Steadily steaming ahead

By Vishal Thapar August 16, 2012
INS Satpura
INS Satpura
INS Sahyadri
INS Sahyadri
Gorshkov (Sevmash)
INS Shivalik
INS Shivalik
INS Chakra
INS Chakra

Although the Navy accounts for just a little over 15 per cent of India's defence budget, it's modernisation programme appears the most focussed and productive among the three services.

As many as 15 new ships have been commissioned into the Navy over the last three years. These include the three Shivalik class 'stealth' frigates Shivalik, Satpura and Sahyadri, the first of the Talwar class follow-on Russian-built stealth frigates - Teg, two fleet tankers Deepak and Shakti, the sail training ship Sudarshini and eight water-jet fast attack crafts.

The cherry on the cake was the commissioning of the nuclear attack submarine INS Chakra on January 23 this year, making India the first nation outside of the P-5 to be operating a nuclear submarine. This Akula class submarine on lease from Russia is being described as a game changer in the Indian Ocean Region.

India's indigenous warship building programme has never looked busier. 43 of the 46 ships and submarines currently on order are being built at Indian shipyards. The impressive order book includes the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier and three Kolkata class destroyers under Project 15A. While the carrier's running late, the delivery of the Project 15A destroyers appears set to commence next year on schedule, and encouraged by the progress, the Navy has signed another contract with MDL for four follow-on destroyers under Project 15B.

Four anti-submarine corvettes are being built at GRSE Kolkata. These are the first in this class, and will come with stealth features. The first of this lot is scheduled for induction early 2013, and the rest will follow at yearly intervals.

Four offshore patrol vessels are on the way at Goa Shipyard. And hiStory was made by contracting five more OPVs to Pipavav. This is the first time that an order for naval ships has been placed on a private Indian shipyard. Two cadet training ships will be built at another private shipyard.

The Navy is also set to replace its amphibious fleet. Eight new landing craft are under construction at GRSE. These will replace the existing Landing Craft Utility (LCUs), which will be phased out.

Six new catamaran hull survey vessels are bring built at Gujarat's Alcock Ashdown.

The six Scorpenes attack submarines are under way at MDL. As per the revised delivery schedule promises, the first Scorpene will be delivered by 2015, and the sixth by 2018.

The three warships on order in Russia include two more of the Talwar follow-on class, and the aircraft carrier Gorshkov, currently undergoing sea trials. On July 28, landings of the MiG-29K on the deck of the Gorshkov commenced.

Ahead of the induction of the Gorshkov in its avatar as the INS Vikramaditya, all 16 MiG-29K fighters from the first lot have been delivered to the Navy. Delivery of the second batch of 29 of these carrier-borne fighters will begin this year. These will significantly enhance the Navy's airstrike capability.

A landmark event on the aviation front will be the induction of eight of the world's most advanced long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, the P-8i Poseidon, which will start arriving early 2013.

Fleet ships are getting new Multi-Role Helicopters. The Kamov-28 and the Seaking 42B fleets are getting a weapons, sensors and avionics upgrade.

An infrastructure beef-up is also adding to muscle at sea. Phase-I of the Karwar base is complete. A new staging base was commissioned at Kavaratti in the Lakshadweep and a naval air station has been commissioned at Campbell Bay, the southernmost tip of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, affording India better oversight over the very busy Malacca Strait and the 6 Degree Channel, which are crucial to shipping, global commerce and energy security.

Yesterday's Cindrella Service is getting battle ready.