EXCLUSIVE

Indian Navy Training for Electrical Propulsion in Future Warships

Stepped up focus on detecting quieter enemy submarines; first batch of engineer-warriors inducted on warships, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Southern Naval (Training) Command, Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla discloses in an exclusive interview to Vishal Thapar of SP’s Naval Forces

Issue: 4 / 2019Photo(s): By Indian Navy, INA

Listing out training priorities for fighting contemporary hybrid wars and preparing for the future, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Naval (Training) Command, Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla reveals that the Indian Navy will be making a beginning with electric propulsion, which is regarded as a big technological leap. The jury is out on whether engineers will make better naval warriors, with the first batch of B.Tech qualified officers passing out of the Naval Academy in May 2019 now posted on warships. The Indian Navy wants its own Top Gun school as its aviation arm grows, and outsourcing of a part of training is on the horizon. The full text of the interview:

Vishal Thapar (SP’s): You have the unique distinction of having served as DG Naval Operations, Commander of the Western Fleet, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Policy and Plans) and Chief of Personnel of the Indian Navy before taking over as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern (Training) Command. If you were to put experience in perspective, what ought to be the biggest training priorities for the Indian Navy of the Future?

Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla (VAAC): The training priority for the IN of the future, to my mind, will remain what we have always believed in. We must train as we will fight. We must train to put ordnance on target. We must train our personnel to give them the winning edge in battle – both professionally and mentally. Towards this, the practicalisation of training is a priority. This implies the requirement of as many actual equipment as practically feasible in our training establishments, or the use of simulators and emulators wherever actual equipment is not feasible. Increased connectivity, communication and rise of intelligent machines also requires us to train for tomorrow’s war and conflict. Hence, we are also focusing on training in niche technologies - including deep learning, machine learning, big data analytics, robotics, remotely piloted vehicles and vessels, electric propulsion, space based surveillance and Internet of things.

The first batch of officers who passed out with B.Tech degree finished their specialisation course in May 19 and were recently appointed onboard ships and submarines. A feedback in this respect will be sought to have a comparative analysis of the performance vis-à-vis erstwhile science graduate officers

SP’s: For some time now, all officers enlisted through the Naval Academy are engineers. How has this impacted on the performance of the Indian Navy?

VAAC: Ships, submarines and aircraft are fitted with state-of-the-art equipment and systems. The modernisation of Navy necessitated higher technical knowledge for the Executive Branch Officers who are the users of these systems. Consequently, the B.Tech curriculum at Indian Naval Academy was envisaged in the late 1990s and after extensive discussions commenced in 2009. The first batch of officers who passed out with B.Tech degree finished their specialisation course in May 19 and were recently appointed onboard ships and submarines. A feedback in this respect will be sought to have a comparative analysis of the performance vis-à-vis erstwhile science graduate officers. However, based on an initial assessment, there is no doubt that in the long run, B.Tech is going to be beneficial to Navy to keep officers abreast of latest technological developments and better understanding and utilization of ship-borne systems and equipment.

Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla inspecting the guard of honour at the Passing Out Parade for Autumn Term 2018 held at Indian Naval academy, Ezhimala

SP’s: Will the preponderance of technology and induction of modern assets force more specialisations in the Indian Navy?

VAAC: Currently, for officers, the existing branches of the Navy ie. Executive, Engineering, Electrical, Education, Law as also the sub-specialisations within each branch such as aviation, submarine, naval constructor, IT, hydrography, etc. are broad enough to encompass all the modern systems and technologies envisaged to be inducted into the Navy. However, for sailors, we have merged a few trades and created a few new ones, based on operational and technical requirements, and the need for vertical specialisation on specific equipment and systems.

SP’s: How is the Indian Navy training to fight short, intense wars of the future?

VAAC: As I had mentioned earlier we need to ensure that we must train as we will fight. Towards this there is a very close interaction with the operational commands and units for refining our syllabus and our procedures. We have also devised an online feedback system, under which each unit is required to send us a detailed feedback on the performance of each individual officer and sailor who undergoes training in our training units. We also have a very close interaction with the training commands of the Army and the Indian Air Force to ensure that joint aspects of warfare are always incorporated into our training curriculum. It also helps that the Southern Naval Command organises the annual war-game for the Navy and war-games are also held at the Naval War College.

Induction of training equipment and simulators are also contracted simultaneously with the new equipment. For instance, (there will be) electrical propulsion in some of our future platforms, and accordingly, facilities to train personnel in electrical propulsion have already been set up

SP’s: How is training making the Navy better prepared to face the threat of terror from the sea?

VAAC: Training on asymmetric warfare is a specialised art and covers a wide range of issues such as operations against suspected craft carrying terrorists at sea which require boarding and possible use of force in constrained spaces, explosive ordnance disposal, quick reaction teams ashore, knowledge of maritime law in cases where contraband, narcotics and human trafficking is involved and training on coastal surveillance systems. Training on all these different aspects is carried out by different training units of the SNC. Specialised training for the Sagar Prahari Bal is also conducted at Kochi. Asymmetric warfare is an area which requires close coordination with civil agencies such as Marine Police, BSF, Fisheries, Customs, etc. which is incorporated into our training. We also conduct training courses for para-military forces involved in coastal security.

SP’s: Can you give an illustration of how the lessons from exercises like Tropex and exercises with leading foreign navies into the operational sea training for the Indian Navy?

VAAC: The IN is continuously evolving to meet the emerging challenges to our maritime interest from malevolent non-state as well as state-sponsored elements. Exercises such as TROPEX test our preparedness for various contingencies, and lessons learnt are studied in detail towards evolving our operational philosophy. Additionally, maritime threats today manifest themselves across the globe and are not limited by national boundaries.Countering these threats requires navies to work together in close cooperation and bilateral exercises with leading foreign navies strengthens the synergy towards tackling common maritime threats. Dedicated Operational Sea Training by the Flag Officer Sea Training also enhances crew proficiency and focuses more on platform specific and fleet training.

The induction of quieter nuclear and conventional submarines in global navies, advancements in underwater weapons, communication and SONAR technology necessitates that ASW keeps pace with the evolving threats. Training in ASW has been in sync with the new developments and the IN has specifically increased its training efforts on passive underwater detection techniques

SP’s: What are the areas for improvement for building capabilities required for the Navy of the future?

VAAC: I will only talk about the training capabilities required for the future, which is my current charter. The most essential requirement today is to increase our training capacity, as the Navy is a growing service. I am confident that in the next few years we should have the additional infrastructure that is required. Another area where we need to focus is to enhance simulator based training and induct virtual reality in a big way to make training cost-effective. Another very important requirement is to ensure that we retain personnel trained in niche specialisations, so that their expertise can be passed on to the next generation. Outsourcing of certain type of training is another aspect receiving close attention. Finally, in order to be truly cost-effective we need to combine training efforts with our sister services, wherever feasible, and this too is well under way. For example, INS Hamla, our logistics training establishment, has already commenced training Army and IAF personnel since last year. Similarly, our personnel have also commenced certain training in Army and IAF establishments and this an area in which more can be done.

Cadets of Indian Naval Academy in a training camp at INA, Ezhimala

SP’s: What can we imbibe from the training regimen/ curriculum of leading friendly foreign navies like those of the US, UK and France.

VAAC: We are always open to inputs from friendly foreign navies as we believe that each Navy has its own expertise, good practices and knowledge which we can imbibe. This is even more important today because we train personnel from 46 different countries with an average annual throughput of almost a 1000 officers and sailors from our friends abroad. Consequently, during our bilateral and multilateral exercises, interactions, visits, staff talks, etc.training is a major point of discussion, which also acts as a feedback to improve our own curriculum. In addition, we also send a large number of our own officers to attend training courses abroad from where also feedback is obtained to improve our training. Indeed, revision of our training curriculum is a continuing endeavour and each course run by the Navy is thoroughly revised biennially with mid-course corrections being done earlier, wherever deemed necessary.

Training on strategic assets, irrespective of class and role has to be of a very high quality. Our training establishments are fully equipped to impart this training on all aspects to personnel manning our strategic platforms

SP’s: To what extent is the Indian Navy catering to expansion in training requirements on account of the induction of new platforms and systems?

VAAC: Training requirements for new platforms/systems is catered for by the Navy at the time of induction itself. In most cases, induction of training equipment and simulators are also contracted simultaneously with the new equipment. For instance, (there will be) electrical propulsion in some of our future platforms, and accordingly, facilities to train personnel in electrical propulsion have already been set up.

SP’s: What are the advances in weapon and missile training over the last few years?

VAAC: As mentioned earlier, the induction to any new weapon system is mirrored by the induction of training equipment in the concerned training schools and this is an ongoing effort. The endeavour is first to have the capability in our own training establishments, but if that is not cost-effective then we are open to conducting training with another Service or with the OEM.

All Indian Naval ships are designed and equipped to fight even in a nuclear fallout environment. The NBC training of the Indian Navy is conducted at the NBCD School. A dedicated NBC training simulator was recently commissioned there and provides realistic training to personnel in handling nuclear contingencies, such as a ship passing through a nuclear fallout area

SP’s: What are the advances in ASW warfare that the Indian Navy must cater to in its training curriculum?

VAAC: The induction of quieter nuclear and conventional submarines in global navies, advancements in underwater weapons, communication and SONAR technology necessitates that ASW keeps pace with the evolving threats. Training in ASW has been in sync with the new developments and the IN has specifically increased its training efforts on passive underwater detection techniques.

SP’s: Are training practices for strategic assets at par with the best in the world?

VAAC: The short answer is yes. Training on strategic assets, irrespective of class and role has to be of a very high quality. Our training establishments are fully equipped to impart this training on all aspects to personnel manning our strategic platforms.

As the Air Arm of the IN grows, there will be a requirement to set up our own aviation training establishment. As such, flying over land and flying over sea have significant differences

SP’s: What is the preparedness for facing nuclear fallout at sea?

VAAC: All Indian Naval ships are designed and equipped to fight even in a nuclear fallout environment. The NBC training of the Indian Navy is conducted at the NBCD School. A dedicated NBC training simulator was recently commissioned there and provides realistic training to personnel in handling nuclear contingencies, such as a ship passing through a nuclear fallout area. In sum, our personnel are well prepared to handle operations in a nuclear environment.

International Naval cadets from friendly foreign countries participate in camps conducted by Indian Naval Academy

SP’s: What are the training infrastructure arrangements being envisioned for the aircraft carriers of the future?

VAAC: Since the Indian Navy has been operating aircraft carriers for over six decades, our training processes are firmly in place. There are ship-specific training centres to look into all training requirements of our carriers, including the future Vikrant.

SP’s: What sort of training requirements for naval aviation for the future are being catered to? Can the Indian Navy look forward to a Top Gun school of its own?

VAAC: Currently training arrangements with the IAF for ab initio flying training and subsequent advanced training by IN units, is considered adequate to meet our requirements. However, as the Air Arm of the IN grows, there will be a requirement to set up our own aviation training establishment. As such, flying over land and flying over sea have significant differences.

Increased connectivity, communication and rise of intelligent machines also requires us to train for tomorrow’s war and conflict. Hence, we are also focusing on training in niche technologies - including deep learning, machine learning, big data analytics, robotics, remotely piloted vehicles and vessels, electric propulsion, space based surveillance and Internet of things

SP’s: What is the training vision for capability on the HADR front?

VAAC: Indian Navy has always been at the forefront of HADR operations undertaken not only in India, but overseas as well. SNC ships and aircraft have been deployed to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Mozambique in the past few years for HADR operations. You may also recollect that the SNC was involved in a major HADR effort during last year’s Kerala floods, where our units rescued over 17,000 people. The IN has substantial capability to undertake these operations and efforts are being made to strengthen this capability further by streamlining Standard Operating Procedures. Capsules on HADR operations are also undertaken through training courses and during Operational Sea Training. This is also an area where combined exercises with the Army, IAF and NDRF are regularly conducted at national level.

SP’s: How are training establishments geared for supporting high-tech surveillance capability requirements?

VAAC: As part of the training being imparted at the various training establishments of the IN, the trainees are exposed to both theoretical knowledge as well as hands on experience on various surveillance equipment that they are expected to operate/maintain. Towards realising the need for practical ‘hands on’ training, a complete equipment/ simulator is catered for the respective training unit while concluding the contract for the surveillance equipment.

Another area where we need to focus is to enhance simulator based training and induct virtual reality in a big way to make training cost-effective. Another very important requirement is to ensure that we retain personnel trained in niche specialisations, so that their expertise can be passed on to the next generation. Outsourcing of certain type of training is another aspect receiving close attention

SP’s: Please illustrate a futuristic, high-tech warfare scenario which the Indian Navy is being trained to wage a war in.

VAAC: A future warfare is most likely to be hybrid in nature. This implies a military strategy which blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyber warfare along with methods such as strategic communication, lawfare and psychological operations. While each warfare scenario would be unique, Armed Forces of the future will need to prepare for a range of operations across the spectrum of warfare ranging from low intensity combat to high intensity conventional warfare in a nuclear backdrop. The advancement of surveillance technology will imply that the battle space will be transparent, almost in real time, and will allow precision attacks. Cyber and space will also be important areas of warfare which we will need to prepare. Needless to say, we will also have to be prepared to conduct operations in the full glare of local and global media - a fact that is evident even today. Our training will, therefore, have to be modified accordingly.