'We are confident that the SP model will enable faster technology absorption'

At the special request of Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, SP’s Naval Forces, Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff, consented to respond to the following questions exclusively:

Issue: 6 / 2017Photo(s): By Indian Navy
Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff

SP’s Naval Forces (SP’s): Very recently the Defence Acquisition Council has approved Strategic Partnership Model for defence procurement to achieve greater indigenisation and self-reliance in defence industry. What are the maritime capability build-up projects which can be brought under the ambit of this progressive initiative of ‘Make in India’ campaign?

CNS: For the Navy, the scope of the ‘Strategic Partnership (SP)’ model is presently limited to ship borne helicopters and submarines. We have already initiated the acquisition process for these projects as per the new guidelines under this model. We are confident that the SP model will enable faster technology absorption in the defence sector and would significantly benefit the Navy in the long run, both from the operations and maintenance perspectives. There is a vast scope for technical collaboration between the Indian industry and foreign manufacturers in marine propulsion, advanced weapon systems as well as emerging technologies such as unmanned platforms and robotics. The SP model would enable the Indian industry to leapfrog from its current state to world class capabilities in a shorter timeframe.

SP’s: For an effective and efficient launch of ‘Make in India’ campaign it is essential that available indigenous potential, infrastructure, capabilities in shipbuilding, both within the public and private Sectors are optimally utilised. In addition to known defence shipyards which the private sector enterprises found suitable and capable of participating in indigenous shipbuilding projects?

CNS: The Indian Navy has always encouraged private participation in naval ship building projects. However, this has not seen the desired success owing to capacity limitations of private shipyards in India. The situation seems to be improving of late and the Indian Navy is doing its best to enable the indigenous shipbuilding industry, both in the public and private sector, to come up to world standards. Currently, Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPVs) are under construction at Reliance Naval and Engineering Limited (RNEL), Gujarat. Construction of Landing Platform Docks is also envisaged to be undertaken in private shipyards. Both RNEL and L&T are in the fray for this project. Several other auxiliary vessels of the Navy are also being built in private shipyards. Participation of private sector shipyards have, in fact, taken some of the load off the DPSUs and contributed to overall increase in the pace of inductions. We would welcome even greater participation by private shipyards in warship building programmes, as long as they remain committed to quality, quantity and delivery timelines.

SP’s: Pursuant to exhaustive in-house deliberations/consultations what are the emerging paradigms for shaping Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 2 (IAC 2) to take the project forward towards successful launch, efficient and timely execution?

CNS: The design and construction of an aircraft carrier is indeed a complex process. Choices with regard to the type and capabilities of the carrier borne aircraft, propulsion, tonnage, etc are often difficult to make since each option has its unique advantages. At the same time, financial prudence is an equally important consideration. We have invested significant efforts in evaluating each of these aspects critically. Recent technological advancements in the field of aircraft carrier construction has also been examined thoroughly. We have arrived at a conclusion that the IAC-2 should be a step ahead from IAC-1 in terms of capabilities. Accordingly, we have approached the Government for a go ahead for the project. Modalities for construction and timelines would be worked out separately once the design aspects are finalised.

SP’s: Request for Information (RFI) on 57 Multi-Role Carrier-Borne Fighters (MRBF) was issued by the Government some months ago. How was the response from the leading global manufacturers of MRBF and what are the broad timelines for the initiation of the project?

CNS: As you are aware, the RFI for carrier borne fighters was issued in the beginning of the year. Many leading manufacturers of these types of aircraft have evinced a lot of interest in the project. Based on the internal evaluation, we will soon finalise the best option for this project. The case would then progress as per the guidelines stipulated in the DPP. As far as the induction timelines are concerned, we are optimistic of aligning the induction of these aircraft with the operationalisation of IAC-1.

SP’s: In the recent past Request for Information (RFI) was launched for 123 Naval Multi-Role Helicopters (NMRH) and 111 armed Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) on all leading global Original Equipment Manufacturers. How was the response to RFI and what are the estimated timelines for the two Projects to fructify up to delivery schedules?

CNS: You must be aware that these two projects are being pursued under the newly introduced ‘Strategic Partnership (SP)’ model. The responses to both these RFIs have been very encouraging. Several OEMs have shown interest towards manufacturing these helicopters in India. The NUH is the basic ship borne utility helicopter with relatively lesser complexities. We are, therefore, hopeful that the induction of NUH should fructify in another five to six years. However, the NMRH, as the name suggests, is a complex platform with sophisticated weapons and sensors. Therefore, the induction of NMRH may take a few years more than the NUH project. What is important to understand is that the ‘Strategic Partnership (SP)’ model will facilitate the Indian industry to imbibe niche technologies in this field and is bound to benefit the industry as well as the Armed Forces in the long run.

There is a vast scope for technical collaboration between the Indian industry and foreign manufacturers in marine propulsion, advanced weapon systems as well as emerging technologies such as unmanned platforms and robotics

SP’s: Recently Project 75 (India) has been revived through launch of RFI on six global and renowned shipbuilders for indigenous construction of six advanced stealth conventional submarines with Tube Launched Missiles (TLM) and Air Independent Air Propulsion (AIP) capabilities. What are the estimated timelines for fructification of Project 75I?

CNS: Similar to the new naval helicopter projects, Project 75 (I) for six conventional submarines is also being progressed under the ‘Strategic Partnership (SP)’ model. Accordingly, the RFI issued is aimed at identifying the most suitable OEMs for collaboration on the project. I am hopeful that most of the leading shipbuilders would be interested in this very important project. We will be able to get some clarity on the delivery timelines as the discussions with the selected original equipment manufactures (OEMs) and the Indian shipbuilder progress further.

SP’s: It is learnt that the commissioning of INS Kalvari is held up possibly due to non-availability of the main armament, Torpedo. What is the strategy for procuring suitable Torpedoes for the Scorpene Class submarines and the future Project 75I?

CNS: The Indian Navy has adequate number of missiles and torpedoes for its existing platforms. Though we have raised a RFI for Heavy Weight Torpedoes, our main aim is to achieve standardisation of torpedoes onboard all classes of submarines. In the long term, we intend to focus more on that objective.

SP’s: What is the current status on design, development and indigenous construction of Multi-Role Landing Platform Docks and which are the Private Sector Enterprises likely to participate in the programme?

CNS: The case for four Landing Platform Docks is being progressed with two private shipyards – L&T and Reliance Naval and Engineering Ltd (RNEL). We are hopeful of concluding the contract very soon. These ships will greatly enhance our amphibious capability and will also play a critical role in Out of Area Contingencies (OOAC) and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations (HADR).