India to establish a Maritime Theatre Command
In his annual Navy Day conference on Thursday, the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh has said that efforts are on to establish the ‘Maritime Theatre Command’ in the near future, which would further buttress ‘Joint planning and application of force’ in the maritime domain.
Below is the text of the Admiral’s address:
I would like to place on record, the Navy’s appreciation for the role played by the media in keeping our citizens informed about naval and maritime issues, thereby, contributing towards shaping the maritime discourse in the Country.
Over the next 15 minutes, I will provide you with a broad overview of the Indian Navy’s major operational activities over the past year, following which, I shall highlight some of our future plans. Thereafter, I will be glad to take on your questions.
The year 2020 has been defined by the COVID pandemic, which disrupted and permeated every aspect of life. Tensions along our Northern borders significantly increased the complexities in our security situation. This dual-challenge scenario continues as we speak and the country, collectively, continues to battle the pandemic and tackle security challenges. In these testing times, the Indian Navy aims to stand steadfast as a ‘Combat-ready, Credible and Cohesive force’ furthering our national and maritime interests.
COVID Response and Contributions
I will start with some of Navy’s efforts in the fight against COVID. The Indian Navy, in fulfilling our responsibilities to the Nation and its citizens, turned ‘Care-Givers’ during the pandemic. Naval aircraft contributed to transportation of samples and test equipment on numerous occasions. Naval hospital facilities were made available to the civil administrations at various places to cater for increased healthcare requirements. In support of the national effort against COVID, Naval personnel also displayed innovation in manufacture of solutions like indigenised PPE, and healthcare equipment.
The Navy undertook its largest ever Non-combatant Evacuation under the aegis of Operation Samudra Setu, wherein, nearly 4000 Indian nationals in Iran, Maldives and Sri Lanka were brought back home during the pandemic.
While the natural tendency is to look inwards in difficult times, the Government of India and Indian Navy looked outwards, extending support and succor to our friends and partners during the pandemic. Missions Sagar I and II, involving deployment of Naval medical teams, medicines and humanitarian aid to friendly foreign countries across the IOR, received wide-spread recognition, reiterating India’s commitment to the region.
Prompt implementation of preventive measures across the Navy aided in minimising the disruptive impact of the pandemic on our operational readiness. Our focus on maintaining combat and mission readiness aided the Navy in deterring any misadventure in the maritime domain, while contributing to the national COVID effort.
Our ‘Mission Based Deployment’ philosophy has enhanced Indian Navy’s presence across the region enabling rapid responses to emerging security challenges. The Indian Navy has established a persistent footprint in our areas of interest, including at various choke points in the Indian Ocean. Naval deployments also serve as a deterrent to inimical interests, clearly signalling the Navy’s reach, capability and intent.
The Indian Navy also remains continuously deployed to curb maritime piracy in the Gulf of Aden. 84 IN ships have been deployed in the region since 2008.
In addition to anti-piracy, owing to heightened tensions in the Straits of Hormuz, our warships also remained deployed in the Gulf since June 2019, to reassure Indian merchant marine transiting the region. Naval ships have escorted 169 Indian Flagged Merchant vessels and 170 lakh tons of cargo under the aegis of Op SANKALP.
Among major, intra-Navy exercises, we conducted the Table-Top Exercise SHIKSHA, wherein contingencies across the spectrum of operations were war-gamed. The pan-Navy war game, Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (or TROPEX in short) is scheduled in early2021.The exercise will witness participation of all our operational ships, submarines and aircraft, as well as units from Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Coast Guard. As part of TROPEX, we will also be conducting a large scale Coastal Defence Exercise ‘Ex SEA VIGIL’ involving all maritime security stakeholders.
Aligned with the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ – Security And Growth for All in the Region–INparticipated in 13 bilateral and multilateral exercises, this year. The most recent exercise, Malabar, with US, Japanese and Australian Navies, contributed to enhanced cooperation and trust. As part of the Government of India’s vision of ‘Neighbourhood First’, the Indian Navy undertook Joint EEZ surveillance with Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius, as well as Coordinated Patrols (CORPATs) with Bangladesh, Thailand and Indonesia.IN ships were also deployed to undertake hydrographic surveys for friendly littoral countries, on their request, for about 130 days. Our engagement with friendly foreign countries, including under the IONS construct, aim to build collective maritime competence and, include the element of capacity building and capability enhancement. These engagements help improve interoperability, enhance security, and reaffirm our commitment as the ‘Preferred Security Partner’ in the IOR. On this note, I would also like to inform that training of personnel from friendly foreign countries, which had been held in abeyance owing to the COVID, have been recommenced last month. We have also started online training for foreign trainees in specific verticals to restart training effort during COVID.
While we improve operational capabilities and forge closer maritime ties with our neighbours and partners, we also continue to be proactive in rendering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.INS Airavat provided succor to Madagascar in the aftermath of Cyclone Dianne in Jan 20. Airavat and Trik and escorted food shipments to Kenya and Somalia through piracy infested waters off East Africa, as part of the United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP). The UN WFP, as you all know, also won the Nobel Prize this year. Nireekshak assisted the Government of Mauritius in salvage operations of grounded Merchant Ship Wakashio. Sahyadriwas the ‘On Scene Commander’ for coordinating firefighting, salvage and towing operations of fire stricken oil tanker New Diamond off the East coast of Sri Lanka. The prompt response to these contingencies demonstrate our resolve to be the ‘First Responder’ in the region.
Information is a critical building block towards ensuring comprehensive maritime security. In this endeavour, the Information Fusion Centre at Gurugram, commissioned in 2018, has established itself as the hub of maritime security information in the IOR, through white shipping exchange agreements with 21 countries and 20 Maritime Security centres. International Liaison Officers from 13 countries have been invited, and 03 ILOs have joined the centre, with 03 more likely to join shortly.
I will now move on to force level planning and future acquisitions.
Induction of new assets and capabilities is being progressed in consonance with the Navy’s long-term perspective plans. In building a future Navy, we remain committed to the vision of ‘Make-in-India’ ‘Atmanirbharata’ in the defence sector.
Indian Navy’s commitment to ‘Self Reliance in Defence Production’ is evident from the fact that all 24 ships and submarines commissioned into the Navy over the last six years have been built in India. Further, of the 43 ships and submarines, currently under construction, 41 are being built at Indian shipyards. These include the Aircraft Carrier –Vikrant, P-15B Class Destroyers, P17A class stealth Frigates and Scorpene class submarines.
Amongst these projects, Vikrant is at an advanced stage of construction and will commence sea trials in early 2021. Visakhapatnam, the first of the P 15B destroyers is undergoing trials and is scheduled to be commissioned next year. We also commissioned the indigenously built Landing Craft LCU L57 in May this year, and ASW Corvette Kavaratti in October. ‘Himgiri’, the second of the seven ships of P17A frigates will be launched later this month at GRSE, Kolkata.
Modernisation of the submarine arm is also underway. The delivery of the third Scorpene(P75) class boat, Karanj, is expected by the end of the month, the fourth boat, Vela, is undergoing sea trials and fifth boat Vagir was launched recently.
As regards aviation, we inducted three ALH Mk III, four Chetak, eight Dornier and one P8I aircraft this year. Contracts for procurement of six P8Is, six Kamov 31 helicopters and upgrade of six Heron RPAs are under process and likely to be concluded in 2021. We also signed the LOA for 24 MRH helicopter from the United States through the FMS route this year, with deliveries starting next year.
Phase IIA of Project Seabird at Karwar is progressing on track. Construction of eight operational and two refit piers, creation of a full-fledged Naval Dockyard, upgrading of the hospital at Karwar and construction of a Naval Air Station are planned during this Phase.
IN has been at the forefront of indigenisation over the past seven decades. Indigenisation of major equipment and systems is being progressed through multiple avenues available in the updated Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020. The Indian Navy also established the Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO) to facilitate closer interaction with industry and provide a fillip to innovation.
Human Resource and Training
We have taken measures towards enhancing opportunities for women officers in the Navy. In this regard, maiden induction of observers into the helicopter stream, appointment to Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) squadron, and induction into Provost specialisation are some of the milestones achieved. Four women officers have also been appointed on ships, and two women officers have been appointed to overseas billets at Maldives and Moscow.
In consonance with the verdict delivered by the Supreme Court, Short Service Commission officers are being considered for Permanent Commission in the Navy.
A few words are also in order about the defence reforms currently underway in India. I would like to reiterate the Navy’s wholehearted support for reforms in our Higher Defence Organisation, and on enhancing Tri-Service Synergy. We are looking at the establishment of the ‘Maritime Theatre Command’ in the near future, which would further buttress ‘Joint planning and application of force’ in the maritime domain.
To Conclude, Ladies and Gentlemen, in keeping with this year’s Navy Week theme, which is ‘Indian Navy -Combat Ready, Credible and Cohesive’, I would like to assure, that as the primary manifestation of India’s maritime power, the Indian Navy stands ready to fulfil its mandate to protect our national interests in the maritime domain.
On behalf of all uniformed and civilian personnel of the Indian Navy, I take this opportunity to convey my best wishes to our countrymen on the occasion of Navy Day.
Jai Hind. Sam no Varunah.