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

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
Click to enlarge


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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