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Can the Indian Navy Get the New Warships It Wants, When It Wants Them?

Indian Navy developments, Part 2 of 3

The Indian Navy’s ongoing recapitalization program is guided by its 15-year Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) which calls for a 162-ship fleet – including 90 “major combatants” – by 2022.

IAC-1

CGI of India’s first indigenous carrier under Project 71. Like the Vikramaditya, it will have a 14.5 degree ski jump and three arrestor wires in what is known as a STOBAR configuration. It will have an embarked air wing of 30 fighters and helicopters. IN /CSL via Shiv Aroor/Livefist

Unfortunately, the Indian Navy (IN) does not disclose the breakdown of the 90 “major combatants” in its MCPP. But some details have emerged. This figure includes:

  • 3 aircraft carriers;
  • 30+ destroyers and frigates;
  • 8-12 corvettes;
  • 20 conventional submarines;
  • 5+ nuclear submarines, and;
  • 9 large offshore patrol vessels (OPVs).

Smaller combatants include 16 shallow water anti-submarine warfare (ASW) vessels and around two dozen large patrol craft. Major auxiliary forces include four large, helicopter capable amphibious dock ships, a few landing ships tank, eight 62.8-meter, 850-ton landing craft, eight or so large fleet replenishment vessels, and two submarine rescue ships. In addition, there will be at least 8 mine countermeasures vessels.

Presently, around 50 ships and submarines are on order or under construction, with all but three from Indian shipyards – a reflection of the service’s drive for indigenous warship building capabilities.

Capital ships under construction include two aircraft carriers – the 285-meter, 45,000 ton Vikramaditya (ex-Gorshkov) from Russia, whose delivery is slated for this December, and the home-built 262-meter, 40,000 ton Vikrant (also codenamed IAC 1) under Project 71. The Vikrant/IAC 1 is undergoing outfitting at Cochin Shipyard Ltd. (CSL) prior to its official launching in a year or so. Entry into service is 2015 at the earliest for this carrier.

Scorpene

Model of the Franco-Spanish Scorpene submarine that’s being built in India under license at Mazagon Docks Ltd under Project 75. Due to the steep learning curve as well as planning issues, the program is running three years behind schedule. What is notable however, is that each submarine is to feature a progressively greater portion of Indian sourced equipment under the contract’s 30 percent offsets requirement. In a sign of the growing maturity of India’s defense research and development capabilities, the last two boats of the series could conceivably be equipped with Indian-developed AIP systems. Photo by M. Mazumdar

The IN is also working on a larger, 60,000-ton class carrier, codenamed IAC 2, whose design is yet to be finalized. Unlike the first two carriers that have a 14.5 degree ski jump, the larger carrier will very likely be catapult-equipped to enable Northrop Grumman E-2D airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft operations. For now, it is not clear where this carrier is to be built. Beyond this carrier, plans call for one more carrier of the same class.

Submarines are also a crucial component of the new build programs. Around a dozen submarines are under construction, with half being nuclear-powered. Nuclear-powered boats include one more Akula-class attack boat (SSN) from Russia and, crucially, at least 3 locally designed ballistic missile submarines (SSBN).

Though India is a newcomer to this club, it is making measurable progress. Clearly, its first SSBN, the Arihant, is not comparable to contemporary SSBN designs in terms of payload. It will nevertheless be a vital component of India’s sea based nuclear deterrence. The follow-on SSBNs are expected to be progressively larger boats. Around five SSBNs are planned initially.

P-15A

Graphic of the 163-meter, 8,000-ton P-15A Kolkata-class destroyer. They will be fitted with a new Israeli-developed , Indian-funded anti-air warfare system comprised of the mast-mounted phased array Elta EL/M 2248 multifunction radar and the medium- to long-range Barak 8 surface to air missile, which is known as LRSAM in India. They will also be fitted with 16 Brahmos supersonic anti- ship missiles.  IN/DND photo

The other six submarines are license-built French/Spanish Scorpenes under Project 75. For a number of reasons, the program has been running about three years late. But shipbuilder Mazagon Docks Ltd. (MDL) says that the hulls of all six boats are almost completed.

The first P-75 boat is expected to be delivered in mid-2015, and all six by 2019. The last two P-75 Scorpenes are likely to be fitted with an Indian-developed air independent propulsion (AIP) system.

Surface warships under construction or close to delivery include:

  • 2 more Russian-built Project 11356 Batch 2 frigates from Yantar Shipyard;
  • 1 more home-built 147-meter, 6,200-ton Project 17 Shivalik stealth frigate from MDL;
  • 3 163-meter, 8,000-ton Project 15A Kolkata-class destroyers with an advanced Elta MF-STAR multifunction radar and the new Indo-Israeli Barak 8 long range surface to air missile (LRSAM), also from MDL, and;
  • 4 109-meter, 3,100-ton Project 28 Kamorta-class stealth anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvettes from Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE).

In addition, nine 105-meter long, 2,500-ton offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) from two yards – Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) and, in a first, five from a private shipyard, Pipavav Offshore & Defense – are under construction. This is notable given the Indian Defense Ministry’s stated intention to involve greater levels of private participation in defense and aerospace industries, which have hitherto been the exclusive preserve of Ministry of Defense (MoD) and government-owned entities, the so called public sector units (PSUs).

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    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-37259">
    Lt. Edward T. Kreiner, Sr., USN (Retired)

    With all the “foreign” procurement from foreign nations, it would appear that India will have a
    verey difficult time with logistics, maintenance and the sustaining of readiness. Interesting, also, is the requirement for training of crews for these vessels. Also, of interest, is why does India find it necessary to build and acquire such a large force. Wonder what out National Security Agency and the Joint Chiefs of Staff thanink about these actions on the part of India. I faiil to see any American hardware involved……

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-37322">

    India is certainly working on necking down the logistics streams, in part by building more and more of their own designs, including the upcoming carrier projects. As for your second question, about why India finds it necessary to build and acquire such a large force, the answer is China. And finally, with respect to American hardware, it isn’t for lack of trying on the American end. With the way the world is changing, I think we can expect American/Indian ties to grow closer.