India — Rising Power, Growing Responsibilities — Building India’s 2020 Navy

Again, cred­i­ble nuclear deter­rence is firm­ly pro­vid­ed by ship borne Anti Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Defence sys­tems. The recent suc­cess of the Advanced Air Defence Mis­sile pro­gramme of the Defence Research and Devel­op­ment Organ­i­sa­tion (DRDO) augurs well for the Navy. Future Indi­an Destroy­ers, quite like the Arliegh Burke, Kon­go or KDX-III all of which have the Aegis Sys­tem, should be equipped with the indige­nous Advanced Air Defence Sys­tem. At a min­i­mum, this would require a Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Defence Fleet of 6 Destroy­ers.

The P75 project for the indige­nous con­struc­tion of DCNS designed Scor­pene sub­marines required that first deliv­ery com­mences in 2012 and the bal­ance five sub­marines deliv­ered at one-year inter­vals to com­plete by Decem­ber 2017. Now, the first Scor­pene will only be ready in August 2015 and MDL will deliv­er the bal­ance five by May 2019. The cost over­run is about Rs 4,700 crore. For the sec­ond line of sub­marines, Project P75I, the RFI was issued in Sep­tem­ber 2010 and the glob­al firms that have respond­ed to it are Russ­ian Rosoboronex­port, French DCNS / Armaris, Ger­man HDW, Kock­ums and Span­ish Navan­tia. The ini­tial plan (Sep­tem­ber 2010) required that three sub­marines would be made by MDL, one by Hin­dus­tan Ship­yard Lim­it­ed (HSL) and Larsen & Toubro and Pipavav Ship­yard were to com­pete for build­ing the bal­ance two sub­marines. Under the new plan (Feb­ru­ary 2011) India would order two sub­marines from a col­lab­o­rat­ing for­eign ship­yard and the oth­er four will be built indige­nous­ly under trans­fer of tech­nol­o­gy with three con­struct­ed at MDL and the fourth built at HSL. The point is that the total require­ment of the Navy’s sub­ma­rine fleet is 24. Of this only 6 have been ordered, so far, after more than 8 years of approval of the 30 Year sub­ma­rine con­struc­tion Plan which entailed con­struc­tion of 24 sub­marines until 2030. Order­ing anoth­er 6 has already tak­en more than three years and the pro­duc­tion is dis­trib­uted over three ship­yards which, to say the least, is a com­plete­ly uneco­nom­i­cal mod­el of sub­ma­rine con­struc­tion. It would appear that greater econ­o­my and effi­cien­cy would be obtained had the entire bal­ance of 18 sub­marines been ordered in one tranche rather than go through this process in small incre­ments of six each every six-sev­en years. This would require the Navy to freeze the staff require­ments for all 18 sub­marines and then per­haps dis­trib­ut­ing it in three ship­yards may make some sort of eco­nom­i­cal sense.

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How­ev­er, the key con­sid­er­a­tion and the divi­sive issue that dom­i­nates the dis­cus­sion on cat­e­gori­sa­tion / nom­i­na­tion is of time­ly induc­tion. The Comp­trol­ler and Audi­tor Gen­er­al has been quite scathing in his com­ments on the tar­di­ness of the Defence Pub­lic Sec­tor Ship­yards in deliv­er­ing on time and cost the ships that the Navy had ordered. It is not as if only the DPSUs are to be blamed for these delays but the malig­nance is sys­temic. Cog­ni­sance must also be tak­en of the con­tin­ued revi­sion of staff require­ments to get the best and the lat­est; and, in the bar­gain get­ting too lit­tle too late.

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World war­ship build­ing sched­ules

To put mat­ters in per­spec­tive the Table below com­pares the world stan­dard for war­ship pro­duc­tion of sophis­ti­cat­ed war­ships.

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Expen­di­ture towards acqui­si­tion and main­te­nance

In this time, Chi­na and our oth­er com­peti­tors would march ahead and gar­ner the resources and cor­ner the mar­kets of the world whilst our ships and sub­marines con­tin­ue to be built at an ele­phan­tine pace. Regret­tably, nei­ther Chi­na nor oth­er com­pet­ing nations will allow a strate­gic ‘time out’ to India for sort­ing out its war­ship pro­duc­tion sched­ules in order to build indige­nous capa­bil­i­ties. There­fore, nom­i­na­tions to DPSU ship­yards must no longer be auto­mat­ic and a sys­tem of syn­er­gis­tic ship­build­ing using the capac­i­ty in the pri­vate ship­yard with the exper­tise in the DPSU ship­yards need to be con­ceived to has­ten the ship­build­ing pro­grammes. But, Gar­den Reach Ship­builders and Engi­neers have been nom­i­nat­ed, as late as Octo­ber 2011, to build eight 800 Ton Land­ing Craft (Util­i­ty) at a bud­get­ed cost of Rs 2,100 crore with the first LCU to be deliv­ered after 35 months !! In com­par­i­son, M/s Fin­cantieri deliv­ered two 27,500 ton Fleet Tankers in three years. Pos­si­bly, the require­ments of LCUs are high­er and the Navy could have ordered its entire require­ment in one tranche on both DPSU and Pri­vate ship­yards on a com­pet­i­tive basis to reduce costs and improve deliv­ery sched­ules. On the oth­er hand, a recent RFI for shal­low water ASW craft has been cat­e­gorised under the Buy Indi­an Route which is a heart­en­ing devel­op­ment for Indi­an ship­builders.

The sec­ond con­cern is of bud­getary sup­port. For the record the five year expen­di­ture on induc­tion and main­te­nance of fleet and avi­a­tion assets is as fol­lows:

There­fore, the Navy has aver­aged only about Rs 1,200 crore per year for avi­a­tion induc­tions and about Rs 6,200 crore for ship con­struc­tion over the past few years. Going by pub­lic domain data the order book on war­ships and sub­marines is about Rs 2,25,000 crore to be induct­ed by 2022 or near­ly Rs 22,500 crore per year. Avi­a­tion orders would be worth about Rs 18,000 crore for the ongo­ing pro­grammes and anoth­er Rs 32,000 crore or near­ly Rs 5,000 crore per year for new induc­tions to be achieved by 2022. The obvi­ous con­clu­sion is that unless bud­gets increase sig­nif­i­cant­ly and the capac­i­ty to absorb these allo­ca­tions or the Navy designs and build much cheap­er ships and air­craft, the induc­tion tar­gets will not be achiev­able.

As per media reports only four nuclear sub­marines may be on order and this itself may take us upto 2022 to induct. Cal­cu­la­tions by many experts sug­gest that the deliv­ery capac­i­ty should be at least a min­i­mum of 4 mis­siles per val­ue tar­get and two per force tar­get

Sur­veil­lance sys­tems

Mar­itime Domain Aware­ness is a key require­ment for suc­cess­ful oper­a­tions. Sus­tained and unin­ter­rupt­ed sur­veil­lance is the key to mar­itime domain aware­ness. This can be achieved through a vari­ety of sys­tems. The first is of course space based satel­lite sur­veil­lance. The Indi­an Navy is on course to acquire its own com­mu­ni­ca­tions and sur­veil­lance satel­lite capa­bil­i­ty with a 1,000 Nm foot­print. The sec­ond cat­e­go­ry is air­borne sur­veil­lance. In this cat­e­go­ry are the shore based options of Mar­itime Patrol Air­craft, Aerostats and Unmanned Aer­i­al Vehi­cles (UAVs) and the ship based options of Air­borne Ear­ly Warn­ing Heli­copters and air­craft and VTOL UAVs. A third way is through coastal and off­shore sur­veil­lance sys­tems con­sist­ing of a chain of Radar, AIS and Elec­tro-Optics sen­sors with a sophis­ti­cat­ed com­mand and con­trol soft­ware that enables gen­er­a­tion of a sin­gle com­pos­ite pic­ture. This seg­ment is with the Coast Guard. Since all of them have inher­ent advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages there­fore an opti­mal fusion of these three sys­tems is the way ahead. No clear advan­tage would accrue unless these sys­tems are inter­con­nect­ed and net­worked to pro­vide dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed and spe­cif­ic action­able intel­li­gence and pre­sent­ed as a sin­gle holis­tic and com­pos­ite oper­a­tional pic­ture.

Sur­veil­lance sys­tems for coastal secu­ri­ty are under acqui­si­tion. A report stat­ed “An indige­nous­ly built coastal sur­veil­lance sys­tem would be deployed in 46 strate­gic west­ern and east­ern loca­tions in the coun­try from this Novem­ber 2010 to check intru­sions from sea and counter such threats, offi­cials said today. Being devel­oped by the Ban­ga­lore­based defence PSU Bharat Elec­tron­ics Ltd (BEL), the sys­tem includes radars and elec­tro-optic and mete­o­ro­log­i­cal sen­sors and would be mount­ed on light­hous­es or tow­ers.” In this com­plex sys­tem, “The cam­eras and radars are Israeli,” admit BEL oper­a­tors … but we are work­ing on devel­op­ing them indige­nous­ly.” It also states that this indige­nous sys­tem would “give com­plete oper­a­tional pic­ture of the sea up to 20 km deep into the sea.” For phase two of the pro­gramme the options of bet­ter tech­nol­o­gy such as High Fre­quen­cy Sur­face Wave Coastal sur­veil­lance Radars or even “X” Band over the Hori­zon Radars that pro­vide detec­tion and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion ranges in excess of 200 km with reac­tion time of more than 3 hours com­bined with Long Range Optron­ic Sen­sors of about 50 km range should be induct­ed.


Tech­nol­o­gy pro­vides the best solu­tion if one is inclined to appre­ci­ate it. High Alti­tude Long Endurance Unmanned Aeri­als Sys­tems (HALE) with high­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed mul­ti­far­i­ous pay­loads sup­port­ed with mul­ti-spec­tral data fusion engines is the way for­ward for ocean­ic sur­veil­lance. The low­er cap­i­tal cost of acqui­si­tion, faster deliv­er­ies and the near equiv­a­lent oper­at­ing cost must be the dom­i­nant con­sid­er­a­tion for rapid aug­men­ta­tion of sur­veil­lance capa­bil­i­ties. These infor­ma­tion­al inputs must again be dove­tailed into a nation­al mar­itime intel­li­gence grid.

Inte­grat­ing the HALE with Long Range Mar­itime (armed) Patrol air­craft would pro­vide an effi­cien­cy div­i­dend. The Navy has on order 12 Boe­ing P8I mar­itime patrol air­craft. Con­sid­er­ing that the gen­er­al­ly recog­nised area of inter­est of the Indi­an Navy extends from the East Coast of Africa to the South Chi­na Sea this force lev­el is clear­ly inad­e­quate par­tic­u­lar­ly when nuclear sub­marines are the dom­i­nant threat of the future. These would be deliv­ered by 2015. In addi­tion, an RFI has been issued for anoth­er 6 Medi­um Range Mar­itime Air­craft and these may only be ordered in 2014–15 going by the nor­mal time lines of pro­cure­ment. So far as UAVs are con­cerned the Navy’s present force lev­els of 8 Searchers and 4 Herons is woe­ful­ly inad­e­quate to meet even a frac­tion of the sur­veil­lance require­ment. The Navy has issued an RFI for Long Range High Alti­tude UAVs only in Decem­ber 2010 and induc­tion is there­fore clear­ly a very dis­tant propo­si­tion. It is also under­stood that the ser­vices are putting togeth­er a sin­gle pro­pos­al for their com­bined require­ment of Medi­um Alti­tude Long Endurance UAVs, though no RFI has been issued as yet. Rotary Wing UAVs for ship­borne appli­ca­tions are at the devel­op­ment stage at Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­it­ed and these may only be induct­ed no ear­li­er than 2016–17. This is ques­tion­able acqui­si­tion since Ver­ti­cal Take Off and Land­ing UAVs are avail­able using mul­ti­ple tech­nolo­gies such as Tilt Rotors and Duct­ed Fan also. Not­ing that there are now at least four major Indi­an com­pa­nies with licences to man­u­fac­ture UAVs and the total require­ment may be in excess of a 100 sys­tems the future induc­tion of UAVs must be through the Buy and Make Indi­an pro­ce­dure.

The oth­er area of inter­est is Sea­planes. This tech­nol­o­gy has been res­ur­rect­ed with sev­er­al man­u­fac­tur­ers across the world notably in Cana­da, Ger­many, Japan and Rus­sia. Sea­planes can pro­vide much need­ed island sup­port and off­shore assets pro­tec­tion, sur­veil­lance, long range SAR and CASEVAC, ultra long range fleet logis­tic sup­port, long range Vis­it Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) Oper­a­tions, Human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief oper­a­tions, coun­ter­ing small arms and drugs traf­fick­ing, human migra­tion, poach­ing, tox­ic car­go dump­ing etc. Unlike con­ven­tion­al heli­copters and air­craft sea­planes can land at the loca­tion and enforce the will or the law of the coun­try. It is worth not­ing that Iran already has a strong fly­ing boat squadron of ten crafts. In India, whilst an RFI has been issued for induc­tion of sea­planes the dif­fi­cul­ty would be to avoid a sin­gle ven­dor sit­u­a­tion. Assum­ing a Main­te­nance Reserve of 20 per cent, a Strike Off and Wastage Reserve for a 15 year peri­od as 20 per cent and an assured abil­i­ty to launch two simul­ta­ne­ous mis­sions from the four coastal com­mands, 12 oper­a­tional sea­planes and two train­ing sea­planes would be required. These must be built in India and tak­en up as a Buy and Make Indi­an or as Buy Glob­al acqui­si­tion. How­ev­er, since the sub­stance of the sea­planes are its engines it may not be pos­si­ble to achieve 50 per cent indige­nous con­tent. Sea­planes also have civ­il appli­ca­tions and thus a nation­al capa­bil­i­ty can be cre­at­ed in niche sec­tor.

How­ev­er, the key con­sid­er­a­tion and the divi­sive issue that dom­i­nates the dis­cus­sion on cat­e­gori­sa­tion / nom­i­na­tion is of time­ly induc­tion. The Comp­trol­ler and Audi­tor Gen­er­al has been quite scathing in his com­ments on the tar­di­ness of the Defence Pub­lic Sec­tor Ship­yards in deliv­er­ing on time and cost the ships that the Navy had ordered

So far as inte­gral avi­a­tion assets are con­cerned the key deter­mi­nant must be the future of the Fleet Car­ri­er. The present capa­bil­i­ty is to be able to work with­in a 200 Nm bub­ble and going into the future the bub­ble should grow to a sani­tised space of about 350 Nm. For this the require­ment would be for “medi­um” fight­ers of the Mig 29K pro­file or bet­ter. With a Com­bat Air Patrol of four fight­ers and a turn-around time of 90 min­utes, detailed cal­cu­la­tions aside, the min­i­mum force lev­el would be two and half fight­er squadrons (40 air­craft). In addi­tion, two squadrons of Mul­ti-Role Heli­copters, one flight of HALE Ear­ly Warn­ing UAVs, one flight of loi­ter­ing mis­siles and one flight of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and util­i­ty heli­copters should be the min­i­mum embarked Air Group for the future car­ri­er to be con­sid­ered a potent force.

Both the Sea king and the Chetak heli­copters are due for replace­ment. A case for 16 Mul­ti-Role Heli­copters (MRH) and an RFI for Chetak replace­ment is under process. Anoth­er RFP for 91 Naval Mul­ti-Role Heli­copters is await­ing approval. The require­ments for these heli­copters are in the range of 80–100 MRH and about 70–90 twin engine util­i­ty heli­copters. The Navy could have con­sol­i­dat­ed its total require­ment of MRH instead of induct­ing in a piece­meal man­ner. Both these induc­tions, had they been tak­en up as bulk acqui­si­tions, could have been through the Buy and Make Indi­an Route and thus help devel­op a nation­al com­pe­ten­cy in heli­copter man­u­fac­tur­ing. Be that as it may, the option clause (8 MRH) and the repeat order option (16 MRH) should be availed so that induc­tion can reach 40 MRH with­out retender­ing. Sim­i­lar­ly, Coast Guard require­ments for util­i­ty heli­copters can also be merged to make a very attrac­tive propo­si­tion for for­eign OEMs to estab­lish man­u­fac­tur­ing facil­i­ties in India. Even now, fur­ther induc­tions should be explored under the Buy and Make Indi­an cat­e­go­ry to help build an alter­nate to HAL for indige­nous man­u­fac­ture of heli­copters. How­ev­er, licenced pro­duc­tion must be taboo and the busi­ness mod­el should be devel­oped by the Indi­an and for­eign OEMs on the basis of co design, co-devel­op­ment and co-pro­duc­tion as part­ners not as licenced pro­duc­ers. No OEM will ever trans­fer enough know-how to its licenced pro­duc­tion part­ner for fear it may become its com­peti­tor and there­fore Joint Ven­tures and prof­it shar­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions is the way to go in the future.