Update On Indian Navy Force Modernisation

Excerpts from Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma's opening address today at his final press conference. These excerpts provide a pretty comprehensive update on force modernisation:

Over the past three years the Indian Navy has made very significant progress towards capability accretion and this, is as intended to be, in consonance with a conceived vision and plan. The past three years have seen the publication of three major documents – the Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan 2012-27, the XII Plan document and the XII Infrastructure Plan document. During XI Plan period, which concluded on 31 Mar this year close to 200 Acceptances of Necessity (AoNs) with a total value of Rs 2,73,070 Crs were obtained. Of these, 161 contracts with a total value of Rs 92,069 Crs have been concluded.

Our indigenous warship building program is poised to touch new heights with 43 warships currently under construction in our shipyards. These include the indigenous aircraft carrier, destroyers, corvettes and submarines. Three ships of Project 15A, which are follow-ons of the existing Delhi Class destroyers, with improved stealth features and weapon and sensor fit are scheduled for induction commencing early next year. A contract has also been signed with M/s MDL for four more P15B destroyers, which will follow the P15A ships. Four Anti Submarine Warfare Corvettes, being built at GRSE, Kolkata, are the first stealth corvettes designed and built indigenously as specialised anti-submarine warfare (ASW) surface combatants. The first ship is scheduled to be inducted early next year and the others will follow at a yearly interval.

In order to augment our offshore patrolling capability, four offshore patrol vessels are under construction at Goa Shipyard Limited. The ships are scheduled for induction from the end of this year onwards. Five other offshore patrol vessels will be built at a private Shipyard. These ships, along with two cadet training ships under construction at another private Shipyard, are the first warship orders ever given to private shipyards since our independence. Eight new, upgraded landing craft are also under construction at GRSE, Kolkata and will augment the force levels in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These ships will replace the old Landing Craft Utility or LCUs, which are in the process of being phased out.

Our survey ships and hydrographers are a valuable part of the Navy and are much in demand amongst a variety of littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region. To augment their force levels, six new catamaran hull Survey vessels are being built by M/s Alcock Ashdown Gujarat Ltd, at Bhavnagar. The first ship is undergoing sea trials and is scheduled to be commissioned later this year. The construction of Scorpene submarines under Project 75 is underway and MDL and the Department of Defence Production maintain that the first submarine is likely to be commissioned in 2015 and the sixth submarine by 2018.

In addition to the 46 ships under construction, Acceptance of Necessity for 49 more ships and submarines has been obtained. These include seven more follow-on ships of the Shivalik Class, under Project 17-A, which are to be built at both MDL, Mumbai and GRSE, Kolkata and we are working towards contract conclusion in the current financial year. Contracts for four water-jet FACs, to be built at GRSE, Kolkata, one more training ship, to be built at a private shipyard and two mine hunters to be built in South Korea are likely to be concluded during the current financial year. Six more mine hunters will be subsequently built at Goa Shipyard under ToT. Options for the Deep Submergence and Rescue vessel (DSRV) are presently undergoing technical evaluation. In addition, approval for construction of six submarines under Project -75(I) is at the final stages of approval. Requests for Proposals in respect of four LPDs, 16 shallow water ASW ships – the order being split between two shipyards, one survey training vessel and two diving support vessels will also be issued in the coming months.

The Indian Navy’s preferred choice of inducting ships and submarines has always been through the indigenous route. Today, of the 46 ships and submarines presently on order, 43 are from Indian shipyards. The intended induction programme is structured to continue at a pace such that over the next five years we expect to induct ships and submarines at an average rate of 5 platforms per year provided the yards deliver as per contracted timelines. At the same time it would be amiss if I did not emphasize the need for our public and private sector shipyards to scale up their capabilities to deliver state-of-the-art warships that meet our future needs in time frames that match global standards. To offer a perspective, the global average for building a ship similar to a Delhi Class is about 36 months, that too with a stringent cap on man days. These are the standards that our shipyards must emulate so as to contain costs of ship building. This would result in higher productivity and capacity utilisation. The provisions of the Defence Procurement Procedures to ‘Buy and Make Indian’ must be adopted to synergize capabilities and implement leapfrogging technologies. The Navy’s forthcoming LPD programme is a unique opportunity in this context.

There are three ships are under construction in Russia. These include two more ships of the follow-on Talwar class, being built at Yantar Shipyard in Kalingrad, with one scheduled for induction later this year and the other next year. The third ship, of course, is the Vikramaditya, which is currently undergoing sea trials. On the 28th of last month the aviation trials involving the operations of the Mig 29 K from the deck of that ship commenced. Machinery trials are also well underway. As you may appreciate, there is hectic work underway here in India, to receive the ship with all the infrastructure support that would be required to be provided to the aircraft carrier.

On the aviation front too, progress has been a source of satisfaction. The Navy’s aviation assets are being modernised and augmented in consonance with the long term vision of the Navy. In order to maintain effective vigil and surveillance in our area of interest, eight of the world’s most advanced, state-of-the-art P-8I Poseidon, long-range maritime patrol aircraft are due to be inducted commencing early 2013. In addition, eight Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft are also planned for induction. Procurement of additional Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is being progressed to further augment our surveillance and reconnaissance capability at sea.

I have already mentioned about the most significant aviation acquisition over the past three years - the carrier borne MiG-29K fighters. These aircraft will significantly enhance the Indian Navy’s strike capability. The first batch has already been inducted and delivery of aircraft from the follow-on contract will commence later this year.

The rotary wing assets of the Navy are also being upgraded to induct state-of-the-art weapons, sensors and avionics. These include upgradation of the Kamov 28 and Seaking 42B. The new inductions amongst the helicopters include the Multi-role Helicopters (MRH) for fleet ships. In addition, the Naval Utility Helicopter is also planned for induction by 2016 and the Request for Proposal should get issued any time now.

In sum, the modernization of the Indian Navy is firmly on track. This has been possible as the Navy has ensured 100% outgo of its capital budget over the past three years, and today our Capital to Revenue ratio stands at a very healthy ratio of 68:32.

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