Ranjit B Rai 

This post must begin with a IDF salute to the Indian Air Force led by ACM BS Dhanoa  for  Exercise Gagan Shakti’s wide  planning and good execution as it showed  professionals the power of Air Power and Air Land co-operation with Duck Drops and Evacuations and also Air- Sea Battle Capability in snippets towards the Malacca Straits.  If Indian Military adopts Air Land and  Air Sea Strategies  to make the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy to hone their offensive and Search, Locate  and Attack capabilities with aerial refueling for long distance operations along with  a nuclear-submarine -aircraft carrier ‘Task Force’ for Blue Water operations for show of deterrence, much can  be achieved in the years ahead quite easily as the base exists and Gagan Shakti showed it.


IDF having been DNO wondered why Navy has never involved Air  Force in Ex Malabar in a few serials as such an exercise with QUAD will be welcomed and made  clear it is only  to contain China, and it is led by USA which has now become  a Defence Partner with using the word ‘ally’ as India  rightly has  no military commitment to IDF’s knowledge. Non Alignment breathes and our defence should never get lulled like Japan and Korea to seek USA’s umbrella. Sea Power is a great adjunct in the 21st Century. 

Air Power is accepted as an essential  arm of any large maritime nation and  its Blue Water navy.    The Indian Navy’s aviation cadre  took birth on 11th May 1953 when INS Garuda was commissioned by Defence Minister Mahavir Tyagi at Cochin under the command of a former RN officer Cdr G Douglas with the first of 10 Short Brothers Amphibious Sealand planes ordered for India.  Two fireflies which could tow targets for ship’s gunnery practice arrived Cochin on 14th February, 1955, in what  began  as a small Fleet Requirement Unit  (FRU) to support the Fleet at sea and  was expanded with Target Towing Units of IAF Dakotas at INS Garuda in  Cochin.  Today autonomous targets like Chukar and  Lakshya are used for training.  We saw IN –IAF co-operation over the seas.

In this Tuesday, July 11, 2017, photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a ship carrying Chinese military personnel departs a port in Zhanjiang, south China’s Guangdong Province. China on Tuesday dispatched members of its People’s Liberation Army to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti to man the rising Asian giant’s first overseas military base, a key part of a wide-ranging expansion of the role of China’s armed forces. (Wu Dengfeng/Xinhua News Agencyvia AP)Lord Mountbatten wrote  that to rule the waves, it is essential to rule the skies above, and the depths beneath the oceans.  Indian Navy has followed to gradually expand its naval air arm, despite low  naval  budgets which have waxed and waned.  Navy has cut its coat well, within  the available  funds. A few operational   inadequacies  need to be made up to ensure it remains fighting fit.  The Navy has around 200 aircraft, helicopters and around 20 UAVs and the target is to raise the force to 400 with three aircraft carriers by 2027.  A bit too ambitious but that dream must begin.   


In 1948  Prime Minister Pandit Nehru invited Prof Blackett Defence Adviser to the British Government to table a technology report for the Government.  Governor General Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten scripted  a ‘naval  blue print’ and   recommended that India’s  Navy should acquire an aircraft carrier in lieu of war dues from Britain for the  Royal Indian Navy, and grow to become  a three aircraft carrier navy.  He  stressed the importance of the Indian Ocean from his experience in the South East Asia campaign in World War 11 when Japanese naval aviation played havoc in to the Royal Navy and sank Royal Navy’s latest and most powerful cruiser HMS Hood off Singapore.  Japanese even flew in to the Andaman Nicobar islands and set up airfields. 

Mountbatten also seems to have also foreseen  what Alfred Mahan and Ambassador Pannikar had predicted, that  geo-strategic  issues of the 21st century will be decided on the waters of the Indian ocean.  The predictions appear to be coming true. 

 China has built up its maritime power with naval aviation with two large aircraft carriers (Lianoning and Shandong on sea trials) equipped  with China built JF-15 carrier planes and operates shore based aircraft and ship borne HQ helicopters and has  pushed  its interests in the Indian Ocean  with ‘cheque book diplomacy’. President Xi Jinping went personally to Dalian last week to see the Shandong’s sea trials and before that sailed to the South China Seas in Lianoning where missiles and aircraft are now seen in pictures released in media. 

The larger Delhi class destroyers have embarked and operated two 14 ton  Sea Kings on trials and the INS Jalashwa( LPD USS Trenton) bought out  on FMS basis, sailed back from USA with  six second hand Sikorsky  UH-2H Sea Kings it selected from Arizona’s  holding.   The Navy operates  five IL-38 maritime reconnaissance MR planes and had operated eight TU-142 which were recently  de-commissioned.  The Dornier -228s for reconnaissance operate from naval ports.   Navy trains its fighter pilots on lead in Hawk trainers in a squadron at INS Dega  at Vishakapatnam. 

 Since 2006 India’s naval  aviation arm has also been operating  Searcher II  and Heron UAVs aptly called ‘Eyes in The Skies’ from Porbunder airfield from INS Sardar Patel, from INS Garuda in Cochin and INS Purundu near Ramnad.  Two recent crashes were reported and possibly repaired. The UAVs with EL/M2055 Synthetic Aperture Radar and ground moving targets identification GMTI mode can take off from shore bases, scour the seas, and return to base after 12 hours sorties, providing live  high-resolution images for detailed examination by ships and shore controllers.  In collaboration with the  KA-31’s E-801 AEW&C system which is a a wrapped around a radar towing a 6-m2 3600 aerial which slings under the helicopter, the  system provides for 200-target multiple detection and 20-target multiple-tracking capability at 150 km for aircraft and 250 km for surface target to facilitate missile targeting.  The Krivacks  have a KA-31 helicopter  for automatic mode via a tele-code data link for launch of long-range Klub and BrahMos missiles.  

USA has re-balanced its forces in the East with a ‘Pivot’ like move, and included India in a QUAD of USA, Japan and Australia and supplied Indian Navy with 8 plus 4 powerful interoperable Boeing  P8i 737 maritime reconnaissance planes with latest Mk 48 torpedoes, Mk 84 Harpoon missiles, sonar buoys, and radars and electronics to almost do what a warship and an AWACs can do to prosecute a target or intercept a plane with its nose mounted Raytheon APY-10 and belly mounted Telephonics APN-143(V)  airborne radars. 

INS Hansa airfield’s has a 14 degree ramp and three landing wires replicating the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya’s flight deck which along with Rheinmetal supplied MiG-29K simulator joined the Sea King simulator at Goa.  The Indian Navy has always leaned on simulator training to save precious flying hours from ships afloat and this has paid rich dividends. Air Force has begun as Soviets did not have simulators.

 The  8 P8i planes operate from INS Rajali  and 5 IL-38 from INS Hansa and Dornier-228 MR and IR flying machines from all stations, along with  aging upgraded anti submarine Seakings Mk42B/C AND Ka-28s and Chetaks(Allouttes) from ships.  Navy’s aviation arm helps patrol India’s 2.2 million sq km of Exclusive Economic  Zone(EEZ) with Heron and Searcher 11 UAVs and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)  as Indian Navy  is nominated as the Net Security Provider for the IOR, and support the Coast Guard for Search and Rescue(SAR).  Indian Naval aviation has been built upon  sacrifices, experience and  foundations laid by many  illustrious officers and men and has evolved  into a potent, reckonable and effective arm of Indian Navy.  

The Navy has to retire and replace the 30 year old Allouttes and an RFP for 57 replacements with Make in India stipulation was replied but is pending. The  Sea King helicopters have aged  and ships are  in dire need of modern  10 ton multi role helicopters with dunking sonars and radars,  for the Type 15 and Type 17/A  Shivalik class that will easily fit in to the hangars and operate from the decks  for 24X7 operations.  The  Sikorsky Type SH-60 ASW Sea King helicopters were selected over the NH-90 Eurocopters after tenders were opened for 16,  but price negotiations and other issues has delayed the badly needed air assets.  A warship with long range missiles needs a long range  radar and sonar equipped helicopter carrying  a torpedo and a short range missile.  The helicopters today are equipped with Naval missiles Penguin type and Navy looks to 24 Sea Guardian Drones from General Atomics and IDF learnt it is hoping to supply India Unranium too from Austraia…….Shan na Varuna.  


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