Indigenous capability to make maritime radars exist but these do not match the technologies that are available worldwide. With only one monopolistic producer Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) there is little incentive to improve matters. Fortunately, with the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri’s direction that in future acquisitions no more nomination would be permitted and given that there are at least 6 top class Indian companies granted licences and with collaborative arrangements with global technology leaders in place all future radar requirements should be through the Buy and Make Indian route. Regrettably, this has not completely succeeded with the Navy winning its case for Buy and Make Indian categorisation for two radar projects and the Indian Air Force going the DRDO / BEL way for their Mountain Radars. Time will tell which was the better decision.
So far as sonars are concerned the NSTL and NPOL combine have been able to bring in good technology in the form of the HUMSA sonars. But the technology pointer is towards software defined sonars and towed array sonars for which capacity does not exist. Here again there are several private players who can provide these solutions through a collaborative partnership with world leaders in this sector. Of course, the caveat must remain Buy and Make Indian.
Electronic warfare systems technology has also matured in India but these are nowhere near the performance threshold that already exists across the world. This is a sector that needs the combined effort of the DPSUs / DRDO and the private sector to achieve the next higher level of sophistication.
So far as weapons are concerned the Indian record is not good. To provide the right incentive for production of naval guns the Navy needs to freeze its basket of requirements. First for Force Protection Measures the 12.7 mm stabilised remote operable optro-electronic weapon should be the standard. Whilst the RFP has been issued, nominating the Ordnance Factory as the ToT partner is a retrograde step. This is well within the capacity of Indian private sector. The AK 630 should be the standard 30 mm CIWS for all ships and would be sourced from OFBs as licence production with growing indigenous content. For the mid-range the OTO Melara 76 mm Compact, sourced from BHEL as licenced production should be the standard fit for corvettes. For heavier calibre guns the Navy must decide on the 127 mm or the 100 mm to be the main gun and retrofit it for the destroyers and frigates. The weight of argument clearly favours the 127 mm, though installing this weapon on older platforms may be challenging. If accepted as a concept then the total requirement could be for about 30 systems by 2022 including retrofits and hence may be suitable for a Buy and Make Indian categorisation.
Recently the Navy has awarded the contract for 98 Heavy Weight torpedoes on Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei (WASS) and will enter into industrial partnerships with Indian companies. However, the contract has been put on hold pending a Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) inquiry into the procurement process. WASS had earlier received a contract for upgrades and life extension of 128 A244‑S lightweight torpedo systems to Mod 3 WASS. It has been partnering with Bharat Dynamics Ltd. for production of the C303, an anti-torpedo counter-measures system since 2005. Indigenous development of the Advanced light weight Torpedo and the Varunastra is also at an advanced stage.
For Surface to Surface Missiles the Navy has frozen its choice on the BrahMos. For the Surface to Air missiles there exists a range of systems though the Barak and the Barak NG is without doubt the best weapon in the quiver. Air weapons and avionic systems, for the foreseeable future, would still need to be import dependent since there are not adequate order quantities.
|Personnel requirement for the future navy|
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No force level acquisition programmes can be efficiently inducted unless the commensurate infrastructure for storage and maintenance, testing and training are also in place. Now that the broad equipment required for the next two decades have been identified commensurate build-up of infrastructure must also begin. In effect every induction programme must concurrently seek sanction for the associated infrastructure and the human resources. The Standing Committee of Defence Report mentions that the Navy has a deficiency of 1,439 officers (15 per cent), 7,183 sailors (15 per cent) and about 6,000 (15 per cent) civilians. Clearly, the manpower to man for the force levels envisaged for the future Navy, even allowing for lean manning, would need to be factored now so that by the time these acquisitions have entered service the trained and experienced manpower is also available.
Assuming the force levels that have been identified above are accepted then the total requirement of personnel would be as shown in the table below. A more detailed exercise could be carried out by the Navy but it would be appropriate to obtain the appropriate sanction, even if required at the Cabinet Committee on Security level, for the final HR requirements on a not exceeding basis. This would allow for better planning and focused skill development.
Therefore, whilst, as the top level analysis reveals, India has developed some capability in shipbuilding aeronautics, sensors and weapons it is not yet at the level where it could be termed “Indian”. Since the requirements are limited establishing a plant for serial production would not be viable unless there is clarity on the volumes and a commitment to stay with the programme by the Navy and there are also opportunities for exports. Simultaneously, associated infrastructure for stores, maintenance, test and calibration equipment and trained and qualified personnel must also be seamlessly addressed.
In sum, if the Navy is to realise its required force levels there is a clear case for greater participation of the private sector in the naval acquisition plans. Particularly, ships such as the Landing Platform Dock, Fleet Support Ships, Corvettes and Patrol vessels and interceptor craft should all be built only by private shipyards and thus release capacity for building (integrating) complex platforms such as destroyers and frigates at DPSU shipyards in co-ordination with private shipyards. The MDL and Pipavav teaming was a great move but it has got enmeshed in controversy. In the event that private sector is able to forge collaborations with technology leaders the scope can be enlarged.
The newly declared Defence Production Policy is an excellent step in this direction though the finer details are yet to be firmed up. The Ministry of Heavy Industries, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Shipping and Transport should contest every nomination by the MoD of a Defence PSU for building warships, tanks or aircraft or electronic systems such as missiles and radars where the private sector has indicated willingness and intent to participate. Worldwide, these war machines and systems are built by the private sector competitively and there is no reason why that should not apply to India.
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
From the foregoing gap analysis, essential risk reduction towards maintaining a balanced force level to offset any regional imbalances and to maintain credible capability the following force structure initiatives need to be contemplated:
- Over and above the P15A, P17 and P17A and P15B programmes which need to be accelerated additional acquisition of 4 destroyers and 8 frigates from foreign and Indian private sector shipyards under the Buy and Make Indian procedure is inescapable to achieve the three Carrier Battle Group force levels by 2022. At least the eight frigates could be the proven Talwar Class hull form — with minor changes in weapons and sensors — but built in India in collaboration with an Indian shipyard. The four destroyers, frozen on the P15B requirements, can be procured under the Buy Indian category. This way there would not be undue proliferation of several types of hull forms, weapons and sensors.
- Begin the process of designing the “generation after next” Destroyer equipped with the DRDO Advanced Air Defence System. This force level would comprise 6 destroyers.
- Induct additional 6–8 Anti-Submarine Warfare corvettes, over and above the P28 programme, for Escort and LND duties under the Buy and Make Indian categorisation.
- Bring up the amphibious force levels by accelerating the LPD and the LCU programmes for deliveries by 2022.
- Review the P75I programme and instead of piecemeal construction of 6 submarines in three different yards as is presently proposed the way forward is to go firm with 18 Air Independent Propulsion submarines ordered in one lot of a modular design with allowance for expansion and obsolescence and distributed between the three shipyards on a competitive basis with international delivery standards of the first delivery in three years and thereon one submarine inducted every 9 months. This programme should also be categorised as Buy and Make Indian.
- Immediate acquisition of additional two nuclear submarines over the contracted two submarines from Russia as an effort to tide over the interlude of indigenous nuclear submarine construction which envisages a fleet of five nuclear submarines. This would bring up force levels to nine nuclear submarines, still inadequate, but ensuring that at least three submarines can be on station at any one time.
- Begin the process of creating the staff requirements for the next Air Defence Ship. At a minimum the ship should be able to embark 2 and ½ squadrons of fighters, 2 squadrons of Multi-Role Helicopters, one flight of AEW / Surveillance UAVs, one flight of loitering missiles and one flight of utility helicopters. This carrier should be in service no later than 2022 and procured through competitive bidding from an Indian shipyard.
- Convince the Government / MoD to exercise the Option clause (50 per cent) and the Repeat order clauses (100 per cent) allowable under the DPP to bring up the order quantity to 40 MRH and negotiate a better price and delivery schedule. This would still leave more than 50 per cent of the total requirements unfulfilled. Future induction of these helicopters should be processed under the Buy and Make Indian Route to develop a national capability in helicopter manufacture.
- Commence the process of identifying the alternate fighter to the Mig 29K, the Multi-Role Helicopters for the future Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, destroyers and the frigates and the heavy lift helicopter for the LPD.
- Review the Staff Requirements of the Light Utility Helicopter to bring in contemporary technology of electro-optics, laser designators and UV scanners together with suitable armament and self-protection devices for low intensity operations. Now that there are a plethora of JV agreements between Indian private sector companies and foreign aviation majors such as Augusta Westland, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin the categorisation should be Buy and Make Indian.
- Energise sophisticated long range coastal surveillance with state-of-the-art technologies using a mix of network of High Frequency Surface Wave Radars, X Band Over the Horizon Radars and coupled with sophisticated Visual / Infra Red / Laser Designated Optronic systems to enable 24x7 simultaneous staring surveillance of the Indian EEZ is mandated.
- Build-up maritime air surveillance through extensive use of indigenous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in technology partnership with world leaders. Indian defence forces already operate 78 UAVs manufactured by a world leader with the Navy holding 12 UAVs only. A production base in India for the Unmanned Aerial System should be the next step. This may entail an investment of about Rs 12,000 crore over six years to bring up force levels to a fleet of about 40 Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for continuous EEZ surveillance. This force would be coupled to the coastal surveillance chain of radars to present an integrated composite picture to the war room.
- Seaplanes can provide much needed island and offshore assets access and support, surveillance, long range SAR and CASEVAC, ultra long range fleet logistic support, long range VBSS operations, civil operations including anti-piracy, small arms and drugs trafficking operations, prevention of human migration, poaching, toxic cargo dumping and humanitarian assistance etc. Seaplanes would not only be an asset for the Indian Navy but also provide regional ocean safety of the SLOCs. This would be in keeping with India’s rising status as a responsible regional power.
- Rapidly build-up a strong and efficient rapid reaction force of fast interceptor crafts using the most ultramodern propulsion and optical stabilisation technologies available across the world. With about 200 ports in India the requirement for effective surveillance and rapid reaction forces would be about 900 such boats at an investment of about Rs 8,100 crore but with a major benefit of securing Indian ports and harbours from catastrophes of the 26/11 kind forever. This should be again procured under the Buy and Make Indian category.
- Position similar Fast Interceptor Craft in the Island territories. The requirement for these areas would be met by about 120 Fast Interceptor Boats in the Andaman and Nicobar island chain and about 90 Fast Interceptor Boats in the Lakshadweep island. This would require a total investment of about Rs 900 crore. The benefits would be enormous.
- Create a sophisticated and networked Multi-Spectral Data Fusion Command and Control Engine that enables real time maritime domain awareness. This would be dovetailed with AIS, LRIT and other SIGINT technologies to analyse and plot cargo movements by source and destination. This would be expensive but it is completely within the capability of the Indian software giants to deliver in a few years time.
- Obtain government approval for increasing the personnel strength to 12,500 officers, 80,000 sailors and 80,000 civilians by 2019 to man the future Navy.
In conclusion, naval acquisition plans would be best served by reviewing existing rationale for force structures and force composition so that the entire threat and vulnerability spectrum of barbaric / hybrid / state ignited maritime violence and resource and market accessibility are seamlessly addressed. Such an exercise would be more about Force Transformation as different from Force Modernisation within available resources that such reprioritisation of maritime threats require.
To operationalise the procurement plan naval and maritime capability building programmes must set its sight on the future operational missions that the Navy would need to fulfil in the future and thus derive the force structure and force composition of the future Navy. This requires the Navy to:
- Coherently articulate a rationale for the overall force levels based on a well defined concept of operations.
- Derive a convincing architecture for fleet structure and composition.
- Calculate the aviation component large enough to support the concept of operations.
- Dexterously manage the ongoing programme costs whilst seeking additional funding for new projects.
- Build-up commensurate infrastructure through shared arrangements with industry to reduce costs. For example all refits should be undertaken by the shipyard / aircraft manufacturer / weapon / sensor supplier.
- Link the manpower induction plan to force levels.
It would, of course, make better sense if all maritime force structure planning is centrally organised so that not only are duplication and overlaps definitely addressed between the competing maritime agencies but more importantly voids overlooked by the individual maritime agencies are determined and subsequently filled as a national exercise in ensuring comprehensive maritime security. For this both the Navy and the Coast Guard need to sit together and produce a blueprint for transforming maritime security.
In conclusion, building the 2020 Navy may require some prompt and focused course corrections and re-alignment with the forecast operational scenario of 2022 and beyond. Ultimately no matter what the force levels, force structure and force composition, IN must deliver on the simple objective of defeating barbaric, hybrid or state forces in the area of our maritime interest. The Indian Navy must also take early baby steps to provide safety of the SLOCs, at least in the North Indian Ocean as a regional commitment and affirmation of the Indian national responsibility as the NAVAREA Coordinator. To borrow from the Royal Navy — India’s Navy must clearly be seen as a Force for Good.
Though self reliance must indeed be the final objective but that does not mean that every item of a system is sourced only from indigenous vendors. Self reliance, in today’s context, means a mixture of global buy and localised “buy or make” decisions that synergise the competitive advantage of each participating vendor for the common benefit of reduced costs, faster deliveries and most importantly, superior quality and system performance
About the Author
Cmde Sujeet Samaddar NM (retd) — The writer retired as the Principal Director Naval Plans. He served NOVA Integrated Systems- A TATA Enterprise as Vice President (Operations) until October 2011. He is presently Director and CEO, ShinMaywa Industries India Limited.
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