EXCLUSIVE

“We are witnessing a significant geo-political transformation in our maritime environment and a shift to a multipolar world centered around the Indo-Pacific”

—Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff, in an interaction with Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, SP’s Naval Forces, lays out the roadmap for the modernisation and future growth plans of Indian Navy

Issue: 1/2022 Photo(s): By Indian Navy
Admiral R. Hari Kumar is leading the modernisation and capability enhancement of the Indian Navy as it undertakes an increased role in the Indian Ocean Region

SP’s Naval Forces (SP’s): Would you like to share on certain initiatives taken by our Navy in alignment with the Atmanirbharta initiative introduced by Government of India?

Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS): Indian Navy’s indigenous drive over the last few years has resulted in achieving substantial indigenisation in the field of hull, machinery and electrical/electronic equipment. The equipment and machinery fitted on board ships in the three categories of Float, Move and Fight has been indigenised to the extent of 90 per cent, 60 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.

Indian Navy’s commitment to ‘Self Reliance in Defence Production’ is evident from the fact that all 28 ships and submarines commissioned into the Navy over the last seven years have been built in India. Further, of the 39 ships and submarines, currently under construction, 37 are being built at Indian shipyards. These include the Aircraft Carrier - Vikrant, P-15B Class Destroyers, P17A class stealth Frigates and Scorpene class submarines. In the last one year, we commissioned three major indigenous platforms – Visakhapatnam, Karanj and Vela, launched Himgiri and Vagir, undertook successful trial sorties of IAC, inducted 13 aircraft and commissioned the first ALH MK III Squadron, in pursuance of ‘Aatmanirbharta’.

The Navy has been constantly interacting with the DRDO, PSUs and Industry to promote and nurture the indigenisation drive. Presently there are 37 ships and submarines being built in various Indian shipyards.

Over the past 10 years, a number of major systems/equipment, spares and sub-assemblies have been developed with large number of cases in various stages of execution. At present 22 major equipment and systems are under development along with over 100 assemblies and sub-assemblies. Almost 500+ items are on our roll-on plan for Indigenisation and are being progressively addressed.

The Indian Navy has been a strong proponent of indigenisation and considerable ground has been covered in the ‘Float’ and ‘Move’ categories of Naval platforms. Concurrent impetus is also being accorded to selfreliance in the ‘Fight’ component. Towards this, existing GoI policies and initiatives are being harnessed to utilise the full potential of Indian Industry and Academia. A document ‘SWAVLAMBAN’ has been uploaded on www.indiananavy.nic.in, which provides a roadmap for developing indigenous capabilities and enables industry to better appreciate Navy’s requirements and priorities.

“Whilst the submarine force level is adequate to respond to current threats, we need to expeditiously progress planned acquisition progress to be future ready”

Further, in pursuance to ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ announcement, MoD/DDP has launched portal ‘www.srijandefence.gov.in’ for wide visibility of equipment/items that need focused indigenised development by the three Services. The portal enables increase in vendor base and expedites the process of identifying relevant fields of expertise available commercially. The Indian Navy has, to-date, a list of more than 300 items hosted on the portal, of which, supply-orders have been placed for 67 items.

SP’s: Air Power at Sea is one of the most crucial requirement for the Navy. What do you think should be done to ensure that Indian Navy is not lagging behind?

CNS: Air operations at sea are integral to Indian Navy’s concept of operations. In order to ensure keeping pace with technological advancements and growing aviation requirements, aircraft carriers have been a priority area for the Indian Navy. The development of our first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier by overcoming numerous challenges is testimony of our resolve. The Indian Navy is looking forward to early integration of the MH-60R and upgraded Kamov 28 with the fleet. Additionally, the Indian Navy is steadfastly pursuing development of the indigenous Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF), which is likely to fructify by the XVth Defence Plan. Under the aegis of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, impetus is also being laid upon indigenous development to allow light, durable and increased air frame life, thus enabling maximisation of operational exploitation as compared to existing platforms.

Admiral R. Hari Kumar presenting a memento to Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, SP’s Naval Forces during their interaction

SP’s: When are we likely to get the AoN for the Armed UAVs? Can you kindly share the experience you have had with the two UAVs leased from US, till now?

CNS: The joint case for procurement of MQ-9B HALE RPAs is likely to be considered by Defence Acquisition Council for accord of Acceptance of Necessity. The Indian Navy has leased two unarmed version of the preproduction MQ-9B HALE RPAS in order to meet immediate requirements. The performance of the platform has been as per expectations of the Indian Navy. These drones have been effectively employed by the Navy to augment air effort required to provide battle field transparency, develop MDA and also monitor trade and commerce passing through the key choke points in the IOR.

SP’s: What is the current status of our Navy’s submarine arm?

CNS: As on date, the Indian Navy has 17 submarines in commission. In so far as the expansion plans of the submarine arm are concerned, the first three P-75 submarines were commissioned between December 2017 and March 2021. The fourth submarine Vela was commissioned last month and the fifth submarine is at an advanced stage of trials. The RFP for a new class of submarines under Project 75(I) has been issued. Construction of all submarines of P-75(I) will be carried out in India under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model. Additionally, the Government has also approved a proposal for extending the service life of four Sindhughosh class and two Shishumar class submarines. As part of this, two submarines have already arrived in India post completion of Medium Refit cum Life Certification (MRLC) at Russia. MRLC of the third and fourth submarine are ongoing and are likely to be completed by mid-2022.

Whilst the submarine force level is adequate to respond to current threats, we need to expeditiously progress planned acquisition progress to be future ready. The required force levels of our submarines and strategy of their operation in the future are in accordance with the overall naval plans of countering threats to national interests close to the coast as well in distant waters. Most of our submarines have been modernised and upgraded in terms of their weapons-sensors suite as well as their crew-support system. The Indian Navy’s submarine arm is a potent force, fully capable of accomplishing a wide range of operational tasks.

SP’s: How is the case for P75(I) progressing?

CNS: Project 75(I) is the first case to be progressed under the Strategic Partnership model and includes several unique requirements like Life Cycle Sustenance, Indigenisation Roadmap, Incentivisation, Transfer of Technology, etc. The RFP of the project is unique with no precedence in other ship building cases. Certain clarifications related to the SP model and other requirements were sought by the Indian Applicant Companies and potential Foreign Collaborators. These clarifications are being suitably addressed. All efforts are being made to progress the Project within the envisaged timelines.

SP’s: What is your Vision in the context of the Navy’s work force and their empowerment and coping with the Technological Advancements as they evolve?

CNS: I sincerely believe that Navy’s workforce has a major contribution towards achieving the aim of a ‘Combat Ready, Credible, Cohesive and Future-Proof Force’. We have instituted responsive HR management, contemporary training, pro-active administration and greater integration of the Naval community. Towards this, the minimum entry qualification of officers and sailors has been enhanced to B.Tech and 10+2 respectively. Up-skilling of personnel is an ongoing process, wherein officers and sailors are deputed for contemporary courses at regular intervals, including courses in niche fields such as AI/ML, Cyber, IT, nuclear technology, project management, ship building etc. Vacancies for M.Tech courses are being increased from 75 to 110 per year. In addition, personnel are also deputed for suitable courses abroad to remain in-date with the rapidly changing technology.

SP’s: What will be your key message to the Sailors and Officers of Indian Navy as we celebrate the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’?

CNS: As we celebrate the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ and ‘Swarnim Vijay Varsh’ this year, we can look back and appreciate the transformation of the Indian Navy into a potent Blue Water Navy. This has been made possible due to the vision, hard work and perseverance of our predecessors.

But we cannot rest on our laurels, as we are witnessing a significant geo-political transformation in our maritime environment and a shift to a multipolar world centered around the Indo-Pacific. To promote, preserve and protect our maritime interests in such an environment, we need to be not just a strong and modern Navy, but also a future proof Navy.

Our raison-de-etre remains ‘Readiness for Conflict’, which aims to win across the spectrum of competition and cooperation by focusing on the pillars of Sustained Operations, Enhanced Domain Awareness, Meticulous Maintenance, Efficient Logistics, Evolving Training and Professional personnel.

My message to the officers and sailors of the Indian Navy would be to prepare for the future battlefield, focus on winning every day, reaffirm their dedication to the nation, work hard and train harder to become professionals of the highest order.