent of the world‟s orders for new ships have been placed with Asian yards, more specifically with shipbuilders in China, Japan and South Korea.”

DRDO was absent in the seminar but a young ISRO rep gave a brilliant presentation on how ISRO has grown and the low costs of launches and of PSLVs and GSLVs and the cryogenic engine story. Moral is you need technocrats today to get the job going. Shan No Varuna.