President Roosevelt’s, “A strong navy is the best insurance for peace”and Pandit Nehru’s belief, “To be strong on land, we must be strong at sea,” both as policy statements, are being realised by India, with its stronger economy and confidence in its military to have a say in world events. India’s history has been influenced from the seas with the arrival of foreign powers in the 1400s, beginning with Vasco da Gama who came from Portugal, then the French and the British who took over Portuguese territories on the coast and concurrently defeated the maritime forces of the French, Shivaji Maharaj and the Angres. Whitehall ruled India till its independence in 1947. India’s army fought in the First World War and all three services including the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) and Royan Indian Navy (RIN) fought for the Allied victory in the Second World War, but adequate credit was suppressed, though it is recorded as part of British archives in Greenwich.
The Indian Navy deputed Cmde Johnson Oddakal to Greenwich in UK to research and write the accurate history of the Royal Indian Navy’s contribution in World War Two and names and heroic exploits of Admirals BS Soman, N Krishnan and SG Karmarkar and others who were decorated and naval actions in the Indian Ocean, Arakan, Burma and Middle East are recorded in, “Timeless Wake”. Since then the Indian Navy has grown in its surface and submarine fleet with one hundred and twenty four ships, some due to be decommissioned, thirteen ageing Kilos(9), and HDW-1500 (4) conventional submarines with just around 70,000 strength. One nuclear submarine INS Arihant has been commissioned and two more are under construction. More recently, its powerful Aviation arm has risen to 160 aircraft.
The Rise of the Indian Navy: From Buyer to Builder
The Navy over the years has transformed from a ‘buyer to a builder’s Navy. From the arrival of the cruiser INS Delhi (ex HMS Achilles) soon after Independence on 5th July 1948 and aircraft carrier INS Vikrant (ex HMS Hercules 1961-1987) and nine other Type 12/14/16 newly built frigates and the 8,000 ton cruiser INS Mysore (ex HMS Nigeria 1958) armed with nine 6 inch guns supplied from the United Kingdom, gave a
firm base to the Indian Navy sea going personnel to build 3,000 ton INS Nilgiri in Mazagon Shipyard & Docks Ltd (MSDL) in to the 1970s and moved ahead on self reliance.
It is indeed a matter of pride that the Directorate General Naval Design (DGND) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and Navy’s in house R&D set up Weapons Electronic Systems Establishment (WESEE) as a dedicated storehouse to provide cutting edge technology to modernise India’s legacy Navy ships by retrofits and to aim higher. WESSE also has contributed to communication security modems, cyber security and linked ISRO launched GSAT7 with for data transfer via the space satellite and Orbit Technologies Rukmini terminals on ships and ashore.
Surface Fleet is now Missile Powerful
Navy’s expanding surface and underwater fleet’s two nuclear submarines (the INS Chakra and Arihant) and nine conventional submarines, now support the newly commissioned six powerful 7,000 ton Indian designed and Indian built destroyers (three P15 Delhi class and three P15A Kochi class) and nine frigates (three Type 17 Shivaliks and six Krivacks from Russia), brimming with missiles (Klub, BrahMos and AA Barak1/8). Three tankers (INS Deepak, Shakti and Jyoti) support the Navy’s task forces.
The future Indian Navy has thirty eight ships and eight submarines (two nuclear and six Scorpenes) on order in Indian shipyards, and expects to commission four to five platforms join every year, to attempt achieve the target of 167 modern ships by 2027 and induct two DRRVs from UK.
Naval Aviation and Satellite GSAT Comes of Age Navy is three dimensional and space is being added as its fourth dimension along with Cyber, which is space dependent. In the last decade, naval aviation has acquired bigger wings, and GSAT 7 satellite launched by ISRO gives Navy internet power of the 21st century for data transfer and with Indian Regional NavigationSatellite System (7 satellite IRNS) missile targeting and cyber power.
Lt Cdr YN Singh, RIN, was India’s first aircraft carrier pilot in 1941 in UK. He flew sorties from RN carriers in the Second World War, and took over as the Squadron Commander of the Sealand Fleet Requirement Unit (FRU) in 1953 at INS Garuda in Cochin with UK trained Navy’s pioneer pilots and observers.
Britain’s First Sealord, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Mountbatten, former Governor General of India visited FRU at Cochin on 20 March, 1953. Mountbatten is credited to have written Indian Navy’s first plans for a three aircraft carrier Navy and set up a fledging Aviation Directorate under Capt HC Ranalds, OBE, RN. On 9th April, Lt BD Law demonstrated the first Sealand water landing in the Cochin waters. On 10th October, 1953, ten Sealands took part in the ‘Fly Past’ for President Rajendra Prasad’s Review of the Fleet.
Naval aviation has never looked back since, and acquired INS Vikrant (Ex Hercules) in 1961 with Seahawks and French ASW Breguet Alize aircraft with latest ARAR EW suites in 300 (White Tigers) and 310 (Cobra) Squadrons respectively. The pilots blooded themselves in the 1971 war in the Bay of Bengal, and Navy’s Osa missile boats sank three ships off Karachi on 4 December in Op Trident and two others on 8 December. They also hit Karachi’s Kemari oil tanks that were set on fire by IAF Hunters on 4th. Indian militaries jointly gave India victory to liberate Bangladesh, and the Navy came out with flying colours in its first war co-operating with the Indian Air Force and Army operating from the seas and flying off INS Vikrant’s deck, heralding missile warfare.
The recent growth of Indian Naval Aviation with induction of newer Dorniers-228 in theNavy with IR systems/Elta radars and Compass Electro-Optical FLIR Sights, and Information Warfare innovations, eight P8i Boeing 737 Maritime Reconnaissance (MR) aircraft, forty five powerful MiG- 29K fighters, twenty three UAVs (Searcher and Herons) and the 44,000 ton STOBAR (ski jump take off- barrier assisted wire landing) aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (Ex Gorshkov) in the last decade, has been path breaking. Recently Chief of Army Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat accompanied CNS Admiral Sunil Lanba to witness the tri-service exercise Tropex -2017 off Gujarat from Vikramaditya.
These powerful MiG29K(Korabil) flying machines with twenty one deck qualified pilots by 2016, have joined the fleet of older four engine eight ASW TU-142, and five twin engine IL-38 planes with the umbrella Sea Dragon circular radars, Dorniers and twenty ASW Seakings (MK 42B/C), eighteen ASW Kamov-28s and 12Ka-31(AEW).
On 22 December 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after eighteen months in office, chaired the Combined Commanders Conference on board Navy’s 43,500 ton aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (Gorshkov) off Kochi (Cochin). This was a first ever conference held in an operational front line military unit and he witnessed MIG-29Ks firing and flying skills and of the KA-31 AEW helicopters taking and landing from on board, and took a salute at an impressive steam and fly past of ships and aircraft of the combined fleets, after missile and gun firings.
What PM Modi stated was of interest to maritime watchers and widely reported and televised, “I am sure you can feel a difference, and not just because of Indian Navy’s hospitality but Kochi is at the head of the Indian Ocean and at the crossroads of our maritime history. India’s history has been influenced by the seas. And, the passage to our future prosperity and security also lies on this Ocean. It also holds the key to the fortunes of the world. This aircraft carrier is the instrument of our maritime power and a symbol of our maritime responsibility”. This amply demonstrated the Government’s intent to give greater emphasis to the expansion and role of the 70,000 strong Indian Navy, currently dwarfed by the 1.2 million strong Indian Army and 1,35,000 strong Air Force and their budgets.
India’s passage to the future, its prosperity and security in the 21st Century will also depend on the Oceans around India and the Asia Pacific region. This area has the fastest growing economies and has the juggernaut China, which has deep friendship with Pakistan, both countries being major stakeholders in the region’s security architecture. India has taken note of this scenario as Pakistan remains India’s “Bette Noir”, that army battles on the border.
The Navy’s Future Growth
The Navy’s Future Growth The current Naval Strength is 120 Ships and 13 ageing submarines (9 x Kilo class and 4 x HDW-1500). 48 ships and submarines are on order in Indian yards, and 20 more stand approved by the Defence Acquisition Council(DAC). The list is in descending order of size with ball park approximate costs with escalation:
• 1 x STOBAR Aircraft Carrier Vikrant 37,500 tons at Cochin Shipyard Ltd. Due 2018. 45 Mig-29Ks arrived. ($ 4.5 billion).
• 4 x Type 15B 7,400 ton 16 x Brahmos and 16 x Barak-8 missile destroyers at MDSL with improved circular composite bridge structure, a modern trend in warship design. ($ 5 billion).
• 7 x Type 17A Brahmos/Barak 8 AMDR frigates. Four at MDSL and three at GRSE. These are improved Shivalik class. ($ 5 billion)
• 2 of 4 Project 28 ASW 3,000 ton Corvettes at GRSE. ($ 500 mill). 1 OPV Barracuda exported to Mauritius.
• 5 Naval OPVs at Reliance Defence and Engineering Ltd. ($ 400 billion).
• 6 x Type P75 DCNS Scorpene submarines at MDSL. First Kalvari undergoing deep trials for commissioning 2017 and INS Khanderi launched in January 2017. ($5.3 billion). Six more on option.
• Plans for a nuclear deterrent Arihant plus 2 and amphibious capability of one division. (Cost not available. Guesstimate $ 2 billion)
• 3 x Training Ships at ABG merchant ship design. ($ 250 million).
• 5 x Survey Catamarans at Alcock Ashdown suspended. ($ 130 million)
• 8 x LCUs at GRSE and Fast Attack Craft.
• 2 x DSRV James Fisher LR5 DSAR with AMC. ($ 290 Million)
• 1 x Floating Dock on L&T for Port Blair. 10 x ISVs for Vietnam also by L&T.
• 4 x P8i Boeing 737 MR planes, 12 x Dorniers. ($ 1 billion).
• Coast Guard has 3 x OPVs at GSL and 7 on order at L&T. These are naval assets in war. Further Tentative Programme – DAC/ PMO Approved
• 4 x LPD/H RFPs bids by Navantia L&T and R DCNS to be opened.
• 6 x P 75I and 6 x SSN submarines. 16 x Small ASW vessels, 15 x NGMVs. 15 x Coastal Missile Defence systems. 16 x multi role helicopters, 57 xlight utility helicopters.
• 5 x Tanker support ships from Hyundai at HSL under discussion.
—Cmde Ranjit B Rai is a specialist Navigator and Air Controller. He has attended Yarrow Shipyard, HMS Dryad and RN Staff College, UK and has commanded three ships and the Indian Naval Academy. He was the Director, Intelligence & Operations and Defence Adviser in South East Asia. On leaving the Indian Navy,he worked 14 years in shipping and retired to write and to speak at conferences on naval matters.