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INDIAN NAVY: A Force to reckon With
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July 15, 2011
India is developing its naval force at rapid pace to achieve the status of a “Blue Water Navy”. Almost 90 percent of the Indian trade is through sea, which compelled India to develop a strong naval force in the Indian Ocean to secure its maritime interests and also to establish its hegemony in the region and beyond. India has 12 major, 21 intermediate and 164 minor ports. It also enjoys strategic location spanning the imperative East-West trade routes, which enables it to control, when necessary, this trade and energy lifeline. The Indian Navy’s main thrust areas include the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. These sea lanes are very important as far as international maritime trade is concerned. Almost 75% of the world’s maritime trade and oil is transported from these areas.
According to the Indian navy’s 2007 maritime strategy Indian aims to “project power” as a means of supporting foreign policy objectives and achieving national aims. Therefore having strong naval force is necessary to achieve regional and global dominance.
Currently Indian Navy stands as the fifth-largest naval force in the world. It has almost 171 vessels and around 250 aircraft and 16 submarines. India has allocated billions of dollars for the modernization of its naval force in a 15-year timeframe. It is estimated that India is planning to spend around 40 billion USD on its naval modernization from 2008 to 2013.
India is on course to develop an unparallel naval force. Indian Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said almost all the naval ships planned to be inducted in the next 15 years would be built in India. This means Indian defense industry will get boost technologically and it would allow India to build more sophisticated warships in future.
According to the Indian Defense minister A K Antony almost “34 ships and submarines are in various stages of construction at different shipyards. A large number of contracts have been concluded for acquisition of aircraft, destroyers, fleet tankers, jet trainers, missiles, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and radars”. With these acquisitions in next 15 years Indian navy will be among the top three naval forces of the world.
According to the Deloitte-CII report titled “Prospects for Global Defence Export Industry in Indian Defence Market” Indian defense expenditures in the few decades will overtake major Western nations like the US…….The report states that India’s current defence expenditure of $32.03 billion will rise to an estimated $42 billion by 2015. The capital expenditure on new weapons platforms will rise from the current $13.04 billion to $19.2 billion in 2015. The level of funding and plans shows that India is looking beyond the region. It is aspiring to achieve a status of a global power.
According to Deloitte-CII report from 2007-2012 Indian military will be spending around $100 billion on weaponry which will be hiked to $120 billion in the following five year plan. The share of the Indian Navy would be $39.35 billion for the induction of new ships and weapon systems.
Most important component of the Indian Naval force is its Aircraft Carrier INS Virat. Indian Navy is planning to induct two more such aircraft carriers in next decade. The 44,500 tonne Admiral Gorshkov is expected to join the naval fleet by the end of next year and According to the Indian Naval chief Admiral Nirmal Verma India's first indigenous aircraft carrier, the IAC, will be commissioned in 2014.
Other important induction in the Indian navy would be nuclear submarines in next few years. India has plans to add a nuclear-powered submarine. The Akula-II class nuclear submarine K-152 Nerpa will be handed over to Indian Navy by Russian Navy by December 2011. Although this submarine will be nuclear propelled, but wouldn't come with a nuclear tipped ballistic missile, India is developing this capability discretely with Russia.
India navy is also developing its indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant which is planned to be inducted in 2012. According to reports this submarine will be able to carry 12 Sagarika K15 SLBMs which have a range of about 700 km in four silos. K15 is in the advance stages of development with the DRDO which is also developing a SLBM version of Agni-III numbered K-4. Four of these missiles can be carried in place of K15, which will have a much longer range than Sagarika.
There are reports that India has started work on the construction of its second nuclear submarine at a classified facility in Visakhapatnam. It is reported that manufacture of the hull and body has begun and Russia is helping to construct reactor. It is a possibility that in 2015 India would be ready for sea trials of this nuclear sub. Indian navy has plans to add almost five indigenously-built nuclear-powered submarines in next decade which may cost almost 2.9 billion USD.
At present India does not possess sea based second strike capability but with these capabilities in place India will achieve its desired goal of achieving a triad at sea with nuclear powered submarine and nuclear tipped ballistic missile.
The Indian navy has also plans to add six more next generation, high tech submarines worth of about 11 billion USD. Apart from this it is already in process to add six Scorpene submarines from France's DCNS. These subs would be equipped with better stealth capability, superior detection range and combat management system.
The Indian Navy’s surface-strike capability is mainly depended on the supersonic BraMos cruise missile which has the range of 290 km. The BraMos can achieve Mach 2.5 speed, which is three times faster than the U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile. This cruise missile will boost Indian navy’s war fighting capabilities against Pakistan.
Indian navy has also improved its surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities with the induction of latest high tech UAVs. Indian Navy currently operates IAI’s Heron medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV and a smaller UAV searcher MKII.
UAV Heron has the capability to carry out operations up to 52 hours duration at 35,000 feet. This system is weather friendly and it is fully automatic launch and recovery capability. This system can carry an array of sensors, including infra-red, intelligence systems, and various radar systems up to a maximum weight of 250 kg.
Another UAV (searcher MKII) in the Indian Navy’s arsenal is a multi mission tactical UAV system used for surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition, artillery fire adjustment and damage assessment. It has an endurance of 20 hour, a range of 300 km, an altitude of 23,000 ft, and can carry a payload of 120 kg.
Indian Navy is planning to induct MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aircraft system from Northrop Grumman. This system is high-altitude and long-endurance.
Indian Navy is aspiring for state of the art radar systems for carrying out ship-borne fighter jet operations. India is planning to add the Saab 2000 multi-role Maritime Patrol Aircraft equipped with Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and a Saab RBS 15 anti-ship missile. It would enhance its maritime surveillance capabilities. This system will also provide Saab 2000 MPA with Identification Friend-or-Foe (IFF) capability with customized interrogator functions. It is also effective for locating and identifying any naval activity. The Saab 2000 MPA has a cruising speed of 350 knots; it can climb to an altitude of 20,000 ft in 10 minutes, reaching operating area 1,000 nautical miles afar within three hours. The Saab 2000 MPA can operate at a maximum range exceeding 2000 nautical miles, with mission endurance exceeding 9.5 hours.
This system will revamp Indian navy’s airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capabilities. It would help Indian navy to effectively patrol and keep a constant eye over its long maritime boundaries.
The Indian Navy is also going to add P-8I, long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare (LRMR & ASW) aircraft from Boeing. This is highly sophisticated and dynamic aircraft; Initially Indian navy planned for eight aircraft, however, Indian Navy has ordered four more P-8I. Boeing has already begun final assembly of Indian navy's first P-81 long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft earlier this month.
India is going to add three modified Krivak III class guided missile frigates. Contract for these three frigates worth $1.6 billion USD singed in 2006 and the first frigate is scheduled for delivery in 2011. The new frigates each will be armed with eight BraMos supersonic cruise missiles. This frigate would have speed of over 35 knots and excellent maneuverability offered by her water jet propulsion. This warship will be effective for high-speed interdiction of fast-moving targets. The craft's speed, agility and quick response will also be useful in search and rescue operations. It would revamp Indian navy’s capabilities for any quick and swift operations at sea.


Military Satellites are vital for the NCW and EW capabilities. India is developing a dedicated satellite to facilitate naval communication. A network centric warfare will be launched into geostationary orbit by ISRO in 2010. This satellite will facilitate the networking of Indian naval warships, submarines and aircraft among themselves as well as with operational centers ashore through high-speed data-links, allowing maritime threats to be detected and shared in real-time to ensure swift reaction. It would be a great asset for Indian navy’s command and control system in future conflicts against Pakistan.

Indian navy has recently added Kamov 31 AEW helicopter from Russia. AEW capability is vital for the Indian Navy to remain central to its surface and sub-surface fleet to undertake assigned mission and tasks at sea. This capability will provide Indian Navy with freedom of action at sea against any possible clash with Pakistan. India navy has signed a deal worth of $1 billion USD with the US Air Force for the multi-role helicopters with the Lockheed Martin-sikorsky MH-60r.

In next few decades Indian navy will improve its naval air arm with the induction of these helicopters and surveillance aircrafts. With these capabilities in place Indian navy will emerge as a credible force to challenge Pakistan’s national security interests at sea.

Marine commando force (MARCOS) is a vital component of the Indian Navy. This force stands at almost 2,000 men. This force is primarily focused on maritime counterterrorism, helliborne special operations. India is planning to double the size of this force. Israel has played and important role in the training, supply of weapon and equipment for this force. Indian MARCOS will be equipped with Israeli-made Tavor assault rifles and Galil sniper rifles to enhance their operational capability. Tavor assault rifle’s reliability in heat, sand, fast-point and fast-shoot design will give MARCOS an edge at close-quarters and employment from inside vehicles.

Indian Navy is developing its overall capabilities at rapid pace. Induction of aircraft carrier, nuclear subs, NCW and EW capabilities, latest radars, weapon and equipment, fast boats, frigates, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircrafts, satellites, UAVs and regular exercises at sea will make Indian navy a serious threat to Pakistan’s maritime interests in future.

It is necessary for Pakistan to monitor Indian naval modernization programme and improve its indigenous defense industry to fulfill emerging demands of the Pakistan Navy because our fragile economy does not allow us to buy new weapon systems from developed countries. Pakistan must enhance its joint collaboration with developed countries like China, Germany, and France etc to develop its naval force and overcome its weaknesses. Pakistan navy should also improve its reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities at sea and again it is advisable that due to economic constraint it must rely on its indigenous defense industry for UAVs specifically for surveillance at sea. Pakistan Navy must have regular exercises with friendly countries to augment its operational war fighting capabilities at sea to overcome future threats and challenges to its national security.


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