Consolidating Capabilities Through Indigenisation

The Indian Navy, which is the world’s fifth largest navy, has onerous responsibilities to be the net security provider in the maritime domain of interest to India

Issue: 6 / 2015By Rear Admiral Sushil Ramsay (Retd)Photo(s): By Indian Navy, General Atomics
Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R.K. Dhowan during the Navy Day press conference in Delhi

During the annual Navy Day press conference on December 3, 2015, Admiral R.K. Dhowan, Chief of the Naval Staff, addressed a host of issues including the operational readiness of the Indian Navy, infrastructure development, human resources management, coastal security, cyber security, foreign cooperation initiatives, joint exercises, etc.

He reiterated that the Indian Ocean has emerged as the world’s centre of gravity as 80 per cent of the oil and trade that emanates from the Indian Ocean region (IOR) is extra-regional in nature. This implies that any impediments to the free movement of oil or trade through IOR will have an impact not just on the economies of the region, but the global economy as well. The Indian Navy, which is the world’s fifth largest navy, has onerous responsibilities to be the net security provider in the maritime domain of interest to India. The Indian Navy is empowering India with maritime security to safeguard its assets employed for the economic growth of the country. The Indian Navy is on the threshold of transformation through continuous consolidation of its capabilities through indigenisation. The blueprint of the Indian Navy is firmly anchored on self-reliance and indigenisation. Towards this objective, science and technology road map and infrastructure plans to meet the futuristic requirements has been promulgated and disseminated widely to the indigenous industry for its greater participation. This vision is directly in line with the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

With the aim to showcase the Indian Navy, foster a better understanding of the navies of the world and share best operational pranctices, the International Fleet Review is scheduled at Visakhapatnam in February 2016. A scintillating video clipping on the forthcoming prestigious event was showcased for the audience. This was followed by yet another video clipping demonstrating the annual round-up of the Indian Navy and its growing prowess.

He highlighted measures initiated in maintaining a high tempo of operations with the Indian Navy ships deployed at extended ranges from Indian coasts, spanning from the South China Sea and Sea of Japan in the East to the Persian Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean in the West and at the same time remaining focused on maritime and coastal security in close liaison with other national authorities and agencies. He also highlighted that transformation has taken place with the induction of MiG-29K, Boeing P-8I, Vikramaditya, newer and powerful surface and subsurface platform participating in networked theatre level operational readiness exercise, networked through dedicated naval satellite, Rukmini.

He also gave a detailed résumé on the measures initiated and progress made towards providing seamless coastal security. Almost 87 Automatic Identification System stations have been networked to provide data through 46 coastal radar stations. Regular coastal security exercises have been conducted networked through 51 nodes of Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) at Gurgaon.

On this occasion, an exclusive interview with CNS was arranged, excerpts of which are placed below:

SP’s Naval Forces (SP’s): On the occasion of the Navy Day 2015, how would you like to draw the balance sheet of the Indian Navy? Can you elaborate on the Indian Navy’s push for ‘Make in India’ and detail some specific indigenous programmes which showcase the ‘Make in India’ programme?

Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS): The Indian Navy is today a blue water force, with a wide operational footprint and full-spectrum capabilities. It operates a balanced fleet comprising aircraft carriers, multi-role destroyers and frigates, fleet tankers, offshore patrol vessels, amphibious ships and a multitude of aviation and underwater combatants, capable of both blue water and littoral operations. The Navy’s roles and responsibilities have expanded significantly over the years, in response to changing geo-economic and geostrategic circumstances. In order to meet the entire spectrum of challenges, our force structure planning is dictated primarily by capabilities to be achieved, threat perceptions, prevailing maritime security environment, emerging technologies and availability of funds.

The blueprint for the future Navy is firmly anchored on indigenisation and selfreliance. Our sustained efforts towards enhancing indigenisation and selfreliance are also well aligned to the government’s ‘Make in India’ strategy.

The Indian Navy has been a pioneer in the field of indigenisation, as you are aware. The blueprint for the future Navy is firmly anchored on indigenisation and self-reliance. Our sustained efforts towards enhancing indigenisation and self-reliance are also well aligned to the government’s ‘Make in India’ strategy. This initiative will, in fact, give a further boost to our efforts and enable us to strive towards self-sufficiency. The Navy is presently seeking to maximise self-reliance across the ‘Float’, ‘Move’ and ‘Fight’ components of all platforms. Highest priority is being provided to indigenous high-end future technologies, in partnership with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), DPSUs, other government agencies and the growing domestic defence-industrial base. This has resulted in renewed thrust to indigenous weapon systems. As a result, we have recently inducted the first torpedo decoy system, Maareech, which has been designed and developed by DRDO. The indigenous heavyweight torpedo project, Varunastra, is also close to fruition. We are in the process of inducting various towed array sonars and next-generation of low frequency sonars. This is in addition to earlier indigenous development, such as of the combat management system, medium-range guns, sonars, radars, electronic warfare (EW) and communication equipment.

Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS)

As part of the ‘Make in India’ drive, we have also formulated the Indian Naval Indigenisation Plan (INIP), covering the period 2015 to 2030. The INIP 2015-30 has been uploaded on the Indian Navy’s website and also on Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) website for access by the Indian industry. It enumerates major technology areas and capabilities that the Indian public and private sector industry may focus on to meet our indigenisation needs.

SP’s: In the context of Maritime Capability-building Perspective Plan, how would you like to describe the shipbuilding progress on various types/projects for surface ships, including the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC 1)?

CNS: The Navy is proud of the fact that all 47 platforms currently on order, ranging from submarines to aircraft carrier, are being built in Indian shipyards. All issues considered, the shipbuilding is progressing as planned, with various challenges being addressed on priority in a joint and cooperative manner. The major warship construction programmes in progress include the Aircraft Carrier, P15A and P15B destroyers, Scorpene submarines, P28 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvettes and P17A frigates. There has been steady progress made on all projects, with renewed thrust and acceleration to some that had lagged earlier.

The hull fabrication work of IAC 1 has been completed and the vessel was undocked in June 2015. Major outfitting work of the ship, including power generation and propulsion, are in progress. Equipment trials and crew training leading to the delivery of the ship would be conducted thereafter.

Whilst the second ship of P15A, INS Kochi was commissioned on September 30, 2015, the third ship, Chennai, is likely to be delivered in early 2016. The first P75 submarine is scheduled to be delivered in September 2016, with balance five P75 submarines at short intervals thereafter. The second ship of P28, Kadmatt is likely to be commissioned shortly. Seven P17A frigates are simultaneously to be built at the Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL) and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd (GRSE). A total of 12 mine countermeasure vessels (MCMVs) are planned to be built indigenously by the Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) through transfer of technology.

SP’s: Implementation of prestigious 30-year Submarine Force Building and Modernisation Perspective Plan has suffered severe setback in terms of not just the time and cost overruns, but the operational availability of the subsurface fleet is said to be suboptimal. What are the recent measures and initiatives injected to rejuvenate the beleaguered plan?

CNS: The 30-year Submarine Construction Plan was approved in 1999. As you are aware, there were some delays in its realisation, affecting envisaged submarine force levels. As on date, the Indian Navy operates a force of both Sindhughosh class and Shishumar class submarines. Let me assure you, however, that the submarine force of the Navy is potent and capable and fully ready to meet any contingencies. We have taken necessary steps to ensure the operational availability and modernisation of our submarine fleet, even as steps have been taken to accelerate the submarine building plan.

Majority Sindhughosh class and all Shishumar class submarines have undergone modernisation and upgradation, which have significantly enhanced their combat capability. A proposal for extending the service life of the older Sindhughosh and Shishumar class submarines is also being pursued. As far as acquisition of new submarines is concerned, you are aware that six Scorpene submarines are under construction at MDL. Their construction has picked up pace, and the first Scorpene submarine will commence sea trials shortly, with delivery by September 2016. The induction of balance submarines would follow thereafter. The plans to induct six more under Project 75(I) is being actively pursued, for construction at an Indian shipyard, with suitable transfer of technology.

SP’s: Reportedly there are critical voids in the naval aviation assets, especially the Naval multi-role helicopters, naval utility helicopters (NUH), fixed-wing airborne early warning, amphibious aircraft, naval ship-borne unmanned systems, etc. Would you like to describe the measures initiated to fill the void in a reasonable time frame?

CNS: The Indian Navy is progressing several procurement cases related to helicopters, including both the utility version as well as the multi-role helicopters. All these projects are at different stages in the acquisition process and are likely to fructify in the next couple of years.

The acquisition for NUH is being proposed under ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ categorisation in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure. We hope that private sector companies will be able to undertake this project under the ‘Make in India’ thrust. This would also provide much required fillip to the acquisition of technology in niche areas such as helicopter manufacturing.

The acquisition of additional advanced light helicopter (ALH) for coastal security from HAL is being progressed.

The acquisition of multi-role helicopters is also being progressed. The naval multi-role helicopter programme is planned to be progressed based on the success of the naval utility helicopter acquisition case.

SP’s: Where does the Indian Navy stand on imported arms and equipment versus self-reliance in arms manufacturing? Are we able to manufacture crucial systems such as electronic warfare (EW) and latest technology-based armaments indigenously?

CNS: Self-reliance in defence production is a thrust area for the Navy. Our strategy to achieve self-reliance and striving towards self-sufficiency is based on identifying and building upon the core national strengths in the maritime domain, with a view to focus investment in niche areas and best practices for longer-term developmental gains. Improving the indigenous content in the ‘fight’ component, the weapons and sensors, is a key component of the ‘Indian Navy-DRDO Synergy Road Map’.

As far as communication and EW systems are concerned, the Navy has laid sufficient emphasis to indigenise in these fields and retain our control over their security overlays, through active engagement with DRDO. The success of indigenous EW project has provided the Indian Navy with a potent EW capability for surface, subsurface and airborne platforms. The Indian Navy’s EW capability in all three dimensions is being further augmented to enhance capabilities and new EW systems are envisaged to be inducted in the future.

SP’s: Can you kindly comment on the R&D base in India? Do you believe it is evolving enough, enabling the creation of our own technologies which are crucial for the today’s conflicts?

CNS: The R&D base in India is evolving rapidly and the Indian Navy has been supporting the quest to promote indigenous research and design, with special emphasis on shipbuilding projects. The Indian Navy, at the very initial stages, recognised the advantages of being a ‘builder’s navy’ rather than a ‘buyer’s navy’. India’s first indigenous warship INS Ajay was constructed by GRSE Kolkata and commissioned in 1961. The Indian Navy also set up its own design department in 1964 and the first major weapon intensive platform, INS Nilgiri, a Leander class frigate, was commissioned in June 1972. Today, all 47 ships under construction, which include an aircraft carrier and submarines, are being built in Indian shipyards.

The Indian Navy was also the first service to partner with DRDO, even before it became a separate department in 1980. The Indian Navy has promulgated a science and technology road map which has been made in consultation with DRDO. The Indian Navy has also formulated its Indian Naval Indigenisation Plan 2015-30, which has been shared with the industry. This lists the major technology areas and capabilities that the Indian public and private sector industry may focus on.

The Navy is committed to support the R&D efforts by the DRDO, educational institutions and the private industry, towards enabling the creation of our own technologies to meet the challenges of the future. This is also well aligned with the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the government.

SP’s: What is your perspective on the emerging maritime security environment in the Indo-Pacific arena, with specific reference to development in the South China Sea?

CNS: Much like the Indian Ocean region, a large volume of international trade and commerce passes through the South China Sea. Any disturbance to this flow of trade and commerce will affect not only the economies of the region, but the global economy as well. There needs to be respect for and adherence to the principles of international law, which includes the freedom of navigation in international waters as entailed in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The seas and oceans are critical enablers for prosperity, and these require all-round observance of international law and norms, for progressing legitimate uses of the seas for individual and cooperative development. International law, in fact, can offer scope for settlement of maritime disputes in a peaceful manner, which would be of all-round benefit. Such positive and constructive measures, entailing mutual respect for international norms, interaction and dialogue amongst the parties concerned would assist in shaping a favourable and peaceful maritime environment.