Ruling the Waves

by Dec 23, 2023Defence & Foreign Policy0 comments

“We will always have, even if not plenty, sufficient capabilities to surmount any security challenge that our Nation may face”, says India’s Navy Chief


India’s Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral R Harikumar is very clear that the country needs three Aircraft carriers , befitting a blue water navy.

“The Navy is seized of the security implications of the changing maritime/ naval environment in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and maintains a constant and close watch on all developments and fine tune our concept of operations and formulate our capability perspective plans to cater to the developing threat. There is no doubt that the aircraft carrier is central to Navy’s concept of operations and the Navy would need three aircraft carriers to safeguard national maritime interests within our areas of interest against the backdrop of changing geo-politics in the Indian Ocean Region. The Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs) are undoubtedly the source of power projection and provide freedom of manoeuvre in the vast area of operations or interest. The three carriers would arm the Bharatiya Nausena ( Indian Navy) with the required teeth to deter our potential adversaries from many misadventures, as well as to establish credible deterrence in our area of operations”, the Admiral said in an interview.

Asked how will he describe the state of balance between the Indian Navy’s “capacity” and “capabilities” with regard to the dimensions such as surface, sub-surface, aerospace and cyber on the one hand and spheres such as “brown water” and “bluewater”, the Navy Chief said, “ Navy’s military capability and force levels need to encompass a balanced Fleet, with a judicious mix of warships and aircraft of varying sizes and capabilities, possessing requisite reach and combat power in all dimensions. Accordingly, capabilities and capacities both are being enhanced in a balanced manner for undertaking missions in all dimensions of warfare.

“For instance, the acquisition of warships (Carriers, LPD, Destroyers, Frigates etc.) is being progressed together with the induction of submarines, Fighter aircraft, Reconnaissance Aircraft and UAVs, Multirole helicopters etc., and space-based and information warfare Assets. Over the years, IN has transformed itself into a technologically advanced Blue water force. IN has made significant advancements in its sub-surface capabilities with the induction of Scorpene class submarines. These would be augmented in due course with additional submarines.

“The Navy has been the pioneer of space-based communication amongst the three armed forces. We have also developed requisite in-house capability to suitably address challenges in the cyber domain. The IN is also committed to developing at least 75 technologies/ products as part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav and this was recently showcased during Swavlamban 2023. These technologies and products are aimed at not only realising the aim of Aatma-Nirbhar Bharat ( Self-reliant India) but also keeping pace with emerging technologies. Suffice it to note that the state of balance between our capabilities and challenges of operations in blue/brown water are at par and we are only getting better”.

Where does the Indian Navy stand with regard to being self-reliant as much as possible in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” mission? The Admiral answered by saying “ The Navy has nurtured indigenous shipbuilding programmes since the 60s, when INS Ajay, the first indigenously built ship, was delivered by GRSE, Kolkata. Since then the Navy has transformed from a ‘Buyers Navy’ into a ‘ Builders Navy’ , with an aircraft carrier, destroyers, stealth frigates, corvettes, submarines and other war vessels being constructed in the country.

“The Defence Acquisition Procedure DAP-20 derives its ethos and spirit from the clarion call of an Aatma-Nirbhar Bharat and Make in India, made by the Hon’ble Prime Minister. With impetus on indigenous production of Naval equipment and platforms, Bharatiya Nausena (Indian Navy) is committed to becoming fully Aatma-Nirbhar by 2047. The Navy has been the pioneer Service towards indigenisation and promoting ‘Make in India’ initiative, with ‘Self Reliance in Defence Production’ having been a top priority for the Service in the past six decades. This is evident from the fact that, till date, over 130 ships have been built and commissioned in India. In the last 10 years, an average of 65% of the total expenditure has been focused towards Indigenous procurement. This year 80% of our budget is towards domestic expenditure.

“Navy is committed towards the timely development and induction of successful indigenised products into the Service. During ‘Swavlamban-2022’ seminar, 75 ‘Challenge Statements’ for Indian Industry, as part of an ambitious endeavour titled ‘SPRINT’ (Supporting Pole-Vaulting in R& D through iDEX, NIIO and TDAC) were unveiled by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, aimed at developing at least 75 indigenous technologies/ products for the Indian Navy. Subsequently, over 1100 proposals were received in response to Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC 7 SPRINT & Open Challenge 6) and 333 firms/ MSMEs were shortlisted for presenting their solution to the High Power Screening Committee (HPSC). Winners (118 firms/ innovators) of DISC 7 SPRINT & PRIME challenges were declared on 28 Sep and 10 Oct 22 respectively. Based on successful trials, AoN for 14 iDEX cases worth Rs 1342.33 Cr have been accorded till date, of which three contracts worth Rs 188.21 Cr have been concluded.

“It is notable that today, out of 67 shipbuilding projects, 65 are being built by Indian Shipyards. We've achieved impressive milestones, with approximately 90% indigenization in the Float segment, 60% in the Move segment, and 50% in the Fight segment. The Government of India has taken commendable steps to promote self-reliance in recent years, and the Bharatiya Nausena has actively embraced various national Make-in-India initiatives. These include schemes such as Make, Technology Development Fund (TDF), and Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX), all of which have played a pivotal role in transforming the Navy into a technologically advanced and self-reliant force.

“Currently, we are advancing more than 100 projects under the IDEX scheme, 25 projects under the TDF scheme, and 37 projects under the Make scheme. SWAVLAMBAN 2.0 – IN’s indigenization plan was unveiled by the Honourable Raksha Mantri ( Defence Minister) on October 4, 2023 to act as a comprehensive reference document of all Indigenisation requirements of the Navy.”

On the question whether as the principal organisation to preserve and promote India’s maritime interests in general and in the Indo-Pacific in particular, the Indian Navy has the requisite power to meet the emerging geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges, the Admiral said, “ No Commander would ever say that he had everything he needed, to fight every possible war, against every likely enemy, under every probable condition. Therefore, in absolute terms it will always appear that the capabilities are insufficient.

“However, we are an aspirational growing power, where military budgets will obviously be balanced against developmental, social, and welfare-oriented imperatives. Therefore, the Navy looks at maximizing the budget allocation through, detailed perspective plans that bring out exactly what is needed, how much is needed and by when.

“Moreover, these plans align with the broader maritime strategy being pursued. This ensures that we remain well equipped to tackle the envisaged threats. Our endeavour is to make every rupee count, be it for capital acquisition or revenue expenditure.

“Also, we have kept our focus on spending the full quota of the allocated budget – which in turn, ensures that our budgetary projections match with our plans, and the impetus remains to materialise the plan on ground into reality. This results in timely acquisition of assets, weapons, sensors and machinery, as well as timely maintenance and upkeep of our existing inventory.

“SumTotal of meticulous planning and prudent spending is that the Navy remains Combat Ready, Credible, Cohesive and Future-Proof as the budget is translated into desired capabilities and capacities, guided by the vision of being a fully Aatma-Nirbhar Force by 2047.

“Having said that, I am confident that, as our Nation continues to maintain a positive trajectory of growth, the Services’ and the Navy’s share of budget will also increase. We will always have, even if not plenty, sufficient capabilities to surmount any security challenge that our Nation may face”.

Has the Indian Navy learnt lessons, if any, from the ongoing War in Ukraine? To this question, the Chief of the Indian Navy replied, “ We have been closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine. As regards its impact on the sustenance of our platforms, we have identified dependencies of spares for the maintenance of our legacy platforms, and alternatives have been found in most of the cases.

“As far as lessons from the conflict are concerned, self-reliance in the defence sector has re-emerged as one of the important takeaways. We have accordingly intensified our efforts towards self-reliance and accorded greater impetus to indigenisation.”

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x