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‘Atmanirbharta’ in Maritime Security

Fully supporting selfreliance in defence manufacturing, Indian Navy continues to propel the domestic industry’s growth, something that has far-reaching strategic consequences. In an extensive interview with Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, SP’s Naval Forces, Vice Admiral S.N. Ghormade, Vice Chief of the Naval Staff, gave a comprehensive overview of the current and future plans of the Indian Navy.

Issue: 5/2022 Photo(s): By Indian Navy
Vice Admiral S.N. Ghormade, Vice Chief of the Naval Staff, is leading the efforts in Indian Navy to provide further impetus to the indigenisation process across the entire canvas of acquisition

Jayant Baranwal (Baranwal): Aircraft Carrier

  1. Now that INS Vikrant is commissioned, where do you see the status of IAC-2?

Vice Admiral S.N. Ghormade (Ghormade): India’s aspiration as a regional power to safeguard its interests and those of friendly countries, can be effected through a near continuous presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Indian Navy is seen as a force that provides regional stability and peace in the region. A three Carrier force would be essential to provide Sea Control in the vast Indian Ocean region. Needless to say, the flexibility, mobility, combat potential and resilience of an Aircraft Carrier are unmatched in conflict and has a deterrence effect during peace time. Further, the 24th report of the Standing Committee on Defence on Demand of Grants of the Ministry of Defence for the year 2021-22, has also brought out that Indian Navy (IN) requires a third Aircraft Carrier, so that at any given occasion, two aircraft carriers are operational in either seaboard for the Maritime Security of country. Indian Navy’s necessity to acquire and operate a third aircraft carrier is well known and acknowledged at higher level.

(b) Particularly when such a project can help:

  1. Self-Reliance, strengthening & supporting Industrial ecosystem engaging SMEs, MSMEs

Ghormade: In charting a course into the future, visionary guidance has been enunciated by our National Leadership. The Nation has set itself a clear goal for India in 2047– that of being a developed nation.

Be it the Prime Minister’s articulation of ‘पाँच प्‌रण’, or the single minded focus on Atmanirbhar Bharat, or transformational initiatives such as Digital India, Skill India, etc, - the aspirational national direction is absolutely clear. And therefore, the Navy in 2047 must be a fully ‘Atmanirbhar’ force that is ‘combat-ready, credible, cohesive, and future-proof’ in service of the Nation. Similarly, on July 18, 2022 during NIIO Seminar, Prime Minister has directed Navy to achieve unprecedented heights when India celebrates 100 years of its independence.

Self-reliance in defence manufacturing is one of the key thrust areas of Government of India (GoI). Commissioning of INS Vikrant was an outcome of years of hard work and perseverance by a team encompassing the Government, the Navy, Cochin Shipyard, the Indian Defence Industry, MSMEs, innovators and the workforce working together for a common purpose. Aptly showcasing that ‘the whole is always greater than sum of its part’. Considerable expertise has been gained through design & construction of INS Vikrant, this needs consolidation & continuity which will enhance affordability of Aircraft Carriers. A substantial part of Naval budget is ploughed back into the Indian shipbuilding eco system, including a large number of MSMEs.

Naval shipbuilding offers immense opportunity for development of dual use technologies for both military and civilian agencies. A large number of military solutions can be adapted to commercial/civilian usage. Such dual use avenues include Hull equipment (Valves, Davits, Winches, Cranes), Air Conditioning, RO Plant, Refrigeration, Robotics, Unmanned Systems, Autonomous solutions, Composites, Communication and Networking, Sewage Treatment Plant, Garbage disposal, Cabling, Optical Fibre, Fire Fighting and Damage Control etc.

We aim to collectively produce these products that are Made in India – Made for India - and Make for the World – Something that has far-reaching strategic consequences.

Going ahead, the 43 out of 45 warships that are under construction in India, and existing 55 AoNs for ships and submarines that will be built in India, would continue to propel the domestic industry’s growth.

(ii) Skill development & Employment generation

Ghormade: Construction of IAC-1 project at Cochin Shipyard (CSL) has immensely contributed towards considerable skill development in design, development of welder qualification and weld processes, integration of ship systems, etc. Towards augmenting the strength of personnel in shipbuilding industry, skill development of associated personnel is a given and such employable youth shall remain an asset to the country for the coming years. This would translate into availability of niche products for the Navy. The fact that a warship is like a township at sea which brings in technology that is required essentially in a smart city.

Indian Navy’s necessity to acquire and operate a third aircraft carrier is well known and acknowledged at higher level

With Vikrant, 76 per cent was ploughed back into the Indian ship-building ecosystem, encompassing 90 OEMs, over 100 MSMEs and 500 ancillaries, 2,000 direct and 13,000 indirect employment. In addition, items have been sourced from 18 States and Union Territories signifying the whole of nation effort.

I will reiterate here that the shipbuilding industry is manpower intensive and therefore, efforts of IN towards indigenous shipbuilding aid in generation of job opportunities and enable skilling of workforce. As per KPMG, the multiplier for employment in ancillary industry for ship building is 1:6.4. For example, the total shipyard manpower for Project 17A frigate is 4,000 personnel per annum. Thus, approximately 28,000 personnel are employed in ancillary industry for Project 17A frigate alone.

Indigenous construction of IAC-2 in an Indian Shipyard will provide impetus to the ongoing Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative of the Government, while also providing a huge employment opportunity to the Indian populace.

The number of captive personnel employed for the IAC-1 project on a continuous basis by CSL is 2000. Indigenous Aircraft Carrier programme provides a boost to employment generation not only in shipbuilding industry but also in ancillary industries wherein approx. 13,000 personnel have been employed.

More than 500 Indian firms are registered with CSL towards providing various services for construction of IAC-1. As per data provided by CSL, orders of almost 300 crore have been placed on MSMEs during the last ten years. Therefore, the shipyard has generated significant business opportunities for SMEs/ MSMEs.

(c) Chinese Fujian – 3rd Aircraft Carrier
The programme has been reported as a ‘message to its rivals’. How do you perceive this programme of China – an unpredictable neighbourhood?

Ghormade: The Chinese Aircraft Carrier programme is an extension of the Chinese Maritime Capability expansion and it is part of a natural progression. The Indian Navy has already put in place a force accretion programme to meet our maritime security needs and maintain its primacy in the Indian Ocean Region.

Baranwal: Carrier borne Fighter
(a) When can we get to see the finalisation of this requirement?

Ghormade: In order to meet the Indian Navy’s long term requirement of a next generation deck based fighter, Navy is pursuing the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) programme with DRDO. The TEDBF is an indigenous effort to meet future requirements and envisaged as a replacement of the MiG-29K/KuB which will strengthen our resolve for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. The existing inventory of MIG-29K aircraft are inadequate to meet the total number of fighters required to operate from both the aircraft carriers. Thus, it is extremely important for the Navy to procure additional multirole carrier borne fighters as an interim augmentation of fighter aircraft till fructification of TEDBF Project.

(b) Can you remind us as to what are the key features/key expectations out of this particular requirement?

Ghormade: TEDBF would be a Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter which would operate from IN Aircraft Carriers. TEDBF would be developed by ADA, a DRDO agency, and is intended to perform multitude of mission with indigenous Weapons, Avionics and Sensors.

(c) Any plan for 5th Generation Fighter programme?

Ghormade: TEDBF is designed to meet the requirement of 5th Generation fighter specific to IN operations.

Baranwal: Armed Drone
(a) Can you indicate on the status of the requirement finally meeting its fate?

Ghormade: Indian Navy is actively engaging with DRDO and Indian Industry for indigenous development based on the requirements of the Defence Forces. Future procurements of High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) would be met through indigenous sources.

However, to meet interim requirement, Joint case for procurement of Armed Drone from US Government to augment ISR capability is under deliberation.

(b) What is the likely operational plan for such a drone?

Ghormade: The Navy has a well charted course towards induction of small, medium and large Unmanned Aerial Systems. Remotely Piloted Aircraft have considerable applications in naval warfare as a force multiplier. The various phases of warfare include intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, reconnaissance and targeting. Traditionally, each of these tasks requires individual assets (human/equipment/platforms) to be deployed. However, technology today, such as drone, provide these capabilities on a single platform which can effectively contribute to ‘Battlespace Transparency’ and Maritime Domain Awareness. Not only can these platforms undertake ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) tasks but also undertake targeting.

It is extremely important for the Navy to procure additional multirole carrier borne fighters as an interim augmentation of fighter aircraft till fructification of TEDBF Project

(c) How has been the experience of two leased Sky Guardians if you can share?

Ghormade: Leasing of two MQ-9B UAS was undertaken to meet op-emergent requirements. The platform is being extensively utilised in ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) role and performance of the equipment is as per Indian Navy’s expectations.

Baranwal: P-75(I)
(a) Please can you give us some update on the progress of the programme?

Ghormade: Subsequent to the issue of the RFP for Project 75(I), based on the concerns received from the Foreign Collaborators on some of the clauses of the RFP; efforts have been made to resolve all outstanding issues. We are now on course to receive the bids from Indian Strategic Partners.

(b) Any timeline has been fixed for this programme?

Ghormade: Yes, the procurement is as per the timelines defined in the standard guidelines for procurement of ships/submarines. However, since this is the first project under the Strategic Partnership Model, certain issues have necessitated extended deliberations between all stakeholders including Indian Strategic Partners and foreign OEMs. All efforts are being made to compress timelines in future stages of the project.

Baranwal: Underwater Weapon Systems Have the Scorpene family been aptly equipped with the necessary armament systems?

Ghormade: Indian Navy is pursuing development of an indigenous next generation torpedo for submarines which is at trials stage. In order to meet interim requirement and to enhance the combat capability of Scorpene class (Kalvari class), a contract for procurement of new generation Heavy Weight Torpedo is also in progress and is in advanced stage.

Baranwal: Aviation Arm
(a) Would you like to share the overall wish list of manned and unmanned machine?

Ghormade: Indian Navy’s vision for manned and unmanned systems is based on required operational capability, has been encapsulated in the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan and Long Term Integration Perspective Plan. In addition, the Navy has formulated an Unmanned Roadmap for the future.

(b) P-8I has been seemingly a great success and has been contributing towards key objectives of Navy. What sort of follow-ups do you foresee out of this case?

Ghormade: P-8I has contributed immensely towards effective long range maritime reconnaissance & ASW missions in our Area of Interests. The state-of-the-art sensors & weapons makes it a potent platform.

Indian Navy intends to undertake significant upgrades in NCO (Network Centric Operations) capability and weapons & sensors of the P-8I aircraft. Navy’s endeavor is to induct indigenous weapons and sensors on the aircraft in future. A comprehensive midlife upgrade will also be pursued with a major share of indigenous components in the medium term.

Baranwal: Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and South China Sea (SCS)
(a) Normal perception is that our Navy is strong enough to dominate in the waters of IOR. Would you like to share your views on the same?

Ghormade: Indian Navy (IN) is fully prepared to safeguard the maritime interests of the nation. The country’s maritime interests encompass maintenance of the territorial integrity of India against seaward challenges, as well as, protection of our maritime trade and the merchantmen that embody it. Our coastline today faces significant security challenges from malevolent non-state and state-sponsored anti-national elements. To safeguard the maritime interests of the nation, the IN performs four types of roles namely military, diplomatic, constabulary and benign. For these roles, we have adequate capability and are also continuously evolving to meet any new challenges.

(b) Do we possess similar strength when it comes to SCS? Kindly advise?

Ghormade: IN is continuously evolving to meet the emerging security threats and challenges to our maritime interests. With well laid out long-term planning, the Navy has been able to keep pace with the developing security situation in the region. We are confident that we will be able to deter and if required, defeat any force well before it can be in a position to threaten our shores. We are constantly fine-tuning our concept of operations and acquisition plans to cater for developing threats in our areas of interest.

Baranwal: The requirements projected by you would require to be adequately funded by the Government. What is the annual increase in capital funding that you are looking at to meet the requirements of the Naval force levels projected by the Indian Navy?

Ghormade: The allocation of Budget to the Navy has been adequate to meet the requirements/capacity building initiatives. Any shortfalls have been made good with additional allocations at RE/MA stages. Further, a conservative 10 per cent Year on Year growth w.r.t. BE 2022-23, under Capital Budget, would result in adequate fiscal space for Indian Navy to progress envisaged Modernisation plans.

We have developed detailed ‘Indigenisation Roadmaps’ for the equipment/systems onboard our foreign acquisition platforms so as to take on import substitution and complete our selfreliance vision

Baranwal: To conclude this interview and this interesting interaction, we would like t ask you what all are the plans of Indian Navy towards the larger objective of indigenisation being pushed by Government of India?

Ghormade: Indian Navy has always been at the forefront of promoting the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Government, with close to 63 per cent of contracts, by value, being concluded with/accorded to Indian vendors, in the last three years. In order to reduce arms dependency and promote indigenous manufacturing of defence equipment, a comprehensively revamped ‘Make and Innovation’ procedure has been introduced in DAP-20 to facilitate indigenous design and development of defence equipment by private participation, both with government funding and Industry funding.

As on date, out of 45 ships/submarines under construction, 43 are being built in India. Also, AoN exists for 49 ships and 6 submarines, all to be constructed indigenously which would strengthen our ecosystem. Further, in keeping with the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative of GoI, and achieving self-reliance in all defence related projects, all new IN ships being constructed in India are being fitted with indigenous weapons and sensors. Further, all foreign origin weapons, sensors and propulsion systems of older platforms are being progressively replaced with indigenous systems during the mid-life upgradation refits. The spares of all foreign origin equipment are also being progressively indigenised.

Future procurements of High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) would be met through indigenous sources

Indian Navy is also part of major flagship schemes of Government of India, viz, ‘Make in India’, ‘Technology Development Fund (TDF)’ and ‘Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX)’. Among the major Government initiatives, following have been progressed by the Indian Navy till date:

  • Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO) was launched by the Defence Minister in August 20 for active interaction with Industry and Academia. Recently, on July 18, 2022, the Prime Minister unveiled the 75 ‘SPRINT challenges’ during the NIIO seminar ‘Swavlamban’. The SPRINT (Supporting Pole-Vaulting in R&D through iDEX, NIIO and TDAC) challenges is aimed at giving a boost to the usage of indigenous technology in the Indian Navy.
  • Over 1,100 proposals were received from the start-ups, MSMEs and individual innovators. Of these, more than 160 proposals have already been selected which involves over a 100 start-ups and innovators. The process is ongoing and some more proposals will be shortlisted over the coming weeks. We are planning to conclude contracts for these in shortest possible time and are definitely SPRINTING.
  • Centre for Indigenisation and Selfreliance (CISR) cell was formed at INS Agrani, Coimbatore w.e.f. April 1, 2022 to provide necessary impetus on selfreliance from ‘Conceptualisation to Induction’. Impetus has been provided towards indigenous manufacture of major weapons and sensors.
  • Further, the first indigenously developed VL-SRSAM (DRDO/L&T and BDL) was fired by INS Rana on June 24, 2022. It may be noted that the first indigenously developed Heavy Weight Torpedo Varunastra is already in service.
  • We are also closely associated with the National Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (NICDC) under NITI Aayog, to synergise our efforts in tandem with the national vision, thereby taking advantage of the planned industrial corridors.
  • As part of our long-term indigenisation plan, a document called the ‘SWAVLAMBAN’ was released by the Defence Minister in August 2020 and has been uploaded on the Navy’s website for the industry. A core group has been formed to progress the indigenisation as per the plan & formulate a long-term sustenance plan.
  • As a short-term plan, Navy maintains a list of more than 500 items on the ‘srijandefence’ portal ( which are envisaged to be indigenised within the next three years. We receive overwhelming response from the industry based on this database, and have completed indigenisation of more than 100 items in the last 18 months.
  • We also conduct periodic ‘Industry Yatras’, wherein we reach out to the Industry Bodies and local industries at the State/District levels. This is done with an aim to actively assess their capabilities and identify mutual areas of co-operation with the IN.
  • As a focused approach, we have developed detailed ‘Indigenisation Roadmaps’ for the equipment/systems onboard our foreign acquisition platforms i.e. our Aircraft Carrier Vikramaditya, Talwar Class ships, P-75 submarines and Tankers, so as to take on import substitution and complete our self-reliance vision.
  • The Indian Navy signed a MoU for knowledge partnership with Academia and Industry Partners (SIDM & Bharat Shakti) in March this year and the MoU is already showing results as can be judged from the overwhelming responses received from various Indian Navy Student Technical Education Programme (INSTEP) knowledge partners and other technical colleges across the nation during SPRINT challenges.
  • You can clearly see that Indian Navy has a clear vision – enabling policies - supporting structures – and a proud track record towards achieving self-reliance in Defence. We can achieve this with a collective and collaborative whole of nation effort. That is where enduring partnerships with industry and innovators come in.