Navy’s Quest for Modernisation

Under the plan, the Navy aims to have a force level of 200 ships, 500 aircraft and 24 attack submarines. At present, the Navy has around 132 ships, 220 aircraft and 15 submarines

Issue: 1 / 2020 By Lt General Naresh Chand (Retd)Photo(s): By Indian Navy
Fourth Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) Corvette of Project-28, christened ‘Kavaratti’

The April 2019 Naval Commanders Conference focused on significant aspects of force accretion and modernisation. During the deliberations it emerged that the Indian Navy (IN) is working on a mega plan to significantly boost its operational capability by inducting new warships, submarines and aircraft besides expanding its overall influence in the strategic maritime zones. Under the plan, the Navy aims to have a force level of 200 ships, 500 aircraft and 24 attack submarines. At present, the Navy has around 132 ships, 220 aircraft and 15 submarines. During the October 2019 conference, CNS Admiral Karambir Singh, while highlighting various key issues, also drew attention to the critical capability voids. He also focused on the requirement of three aircraft carriers so that at least one operational carrier is available at any given time. He stressed that the capability gaps are required to be made up, especially in light of the increasing mandate of the IN in the Indian Ocean Region.

Revised Maritime Security and Strategic Perspective

The force level of any navy depends directly upon its role and the perceived threat. Based on these key aspects the IN came out with a White Paper on ‘Maritime Security and Strategic Perspective’. This was later on revised and called ‘Revised Maritime Security and Strategic Perspective’. Briefly it states that, “The revised strategy has been titled ‘Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy’, in recognition of two key aspects. First, the rise in sources, types and intensity of threats, with some blurring of traditional and non-traditional lines, requires a seamless and holistic approach towards maritime security. Second, in order to provide ‘freedom to use the seas’ for India’s national interests, it is necessary to ensure that the seas remain secure. The expanded outlook, reflected in the title, also takes into account the additional mandate of the IN, which has been entrusted with the responsibility for overall maritime security, including coastal and offshore security.”

Indian Navy’s Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP)

The IN’s present force level comprises about 150 ships and submarines. The Indian Navy’s perspective-planning in terms of ‘force-levels’ is now driven by a conceptual shift from ‘numbers’ of platforms to the one that concentrates upon ‘capabilities’. In terms of force accretions in the immediate future, the IN is acquiring ships in accordance with the IN’s current MCPP which targets a force level of about 200 ships by 2027. The IN has the vision of transforming it from a buyer’s navy to a builder’s navy. The Navy is also looking towards the private shipbuilders to accelerate the production rate.

Indian Naval Indigenisation Plan (INIP) 2015-2030

The recently released Indian Naval Indigenization Plan (INIP) 2015-2030 has also encouraged domestic industries including Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to participate in construction of ships and associated naval equipment.

Recently completed and current projects

Indian Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Project-71 IAC-1. The keel of India’s first indigenously built IAC-1 christened as INS Vikrant was laid on February 28, 2009 at Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL). With this Project India joined the elite club of nations in the world capable of designing and constructing an Air Craft Carrier. INS Vikrant became the Country’s most prestigious and largest warship project. CSL has been mandated to build the IAC for the IN. The basic design of the Air Craft Carrier was carried out by the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design (DND). The design was further developed by the design team of CSL. The ship has attained its designed length of about 260 m and is almost at its maximum breadth of 60 m and is designed for Short Take Off but Assisted Recovery (STOBAR). “IAC-I is expected to join the Navy in October 2020. All trial schedules have been worked out. We are going to sign advanced contracts with Cochin Shipyard Limited very soon,” Commodore J. Chowdhary, the Indian Navy’s Principal Director of Naval Design, said in January 2019.

The expanded outlook takes into account the additional mandate of the Indian Navy, which has been entrusted with the responsibility for overall maritime security, including coastal and offshore security

IAC-2. India’s second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2), INS Vishal, is still awaiting approval of the government. As per RFP, IAC-2 will have a displacement of 65,000 tonnes and 300 m length and is planned to have Catapult Take Off, Barrier Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR).

Project 17 Shivalik Class

Shivalik Class stealth frigates are multirole stealth craft built for IN by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL). The DND formed the initial design for the Project 17 Class frigates and the final design was developed by MDL. These are the first indigenous warships to be built with stealth features. The lead ship of this class is named ‘Shivalik’, followed by ‘Satpura’ and ‘Sahyadri’. All the ships have been commissioned and their designing and manufacture has given valuable experience for further projects.

Project 17A Nilgiri Class

Project 17A Nilgiri-class stealth frigates are being built by MDL and Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) for the IN. The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) received approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security to develop warships under the Project 17A in September 2012. The MoD signed shipbuilding contracts with MDL and GRSE in February 2015.In December 2017, the keel-laying ceremony of the first stealth frigate INS Nilgiri (12651) was held at MDL. The ship was launched in September 2019 and is expected to be delivered in 2022. A total of seven frigates have been ordered out of which four will be constructed by MDL and three by GRSE. The Project 17A frigates integrate modern design and stealth features such as radar suppression screens and deck fittings with no radar signature. MDL and GRSE have signed a contract with Bharat Electronics Limited for Israel Aircraft Industry’s seven Barak-8 air defence missile systems in September 2018. MDL has also contracted Fincantieri to provide technical assistance for the Project 17A.

Project 15A Kolkata Class Destroyers

The Kolkata-class guided missile destroyers are the new stealth destroyers built by MDL for the IN, under Project 15A. The destroyers are preceded by Type 15 Delhiclass destroyers and succeeded by the Project 15B destroyers. The first destroyer was commissioned in August 2014 and the third one November 2016. They are named INS Kolkata, INS Kochi and INS Chennai.

The Project 15B class of Guided Missile Destroyers

Project 15B is a variant of the Kolkata-class destroyers which are being built by MDL. The contract for the construction of four Project 15B destroyers was signed in January 2011. The keel for the first Project 15B ship, named INS Visakhapatnam (D 66), was laid in October 2013 and the vessel was launched in April 2015. The keel laying ceremony of second destroyer in class, INS Mormugao (D 67), was held in June 2015 and the vessel was launched during September 2016. The first ship is expected to join the IN by 2021 and the remaining three ships will be delivered at the rate of one per. The P-15B ship retains the hull form of Kolkata-class and features a stealthier flush deck and advanced weapon systems. Designed indigenously by the DND, the vessels will offer improved survivability, sea keeping and high manoeuvrability. With state-of-the-art weapons and sensor package, the destroyers will be one of the world’s most technologically advanced guided missile destroyers.

Project 1135.6 Frigates

The Indian MoD on January 30, 2019 stated that an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between India and the Russian Federation was concluded on October 15, 2016, for construction of additional Project 1135.6 Follow-on ships in India, at Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL). In line with the IGA, the Government signed a contract for construction of two ships with GSL to-date, with scheduled delivery in June 2026 and December 2026 respectively. The Follow-on P 1135.6 series of frigates are customised to meet the IN’s specific requirements, are potent platforms, with a mission span covering the entire spectrum of naval warfare. The ships would carry highly sophisticated and state-of-art indigenous weapon systems and sensors such as sonar system, BrahMos missile system, Combat Management System etc.

Project 28 ASW Corvettes

Four Kamorta Class indigenous Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) corvettes are being built by GRSE for the IN. The Kamorta Class succeeds the Kora-Class guided-missile corvettes that are in service with the IN. The lead corvette INS Kamorta, was commissioned into the IN in August 2014. The second vessel, INS Kadmatt, was commissioned into service in January 2016 and the third INS Kiltan was commissioned in October 16, 2017. The last ship INS Kavaratti, was launched in May 2015 and is to be commissioned soon.

Mines Counter Measures Vessels

As per media reports India is soon expected to float a fresh RFP to build 12 mine-counter measure vessels (MCMVs), in collaboration with a foreign shipyard under a projected cost of 32,640 crore (about $4.5 billion). GSL has been nominated to collaborate with the selected foreign collaborator. No headway has been made so far and the existing mine sweepers are at the end of their life. It was also reported that the IN has signed a 306 crore ($42 Million) deal with Thales Australia for eight mine counter-measure clip-on influence sweeps to equip its fast interceptor crafts scheduled to be delivered in 2021-2022 as an interim measure.

Shallow Water ASW Crafts

GRSE has signed with the MoD a contract for construction and supply of eight antisubmarine warfare shallow water crafts (ASWSWCs) for IN at a cost of 6,311.32 crore. The first craft is to be delivered within 42 months and the last by 84 months.

Amphibious Capability

MoD has cleared during July 2018, four Landing Platform Docks (LPD) at a cost of 20,000 crore (about $2.9 billion). LPDs are ships that help armed forces to transport troops, defence equipment, helicopters and amphibious vehicle into a war zone by sea. IN already has INS Jalashwa (LPD) and five landing ship tanks (Large).

Fleet Support Ships

India had signed with Italian Shipbuilder Fincantieri in 2008 for a fleet tanker with follow-on option of up to three tankers. IN has now exercised this option for one follow-on ship. Meanwhile Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) has selected Turkey’s Anadolu Shipyard to support the construction of five 45,000 tonne fleet support ships for the IN. MoD has also approved induction of five fleet support ships to be indigenously constructed.

Subsurface Vessels

The Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) launched in 2012, envisages at least 18 conventional submarines as compared to 24 in 1997. However the completion of the Kalvari Class project and the final approval to build six additional diesel-electric submarines with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) under Project 75 (India), when finalised, will leverage towards filling the chasm in the existing and future combat power.

Ongoing projects-Project 75

Kalvari Class
INS Kalvari is the first of the six Scorpene class submarines built under Project 75 which was commissioned on December 14, 2017. The second submarine INS Khanderi was commissioned on September 28, 2019. At present Karanj and Vela are under construction. The fifth submarine is named INS Vagir and the sixth INS Vagsheer. The final delivery of the remaining submarines is planned by 2022.

Life Extension and Refit
To overcome the voids in the combat capability, the IN has resorted to upgrading six of its submarines-four of Sindhughosh class and two of Shishumar class under a Major Refit and Life Certification (MRLC) programme. In July 2018, Russia’s shipbuilder Zvezdochka and Larsen and Toubro announced their partnership on an upgrade of four the Sindhughosh-class class submarines at a cost of about 5,000 ($0.7 billion). Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) has been contracted by MDL to upgrade two Shishumar-class submarines for 410 crore (about $0.05 billion) contract.

The Navy will need more than one SSBN to be effective. India plans to have a total of six SSBNs with the second one named INS Arighat has already been launched and is expected to be commissioned by 2021

Submarine Force Accretion-Project 75(I)
The Defence Acquisition Council, approved on January 31, 2019, the construction of six diesel-electric submarines with AIP at a cost of over 45,000, crores (about $6.3 billion). On June 20, 2019, Expression of Interest (EOI) was issued for shortlisting of potential Indian Strategic Partners (SPs) for P 75(I). All six submarines will be built in India by the selected Indian SP in collaboration with the selected OEM. In addition, IN would have the option to manufacture six additional submarines under the project. The potential SPs are expected to respond to the EOI within two months. Media reported that three Indian shipyards- L&T, MDL and HSL are expected to respond to the EOI. The next step would be to issue the RFP to the shortlisted companies. Five leading foreign manufacturers of submarine i.e. Navantia’s S-80, ThyssenKrupp’s Type 214, Rubin’s Amur, Naval Group’s Scorpene and Daewoo’s KSS-3. are expected to respond to the EOI.

Nuclear Submarine Programme
Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) submarine programme was the first baby steps taken by India during 1983 to develop and deploy nuclear submarines to act as India’s sea-based nuclear deterrent, which is one of the three legs of India’s triad of airborne, naval, and land-based platforms as a minimum nuclear deterrent. In order to gain experience in operating nuclear submarines, a Russian Charlie-class nuclearpowered cruise missile submarine was leased from Russia and served in the IN as INS Chakra from 1988 to 1991. In 2012, India again inducted an Akula-II class SSN on a ten-year lease. The first submarine Arihant was launched in 2009 and commissioned in August 2016. The Navy will need more than one SSBN to be effective thus it is reported that India plans to have a total of six SSBNs with the second one named INS Arighat has already been launched and is expected to be commissioned by 2021. In addition, the IN has reported to have already begun construction of two to four more Arihant-class submarines of progressively larger configurations. It is reported that India is also negotiating for a ten-year lease of a Russian Project 971 Shchuka-B class vessel at a cost of $3-billion that will be customised and fitted with indigenous communications systems and sensors. It is likely to be named Chakra-III.