This year, the IN expects to induct six to nine ships, including:
- Tarkash, a Russian built Project 11356 Batch 2 frigate;
- Sahyadri, the last of three P-17 Shivalik class frigates;
- one 109-meter, 3,100-ton P-28 corvette;
- one 163-meter, 7,000 ton P-15A destroyer;
- one 105-meter, 2,500 ton OPV, and;
- three 50-meter survey ships.
The delivery of the survey ships, however, is likely to be pushed to the right. Senior IN officers say it is necessary to induct five to six new platforms every year to sustain and, eventually, grow force levels.
Besides new acquisitions, a mid-life update (MLU) program for as many as 28 legacy ships and submarines is under way. Several have completed the MLU, including a number of Kilo and Type 209 submarines; three P-16 Godavari-class frigates, which have received new guns and other combat system upgrades; two Kashin-class destroyers, that have been fitted with eight vertically launched Brahmos supersonic anti-ship missiles as well as combat system upgrades; and six of the Natya MCMVs that have been fitted with a Thales sonar and command and control system.
Three of the four Abhay-class submarines chasers are slated to receive the American made L-3 Ocean Systems towed array sonar. Similarly, several of the Project 1241RE fast missile craft have been fitted with new electronic warfare (EW) systems. One is also getting a locally produced Oto Melara 76 mm Super Rapid gun in place of its Russian AK-176 gun. At least one of the P-25 corvettes has a new EW system, suggesting that others are due to receive the same EW suite in due course.
Crucially, the recapitalization program is not just about numbers, but focuses more on capabilities said IN top brass, as the service strives to build a balanced force structure.
Indian Navy Maritime Strategy
The growth of the Indian Navy reflects India’s growing economic and international stature, and its need to secure vital sea lanes of communication that pass through key choke points. It is driven by a Mahanian maritime strategy wherein the IN sees itself as a status quo and stabilizing force in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). As such, it is keen to retain good relations with other littoral navies. In other words, the Indian Navy aims to play its part in securing the global maritime commons.
A key initiative by the IN in this regard includes the IONS (Indian Ocean Naval Symposium) – that is modeled along the lines of the U.S. Navy’s Western Pacific Naval Symposium. A key tenet of IONS is fostering increased maritime co-operation among the 35 member navies from almost all of the littoral countries bordering the IOR.
The IN also provides material and training assistance to several IOR navies, including some on the east coast of Africa, as part of a capacity-building and enhancement drive. It is active in anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa as well as in waters closer to home. The IN also pursues an active “Look East” policy that aims to foster closer relationships with key South Asian navies.
Regular bilateral and multilateral exercises with a host of navies ranging from Brazil and South Africa to Singapore and Australia underscore the IN’s commitment to good neighborly relations. Growing ties with the U.S. Navy highlight increasing strategic convergence between the world’s oldest and the world’s most populous democracies. At the same time, the IN often has to balance its desire for cooperation with that of India’s foreign policy, which reflects the country’s historic desire to retain its cherished foreign policy autonomy, one of non-alignment – though some might argue that it did not always work out to be so in practice. The key point to remember is that India’s relationship with Russia, which harks back to the sixties, is strategically important for India. And it will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.
Another cornerstone of India’s maritime strategy given India’s no first use nuclear doctrine is a robust, sea based nuclear deterrent capability with ballistic missile submarines. Actually, this capability has existed for several years now – albeit in the form of the Dhanush short range ballistic missile carried aboard two or more converted offshore patrol vessels!
More details on India’s maritime strategy can be found in “Freedom to use the Seas: India’s Maritime Military Strategy” that was published by the IN in 2007 and updated periodically.
Part 2 of this series on the Indian Navy looks at new build programs.