In the 1971 war with Pakistan, the Indian navy turned the tide in India’s favor when it bombed the Karachi oil refineries and proved the strategic importance of maintaining a dominant water force. While the Air Force and Army complain about procurement procedures, the Indian navy has, in the face of the same obstacles, managed to keep building more warships, most of them in India. It is working towards becoming a modern, networked-force with capabilities to protect its interests in the entire Indian Ocean.
While some acquisitions of the Indian Navy have been delayed it is clear that there is a strategic blueprint for expansion of capability. The modernisation process includes induction of new aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, modern vessels, stealth frigates, guided missile destroyers and aircrafts among other military hardware. Here is a summary of key projects:
Carriers – Project 1143 & 71
As per the new delivery schedule, the navy is all set to induct the 40,000-ton Russian Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier. The final hurdle pertaining to the final cost has also been negotiated, paving the way for delivery. Another 40,000-ton carrier is being constructed at the Cochin shipyard and is likely to be commissioned in 2014. This is a milestone achievement for India because only the UK, US and Russia have built a carrier this large before. This is the first of two proposed carriers. The government also transferred the Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) to the Defence Ministry recently to ensure that work on development of strategic vessels is not hampered in any manner. The navy has also taken the delivery of the first batch of four MiG-29K out of the 16 it had ordered from Russian to be deployed on the carriers in a US$740 million deal.
Guided Missile Destroyer (GMD) – Project 15B
The navy is building three GMDs costing $622 million each at Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL). The work on the first destroyer named INS Kolkata, is in final stages and is to be delivered in May 2010, followed by INS Kochi in May 2011 and the third un-named vessel will be delivered in May 2012. The navy has kept the option of 4 more vessels under this project, taking the total tally to 7. The vessels under this program will have stealth capabilities and the first to be armed with the BrahMos-2.
Stealth Frigates — Project 17A
The navy plans to begin construction of first of the seven proposed frigates costing US$1,13 billion a unit, under this project in 2011 at Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL) and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Kolkata. The delivery of the vessels shall commence in 2015–16 and end in 2021.
Russian Krivak IV Class Frigates – Project 11356
The work on the $1.6 billion Krivak IV Class Frigate is on at the Yantar shipyard in Russia. Even thought Russia has had a poor record of maintaining delivery times in each case including the delivery of three Krivak class frigates built earlier, the Indian establishment says that so far the work is progressing at the desired pace.
Anti Submarine Warfare Corvette (ASW) — Project 28
India is currently building two ASWs of the four proposed, at GARDEN REACH Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Kolkata at the cost of $1.6 billion. A two year delay in the project has pushed the delivery dates to 2014.
Scorpene Submarine– Project 75
India is to build six submarines as a part of the US$3500 project at the Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL). According to the original delivery scheduled, the first submarine had to be delivered in 2012. However, price dispute and a faulty contract signed by the Indian government that did not ascertain the cost of critical equipments at the time of signing the contract has led to a three year delay in delivery schedule.
The original vendor for supplying critical components – Aramis, which was later acquired by French DCNS, is now demanding a staggering $1.04 billion as against $444 million earlier.
Advance Technology Vessel (ATV) — INS ARIHANT
India is constructing five new nuclear submarines under this project. The first nuclear submarine under this project – INS Arihant was launched amidst much fan-fare in July 2009 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It is expected to join the navy after undergoing extensive sea-trials for two years.
Shchuka-B — K-152 Nerpa a.k.a INS Chakra — Project 971
The Russian navy has taken the delivery of the submarine recently and is in the process of transferring it to India in the first of 2010 after training of 300 Indian naval personnel is completed on the submarine. The navy has signed a 10-year contract for the submarine but has an option of outright purchase.
Mine Counter Measure Vessel (MCMV)
The new MCMVs are being purchased as a replacement to the Pondicherry class of MCMVs. India intents to buy two MCMVs and build six more on its own. The bids for the project submitted by Intermarine, Italy and Kangnam Shipyards, South Korea is under evaluation by the technical committee. The delivery of the first MCMV is expected in 2011.
Fleet Replenishment Tanker
The Indian navy has ordered two tankers under the project. The first one, being built at Liguria, Italy, should be delivered in 2010. The tankers would be 175 meters long and be capable of refuelling four ships simultaneously. The maximum service speed would be 20 knots. As of now, the construction programme is on course.
The navy and Indian citizens are looking forward to the modernisation of our strategic force for a number of reasons. The 26/11 Mumbai attacks have yet again brought the focus back on having a strong navy. While the call of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia to attack oil production and transport facilities is meant to hurt the US economy, its success will hurt our economy just as badly. For protecting our energy security and for strengthening our maritime counter-terrorism capability, it is important to give further momentum to the “Look West Dimension” initiated by Admiral Mehta and to bring within its regional networking Kuwait and Saudi Arabia too. Kuwait, the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be given a high priority to help develop this new strategic alliance. Apart from Navy-Navy interactions, it is equally important to strengthen the interactions at the non-governmental level between maritime security experts of India and those of these three countries.
Data provided by Religare Strategic Advisory, India.