“Our operations shall revolve around two active Carrier Battle Groups, necessitating a force level of three Carriers”

Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of the Naval Staff speaks to Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, SP’s Naval Forces, in an exclusive interaction on the occasion of the Indian Navy Day 2020

Issue: 6-2020 Photo(s): By Indian Navy PRO
Admiral Karambir Singh is leading the Indian Navy from the front as it undertakes much expanded responsibilities in the Indian Ocean Region

SP’s Naval Forces (SP’s): As our Navy celebrates Swarnim Vijay Varsh to commemorate 50 years of India’s victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, would you like to share your thoughts on the same and the way our Navy plans for the future?

Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS): It is, indeed, a proud moment for the nation, as we celebrate 50 years of our triumph in the 1971 war and the liberation. The sacrifices and valour of our heroes forms the bedrock for today’s Navy. The blueprint of the modern Indian Navy was conceptualised and shaped by these heroes and pioneers. The success and growth has been possible, in no small measure, due to the foresight and dedication of our predecessors.

The Indian Navy of present, has grown into a significant maritime force from its humble beginning of 33 ships. As the primary manifestation of India’s maritime power, the Indian Navy has evolved into a force to reckon with, manned by dedicated and professional men and women. Our modern ships, submarine and aircraft remain on watch around the clock to keep our waters safe from threats arising from and at sea. We have been able to maintain a high operational tempo, responding to strategic and operational challenges.

Notwithstanding budgetary constraints, the Indian Navy is on a steady path to build adequate capacity and capability to safeguard our interests in a highly complex and dynamic strategic environment, which will throw up challenges and disruptors. We aim to negotiate these challenges by remaining agile and striving to be futureproof. We continue to constantly upgrade, modernise and transform our operational, training, administrative and functional infrastructure, and remain abreast of our widening canvas, to cater to emerging operational and functional challenges.

“Till date, 63 Acceptance of Necessity (AoNs) amounting to 1.63 Lakh Crore have been accorded to Capital Acquisition Schemes under the ‘Make in India’ initiative”

Our focus, therefore, is to induct platforms to achieve a balanced ‘force mix’ for undertaking Roles, Missions and Objectives in our Areas of Interest and also facilitate Out-of-Area Operations. Towards achieving this, we are following a focussed capability development plan. Further in the future, our operations shall revolve around two active Carrier Battle Groups, with one carrier under maintenance, thus, necessitating a force level of three Carriers.

SP’s: Can you elaborate our Navy’s role in achieving the target of $5 trillion economy?

CNS: Nearly 90 per cent of India’s international trade by volume is sea borne. Blue Economy, which consists of economic activities dependent on marine resources, comprises 4.1 per cent of India’s economy and is likely to grow further. A ‘$5 Trillion Economy’ can be achieved in a safe, secure and stable environment. IN is responsible for overall maritime security and plays a key role in ensuring nation’s growth.

IN has been at the forefront of Government of India’s modernisation efforts. Till date, 63 Acceptance of Necessity (AoNs) amounting to 1.63 Lakh Crore have been accorded to Capital Acquisition Schemes under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. The cases are being progressed under various categorisations of Buy (Indian - IDDM), Buy (Indian), Buy and Make (India). IN has been supporting the PSUs/ DPSUs/ Private shipyards, which are manpower intensive. The efforts of IN will aid in generation of job opportunities and enable skilling of work force. A substantive part of naval budget is ploughed back into the Indian shipbuilding ecosystem, including number of MSMEs, thereby contributing to the economy. More than 75 per cent of the cost of IAC, for instance, has gone towards indigenous sourcing, boosting the Indian economy. Further, in empirical terms, every rupee spent on shipbuilding has 1.8 time multiplier effect downstream and every person employed at the shipyard generates jobs for six persons in other supporting industries.

SP’s: While there has been so much of criticism for the IAC-2, the project which is bound to generate considerable employment for country to say the least. How do you propose to advocate the irresistible requirement of the same? And within what time line, you would like to see this getting fructified?

CNS: Emergent security scenario dictates Indian Navy has the capability to operate and achieve sea control in two distinct areas of interest which could be widely dispersed on both the seaboards (West and East). This requirement was envisaged and factored in, while drawing up the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP). Accordingly, necessity of three aircraft carriers has been projected, so that two carriers could be operationally deputed and one could be under maintenance at any given time. Considerable amount of preparatory work to define the form and fit of the platform meeting Indian Navy requirements has already been completed. The IAC-2 is envisaged to be a 65,000 tonne Carrier with Integrated Full Electric Propulsion (IFEP), capable of doing maximum speed of 30 knots. It would employ Catapult Assisted Take-off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) concept of flying operations with advanced landing and recovery equipment.

Since niche technologies are involved, it is planned to undertake consultancy for certain aspects of design and propulsion. Towards this, RFI has been floated and inputs have been sought from agencies having considerable experience in this field. Whilst budget constraints are often referred to, our planned spread of expenditure indicates that Indian Navy will be able to meet this requirement, in addition to the induction of other planned assets. The Indigenous Carrier programme also gives a significant boost to ‘Make in India’ and ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’ and the ‘Plough Back Effects’ of projects of this magnitude to the economy are tremendous. The IAC-2 project would create extensive job opportunities/skill development, infrastructure augmentation, encourage indigenous shipbuilding and business opportunities to MSMEs. This has been experienced in our current Indigenous Aircraft Carrier programme (IAC-1), being built by Cochin Shipyard Limited at Kochi.

“The case for the 30 weaponised versions of the Sea Guardian drones from the US is in progress and Indian Navy will be getting 10 drones with underwater Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities”

As regards the timeline for IAC-2, once the approval of Government of India is accorded, the design process will take approximately three to four years and, thereafter, the construction period could be from 8 to 10 years.

SP’s: Would you like to indicate (as candidly as possible) on some of the Must-Wish List of our Navy as of today to be able to meet any kind of threats of any levels for the nation? If you can also indicate on some of the key modernisation programmes currently active and being pursued with full force?

CNS: Modernisation of the Navy is being driven by the core value of Combat Readiness, which is the fundamental reason for our existence, with ‘Ordnance on Target’ as an important measure of combat effectiveness. Accordingly, capabilities are being created for accomplishing a range of missions across the entire spectrum of threats and challenges. Indian Navy has kept pace with the developing security situation in the region. The ‘Must-Wish List’ for any Modern Navy would include -

  • Satellite based and long range surveillance capability,
  • Long endurance sub-surface assets and
  • Modern surface fleet ships with effective air defence and shore strike capability.

Towards this, the present force levels are being augmented/ modernised according to a laid down long term plan and is being undertaken in an incremental fashion continuously.

Indian Navy has evolved into a force to reckon with under the leadership of Admiral Karambir Singh

Presently 43 ships and submarines are under construction, out of which 41 are being built in Indian shipyards. The first indigenous aircraft carrier is under construction at Cochin Shipyard Limited, Kochi, with likely delivery in later half of 2021. Four destroyers of Project 15B are being constructed at Mazagon Docks and delivery is likely to commence from 2021. Seven frigates of Project 17A Class are under construction at Mazagon Docks and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and their delivery will commence from 2022 onwards. Further, contracts for four Project 1135.6 follow on ships have been concluded in 2018. Contract for 16 ASW Shallow Water Craft has been concluded in 2019.

In addition, ‘Acceptance of Necessity’ has also been accorded for 38 ships and six Project 75 (I) Submarines. The delivery of four additional P8-I Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft is scheduled by 2021. Indian Navy has also contracted HAL to deliver 36 aircraft comprising 12 Dorniers (six delivered), 16 ALH and eight Chetak. Further, Acceptance of Necessity has also been accorded for procurement of Naval Utility Helicopters under the Strategic Partnership Model. We are also looking to procure additional P8-I aircraft and high altitude, long endurance Remotely piloted aircraft system (HALE RPAS) to augment our surveillance capabilities.

“The Indigenous Carrier programme (IAC-2) also gives a significant boost to ‘Make in India’ and ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’ and the ‘Plough Back Effects’ of projects of this magnitude to the economy are tremendous”

The Indian Navy holds a mix of weapons, sensors and equipment of varied vintage. Modernisation of existing weapons/sensors/equipment and procurement of new weapons and systems is an ongoing process. On one hand, the obsolescence management and capability enhancement is achieved through Mid Life Upgrade (MLU), where in vintage weapons/sensors/equipment are upgraded through requisite modifications/replaced with more contemporary systems. In addition, procurement of new weapons/sensors/ equipment including several indigenous cases under the ‘Make in India’ initiative have contributed towards efforts to maintain the ideal mix of State-of-the-Art, current and vintage weapon/equipment/sensors.

SP’s: Would you like to take us through the challenges that have an ongoing impact on our Navy’s capacity build-up task?

CNS: With our limited budgetary allocations, we do face some fiscal challenges in the modernisation process and day-to-day running of the Navy. While our budgetary constraints are being discussed jointly with all concerned stakeholders, the Navy remains committed to maintaining a high level of operational preparedness and progress its modernisation plans, within the available resources. In the face of shortages, emphasis is being laid on prioritisation, rationalisation and economy of expenditure; in short getting more bang for the buck.

There is also a need to increase the technological base in the country, enhance the capacity and expertise of our public sector shipyards to reduce build-time and also involve the private sector to make good current short-falls in our force levels, in a time-bound manner.

SP’s: With 2 leased unarmed drones, do you think the requirements are met? Plans were of 10 armed drones for each service totaling to a total of 30 that too the armed.

CNS: Procurement of the two drones - Sea Guardian, unarmed version of the Predator was under the emergency procurement to enhance surveillance over the Indian Ocean region. These drones are leased for a few years and the maintenance of these drones will be taken care by the American firm. The case for the 30 weaponised versions of the Sea Guardian drones from the US is in progress and Indian Navy will be getting 10 drones with underwater Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities.