The Chief of Naval Staff stated that the year 2015 will be known as the period of consolidation for a resurgent Indian Navy
Addresing the traditional Pres conference in New Delhi on the eve of the 43rd Navy Day, Admiral R.K. Dhowan, Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), welcomed the media personnel. He lauded the positive role played by the media throughout the year in projecting the image of the Indian Navy (IN) in the proper perspective.
While availing the opportunity to place in public domain the factsheet on the state of Indian Navy, CNS said that the morale of the Indian Navy was at an all-time high. He cited various developments during the year, induction of the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, which is fully operational and equipped to carry out missions. He mentioned that additional MiG-29K aircraft have been inducted. Induction of six P8i aircraft has boosted the capability in reconnaissance, surveillance and tracking.
CNS stated that the year 2015 will be known as the period of consolidation for a resurgent Indian Navy. ‘Consolidation in operational sphere as a multidimensional network-centric force, consolidation in maintenance aspects to ensure quality refits on time for our ships and submarines and to ensure that combat assets are kept in operational readiness round the clock. Consolidation of our future projects to ensure that the ships and submarines under construction are delivered in a timely manner. Consolidation of human assets, as men and women behind the machine remain the greatest and most valuable assets.
Indian Navy’s Footprints on the Vast Expanse of the Maritime Domain
CNS gave an exhaustive overview of the IN’s state of operational readiness to meet all of its assigned responsibilities, during the past year. He highlighted the challenges impinging on IN’s area of operations and stated that it had been a period of all-time high operational tempo. With the Indian Ocean region (IOR) emerging as the centre of gravity of the world trade, it remained a primary focus of attention for the IN. Not only was IOR an economic highway but has emerged as the main area of interest for the global economy. This was borne from the fact that 66 per cent of the lobal oil, 50 per cent of container traffic and 33 per cent of the cargo traffic passes through these waters. Also, 80 per cent of the trade in IOR is between extra regional partners who are largely different from what happens in the Pacific and the Atlantic. Any impediment in the free flow of oil and trade would not only impact our economy and the economy of the region but it would also have a devastating effect on the world economy.
Therefore, at any given time there were over 100-120 ships from 20 different countries which are actively deployed in the IOR. He mentioned that China was now operating in the IOR—365 days, 24 x 7. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy task force operate on seven-eight months cycle and are relieved on task. The deployment pattern has been the patrol of Gulf of Aden; thereafter spend a month for ‘Operational Turn Around’ during this phase visit in and around the Gulf region. Even the PLA Navy’s SSNs are known to be deployed in the IOR. The footprints of the PLA Navy in the region, including the ships and submarine visits to our neighbouring countries are being monitored closely.
Pakistan, on the other hand, apart from their internal turmoil, is making inroads in establishing their strategic command, which translates into Pakistan Navy’s aspirations to acquire nuclear submarines. Also the assistance it is getting from China in the sub-surface area is a cause for concern. In our immediate neighbourhood what is happening in Iraq is well known. Hence, the environment can at best be called fragile or volatile. IN, therefore, has to take this into account for its operational preparedness.
CNS highlighted that earlier this year IN had the largest ever Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercises (TROPEX) which is an annual feature. However, the settings covered the open expanse of the Indian Ocean rather than confined/restricted to any coast of the Bay of Bengal or Arabian Sea. With the participation of 60 frontline ships, 57 aircraft, nuclear submarine Chakra, the aircraft carrier and P8i aircraft the magnitude and the pitch of the exercises was unique in character. The naval satellite Rukmani, which has been operationalised for some time, was gainfully utilised to validate the concept of operations and has successfully brought IN closer to network-centric operations.
The two fleets were deployed across the oceans in addition to regular deployments in their respective areas of operational responsibilities. The Eastern Fleet ships carried out Exercise Indra with the Russian Pacific Fleet, as far away as Vladivostok. After which they sailed off to Sasebo in South China Sea and exercised with the United States Navy for Malabar Exercise along with Japanese Maritime Self-defence Task Force participating for the first time in that region. Thereafter, they visited Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
INS Sahyadri was deployed all the way up to the Pacific Ocean. At Hawaii the ship participated in a very large-scale joint maritime exercises wherein navies of 22 nations took part. The ship performed splendidly and earned accolades all around.
Likewise, the Western Fleet ships were deployed in the Gulf region and East Africa. The ships were deployed in IOR, with visits to Seychelles, Mauritius and East Coast of Africa, as well and thereafter participated in the India-Brazil-South Africa Maritime Exercises (IBSAMAR), which is a joint exercise involving the Indian Navy, Brazilian Navy and South African Navy.
IN’s Stealth Frigates had a highly successful deployment to Qingdao in China as part of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium. For the first time IN ships were deployed in RIMPAC, where ships from 22 other navies had participated and our fleet ships had done the Navy proud by not only showing the flag across the seas but also displayed their professionalism. Coordinated patrols with Thailand and Indonesia as well as with Myanmar. Regular confidence building exercises with the Sri Lankan Navy were also undertaken. Ships were deployed regularly for EEZ patrol in Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius with the intention of capability enhancement and capacity building of our maritime neighbours.
Towards networking of the coastal security apparatus Raksha Mantri has inaugurated Information Management and Analyses Centre (IMAC). This facility has been created in extension of beefing up coastal security capability and infrastructure to obviate the repeat of 26/11 episode in the future. As of now the coastal surveillance radars network is in place. 47 Automatic Identification System stations have been established. In addition, 51 IN and Coast Guard stations have been commissioned. All these have been networked to provide real time inputs for management and analysis at IMAC, before passing on actionable inputs to concerned agencies. IN and Indian Coast Guard, along with numerous state agencies are constantly on the vigil to ensure coastal security at all time. Periodic training and reviews of state of preparedness are being undertaken at the highest levels.
Maritime Capability Based and Mission Enabled Force Level Development
Highlighting the importance of planned development for the future Navy, CNS cited that the first major step of the process was the first ever Plan Paper of 1948. This first Plan Paper has thus remained the cornerstone for planning the future IN. Over the decades, refinements have been incorporated into the process to ensure that the focus is shifted from the bean-counting to capability and mission enabled perspective plan. Accordingly, in the 2005 the first Maritime Capability Perspective Plan was adopted and the development of the future Navy is entirely centred on these tenets.
The CNS informed that Vikramaditya had been inducted and fully operationalised. The process of induction of Air Wing of Vikramaditya was also complete. It is a matter of great professional pride that the training of the pilots to operate from Vikramaditya was undertaken in India itself. The second batch of the pilots were trained by IN’s own qualified flying instructors. Six P-8I aircraft, which is one of the most potent platforms, have been inducted.
The last of the Shivalik class and the last of follow-on of Project 1135.6 from Russia, INS Trikhand, three offshore vessels from the Goa Shipyard and the crowning glory (insofar as ship design and indigenisation are concerned) was the commissioning of the first Project 15A ship INS Kolkata by the Prime Minister. This was followed closely by commissioning of the first ASW corvette of Project 28 at Visakhapatnam.
The CNS mentioned that as part of the submarine programme, Chakra is now fully operational and Arihant was in its final stages of harbour trials and expected to move out for sea trials shortly. Approval of the government is being obtained for service life extension of four EKM and two SSK classes of submarines. The Scorpene submarine programme had been pushed so that the first submarine would be launched next year put to sea by September 2016. The rest would follow in quick intervals of nine months each. Also government has approved all six of the stealth and AIP capable submarines of Project 75(I) to be constructed indigenously. Accordingly, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has constituted a committee to assess the infrastructure and build capability of the Indian public and private sector shipyards to construct the submarines indigenously under joint venture arrangements with foreign shipyards.
Currently, 41 ships and submarines were under construction at various public and private shipyards. This includes one aircraft carrier, two Kolkata class destroyers, four guided missile stealth destroyers, six Scorpene submarines, three ASW corvettes, eight landing craft utility, five offshore patrol vessels, three cadets training ships, five survey vessels and four waterjet fast attack crafts. After its launch in August, Vikrant was undergoing fitment and integration of various systems and is slated for delivery by the end of 2018.
CNS reiterated that primarily IOR is the area of interest for the Indian Navy. Secondary area of interest is where India’s national interest resides. Therefore, primary role of the India Navy is to safeguard the maritime interests of the country. With its inherent capability of manoeuvrability and flexibility the Indian Navy is ready to be deployed anywhere in the areas of national interest. He pointed out that in conformance of this challenge the theme for the ensuing year and for the future Indian Navy – Ensuring Secure Seas for a Resurgent Nation has been selected.
As the year 2014 is drawing to a close, it certainly deserved to be designated as the ‘Year of Consolidation.’ Although the year witnessed few setbacks, it is certainly ending up on a high note for IN. Some most important and critical approvals of Defence Acquisition Council support this optimism. During this month itself some critical projects such as Project 75(I), SLEP, MRH and Bravo–Arihant has successfully sailed out for sea trials.