India’s Naval Massive Modernization Program

The exten­sive mod­ern­iza­tion of India’s navy rep­re­sents its desire to become not only a major region­al play­er, but a major glob­al one as well. Through­out most of the 20‘ cen­tu­ry, India’s naval pri­or­i­ties were essen­tial­ly focused on con­tain­ing Pak­istan and secur­ing the mar­itime approach­es to Indi­an ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters.

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This kept India’s naval out­look con­fined to its own waters. The expan­sion of India’s econ­o­my since the late-1990s, along with its grow­ing domes­tic inter­ests and desire to be a region­al pow­er has, how­ev­er, led it to expand its out­look to the wider Indi­an Ocean region.

Since 2002, India has under­tak­en a major naval mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram, with the over­all aim of upgrad­ing its mil­i­tary in a 15-year time­frame. The US$40 bil­lion that the Indi­an Gov­ern­ment plans to spend between 2008 and 2013 forms part of this mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram.

Numer­i­cal­ly, the plan intends to make the Indi­an Navy the third-largest fleet in the world. It cur­rent­ly stands as the fifth-largest, with 171 ves­sels and around 250 air­craft. In Jan­u­ary 2011, India’s Defense Min­istry released the Defense Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure 2011 (DPP-2011), which con­tains sep­a­rate guide­lines for gov­ern­ment-owned and pri­vate­ly-owned ship­yards to pro­mote com­pe­ti­tion and increase the effi­cien­cy of indige­nous­ly-built ships.

The cen­ter­piece of the Indi­an Navy’s mod­ern­iza­tion scheme revolves around the acqui­si­tion of air­craft car­ri­ers and nuclear-pow­ered sub­marines. Present­ly, India has allo­cat­ed funds for the acqui­si­tion of three air­craft car­ri­ers. The first, INS Vikra­ma­ditya (for­mer­ly the Russ­ian Navy’s Admi­ral Gor­shkov), has been in the process of retro­fitting in Rus­sia since 2008.

After con­sid­er­able delays, it is expect­ed to be deliv­ered in 2012. The Vikra­ma­ditya will car­ry 16 MiG-29K air­craft. India’s oth­er two air­craft car­ri­ers are local­ly built — the first, INS Vikrant, is due to enter ser­vice by 2014 and the sec­ond car­ri­er is due in 2017 and is expect­ed to car­ry 29 MiG-29K air­craft. These air­craft car­ri­ers would essen­tial­ly make India a true blue-water navy and con­sol­i­date its force pro­jec­tion capa­bil­i­ty over a far greater por­tion of the Indi­an Ocean.

In 2009 India launched the INS Ari­hant; its first indige­nous­ly-built nuclear sub­ma­rine, with the inten­tion of com­mis­sion­ing it in late-2011. This will give India a nuclear tri­ad (land and sea-based bal­lis­tic mis­siles and bombers car­ry­ing nuclear-tipped bombs/missiles), a capa­bil­i­ty cur­rent­ly only pos­sessed by the Unit­ed States, Chi­na and Rus­sia.

The Ari­hant will car­ry Shau­rya mis­siles, which are capa­ble of car­ry­ing a 1‑tone nuclear war­head with a range of 750 kilo­me­ters and designed specif­i­cal­ly for sub­marines. The ves­sel will also con­tain 12 Sagiri­ka mis­siles, which have a range of up to 1,900 kilo­me­ters. Five indige­nous­ly-built nuclear-pow­ered sub­marines are planned for the next decade at a total cost of $2.9 bil­lion. The allo­ca­tion of $11 bil­lion for six diesel-elec­tric sub­marines fea­tur­ing improved land-attack capa­bil­i­ties has also recent­ly been approved.

While air­craft car­ri­ers and sub­marines dom­i­nate the naval mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram, there are oth­er ele­ments. In 2010 India signed a con­tract with the Pipavav Ship­yard to build five patrol ves­sels. It has also built three mul­ti-role, stealth-fea­tured Shiv­a­lik-class frigates, with the first of these, INS Shiv­a­lik, being com­mis­sioned in April 2010.

Three Russ­ian-built Tal­war-class frigates have also been acquired, with the first, INS Teg, to be com­mis­sioned lat­er in 2011 and the remain­der due to start ser­vice in 2012. These will dou­ble the num­ber of Tal­war-class frigates, with the INS Tal­war, Trishul and Tabar hav­ing already been com­mis­sioned in the last decade.

In addi­tion to such mea­sures, which are con­sis­tent with India’s expand­ing Indi­an Ocean pro­file, India has sought to estab­lish either bases or lis­ten­ing sta­tions in many of the Indi­an Ocean islands.

Among the most sig­nif­i­cant of these was the estab­lish­ment of a lis­ten­ing post in north­ern Mada­gas­car in 2007, giv­ing India a naval posi­tion near south­ern Africa and the sea lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion from that area. India has also sent a naval patrol ves­sel, along with a Dornier-228 mar­itime recon­nais­sance air­craft to the Sey­chelles, report­ed­ly to con­trol pira­cy in the region.

The Indi­an Navy has also reg­u­lar­ly assist­ed Mau­ri­tius in con­duct­ing hydro­graph­ic sur­veys, thus ensur­ing a near-con­stant naval pres­ence in that coun­try. India has acquired berthing rights in Oman, fol­low­ing joint mil­i­tary exer­cis­es in 2006 and a sub­se­quent defense agree­ment between the two coun­tries. Such ini­tia­tives have allowed India to obtain a naval influ­ence in the west­ern Indi­an Ocean from the Mid­dle East to south-east­ern Africa.


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