India's Navy will look like a "brand new" force by 2027 with a combatants level of 150-odd warships and another 500-odd aircraft fleet, even as it is also preparing to induct 49 new warships and submarines in the next few years that are on order with both Indian and foreign shipyards. This was revealed by Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma to coincide with the Navy Day celebrated on December 4.
At present, the Indian Navy has 132 ships including 14 submarines and 216 aircraft, of which 80 are fixed wing, 122 helicopters and 14 unmanned aerial vehicles. "Today, Indian Navy is poised for a very good growth path. Navy veterans could not have imagined the growth curve that we have today," he said.
Verma said the navy has in 2011 formulated its Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan and formalised its 12th Plan for the years 2012 to 2017. "Our preferred choice of inducting ships and submarines has been through the indigenous route and of the 49 ships and submarines presently on order, 45 are from Indian shipyards," he said.
The navy's quest for indigenisation, he said, has resulted in the defence public sector shipyards being given an unprecedented number of orders for warship and submarine construction. "Significantly, for the first time, defence public sector and private shipyards were involved in competitive bidding. This has resulted in price discovery in some cases and two private shipyards have been awarded contracts for construction of offshore patrol vessels and training ships for the navy. With larger number of shipyards participating in warship building, a larger number of deliveries are expected in the medium-term," he said.
"As I reiterate our firm commitment to the continued development of our indigenous warship building capability, I must also add that we are keen that the capability both public and private sector shipyards be scaled up to deliver state-of-the-art warships that meet our future needs in time frames that match global standards," he added.
Verma announced that to enhance synergy between the navy and the industry, a Naval Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap had been compiled to keep the industry informed about the future requirements of the navy in terms of technology and desired capability. The document will be up on the defence ministry's website soon, he said, expressing the hope that this will help boost participation of the private sector in the defence production process, particularly with regard to naval systems.
"We hope to build upon some of our successes in this regard, such as the indigenous Combat Management System, which is currently at various stages of integration in our new induction platforms," he said.
The navy chief also noted that his force expects to induct ships and submarines at an average rate of five ships annually over the next five years, provided the shipyards deliver them on contracted time lines.
"This year (2011) we have concluded eight important contracts, which include contracts for four destroyers, five offshore patrol vessels, two cadet training ships, eight landing craft utility and fast interceptor craft for coastal security duties. We are also looking forward to soon concluding contracts for mine counter measure vessels and P17A frigates," he said.
Among the major projects under construction in Indian shipyards are the three ships of Kolkata class (P15A), four P-15B ships which are an advanced version of the Kolkata class and the six P75 (Scorpene) submarines, all at Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai. Four anti-surface warfare corvettes are being built at the Garden Reach Shipbuilders in Kolkata.
In addition, nine naval offshore patrol vessels are under construction at Goa Shipyard Limited and a private shipyard. Goa Shipyard is also building the second Sail Training Ship for the navy, which expects it to be delivered very soon.
Among the private shipyards, Alcock-Ashdown Gujarat Limited has been entrusted with the construction of six catamaran-hulled survey ships for hydragraphic duties.
Pipavav Shipyard in Gujarat is making five naval offshore patrol vessels and ABG Shipyard in Gujarat is constructing two cadet training ships.
The construction of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) at Cochin Shipyard is progressing and Verma is hopeful it will be launched in the first half of 2012.
He said it is a "setback of sorts" that the originally planned IAC launch in December 2011 will not take place due to late procurement of some critical equipment, such as gear boxes and generators, which need to be fitted before lowering the ship in the waters. But a lot of structural work on the IAC is complete, he added.
Over the next one year, the navy expects to induct Shivalik class stealth frigate INS Sahyadri, an offshore patrol vessel, a Kolkata class destroyer, a P28 ASW
corvette, three catamaran hull survey vessels and 25 fast interceptor craft.
Among the overseas projects, the refurbishment of INS Vikramaditya (erstwhile Admiral Gorshkov of the Russian Navy) is progressing on track and the ship is
expected to be delivered in December 2012. The three follow-on ships of the Talwar class, under construction in Russia, too is likely to be delivered between 2012 and 2013.
India's first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, INS Arihant, which was launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and wife Gursharan Kaur on July 26, 2009, at Visakhapatnam naval dockyard, will go for sea trials very soon, as it is presently going through wide-ranging on board trials.
On maritime surveillance capabilities, Indian Navy chief said the planned induction of 12 Boeing P-8I Poseidon patrol aircraft to add more teeth to this capability is on schedule, with the first P8I carrying out its first flight on September 28, 2011. The first aircraft will arrive in India by January 2013. Acquisition of medium range maritime reconnaissance aircraft is being progressed concurrently, he added.
On the naval combat plane fleet, Verma said the delivery of the 16 MiG-29K, as per initial contract will be completed by the end of 2011. "We have signed a contract for 29 more aircraft, the delivery of which is likely to commence from April 2012," he said.
With the naval version of indigenous Light Combat Aircraft ready for its first flight in the first quarter of 2012, Verma said once the flight trials are successful, India intends to go ahead with a limited series production of the aircraft in preparation for its future inductions and for operation on board the IAC.
Further, induction of the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (17 of them as part of the 57 follow-on order to the 66 ordered for Indian Air Force) would facilitate advanced training of the young naval combat pilots for developing requisite flying skills over sea to graduating to deck-based fighter aircraft.
Verma said the mid-life upgrade of existing Seaking and Kamov helicopters, aimed at upgrading their weapon and sensor package, would be undertaken in the 12th Plan period.
Further efforts are in hand for acquiring Multi-Role Helicopters, additional Air Early Warning helicopters and utility helicopters. The field evaluation for procurement of 16 Multi-Role helicopters was completed recently and the contract negotiations should commence by early 2012, he added.
The navy chief said the UAV squadron on the West coast of India are fully operational and another squadron for the East coast is planned to be commissioned early 2012.
In addition, the navy is also in the process of procuring a number of weapons such as heavy machine guns, assault and sniper rifles, close quarter battle carbines and infantry weapons training simulators to bolster personnel protection capabilities.
Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh's coast on the Eastern sea board is being developed as an amphibious warfare training complex and it will become operational in a few years from now, the Navy chief added.