In an exclusive interview with Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, SP’s Naval Forces, Admiral R.K. Dhowan, Chief of the Naval Staff, candidly spoke about the achievements and the mordenisation plans of the Indian Navy
SP’s Naval Forces (SP’s): During the past six months many dormant programmes of the Indian Navy have been resurrected. Can you please highlight these schemes and timelines of accomplishment?
Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS): The acquisition programme of the Navy is continuing apace and the recent years have seen us moving steadily on the path of modernisation with major inductions. The induction of Indian Navy Ships Kolkata, Kamorta, Sumedha and Sumitra in recent months has provided a boost to the Indian Navy’s force levels. The construction of P 75 submarines at Mazagon Docks, Mumbai has picked up speed and is being monitored closely. We hope to induct the state of the art Project 75 Scorpene submarines commencing September 2016 with all six submarines under the project being delivered few years thereafter. We have also recently proposed the construction of all submarines under Project 75(I), which shall substantially boost the Indian Navy’s capabilities in the years ahead. Considering the scope of the project, both in terms of technological challenges and costs involved the process of seeking necessary approvals and undertaking necessary evaluation of proposals as per extant Government of India guidelines has been started. I am assured that the Indian Navy’s procurement and modernisation programmes will receive priority attention of the Government.
SP’s: Self-reliance through indigenisation has always remained the cornerstone of Indian Navy’s vision for force level development. What will be the implications of the present Central Government’s policy of ‘Make in India’ on Indian Navy’s perspective plans?
CNS: The Indian Navy has been a steadfast supporter of indigenisation and self-reliance. The first India-built warship INS Ajay was commissioned in 1961. The Indian Navy set up its own design department in 1964 and the first major weapon intensive platform, INS Nilgiri, a Leander class frigate, was commissioned in 1972. Today, all 41 ships under construction for the Indian Navy, which include an aircraft carrier, are being built in Indian shipyards. The Indian Navy’s relationship with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is that of synergy. The Indian Navy was the first service to partner DRDO, even before it became a separate department in 1980 and even today, the Indian Navy has three Navy specific labs with DRDO, the National Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory, Naval Science and Technological Laboratory and National Materials Research Laboratory. In recent times, the Navy was the first to facilitate the participation of the private sector in defence production by placing orders for eight ships on private shipyards. Again, in 2012, the Indian Navy took the lead in placing orders in the Buy and Make (Indian) categorisation introduced in DPP 2011. Some of the major procurements which have been taken up under this category are the landing platform docks, surface surveillance radars, and air surveillance radars. Consequently, we are very enthused by the Prime Minister’s initiative of ‘Make in India’. Indeed, with our five decade long experience of making ships in India, we are well placed to provide further impetus to this initiative.
SP’s: What is your perspective on much delayed Project 75I which was recently approved by the Defence Acquisition Council?
CNS: There has been significant progress made on the P 75(I) programme. You would be aware that the proposal for the construction of all six submarines in India is being processed with the MoD. This will be a substantial boost to indigenisation in this critical sector. P 75(I) envisages acquisition of six state-of-the-art conventional submarines with high stealth features, air independent propulsion (AIP), and advanced weapons and sensors. The submarines will be constructed at a suitable Indian Yard, in collaboration with an identified foreign collaborator under Transfer of Technology. Considering the enormity of the project, in both technological and financial terms, it will be handled expeditiously in accordance with comprehensive guidelines.
SP’s: How will the cancellation of NMRH deal and consequent revision of the decision to ‘Make in India’, impinge on availability of newer generation MRH for the operational Fleet ships?
CNS: Government has cancelled the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) programme because of non-compliance to delivery timelines as per RFP. Further, NUH has not been envisaged as a reconnaissance helicopter. The primary role of the aircraft is SAR and communication support to the fleet. To bridge the NUH deficiency, Indian Navy is in the process of procuring ALH for coastal security which would meet the requirement of shore based SAR and communication duties till fruition of NUH case. To meet the critical requirement for a light SAR helicopter capable of afloat operations, the NUH case is being progressed afresh.
SP’s: As an emerging regional power, India is expected to play a major leadership role. Can you elaborate on our Navy’s responsibilities?
CNS: Indian Ocean has emerged as world’s centre of gravity in the maritime domain. It is unique in a way that 66 per cent of world’s oil and 33 per cent cargo transits through these waters. With 80 per cent of oil and freight emanating from this region, any disruption will have a detrimental impact on not just the regional, but the global economy. We face a challenge from piracy, asymmetrical warfare and maritime terrorism in the maritime domain. To safeguard the interest we have 125 ships from 20 countries always deployed in the Indian Ocean.
It is not possible for any navy to carry out the task of keeping these waters safe and secure completely on its own that is why maritime domain lends itself for cooperation. The role that Indian Navy had envisaged for itself, is aspect related to enhancing the cooperation, capacity and confidence building between the countries. In an initiative driven by Indian Navy in 2008, 35 member navies come together for aspects related to cooperation in the maritime domain. We play a major role in this cooperation and engagement.
SP’s: Do we see stealth-based platforms in the future?
CNS: Certainly yes. Stealth has been a unique feature of the Shivalik class destroyers and many other platforms recently inducted. The future will certainly see the stealth features coming up increasingly in the designs of all warships, submarines and aircrafts that we will induct. The designs of these platforms will be indigenous, designed by our own designers in the country.