India is a growing regional power and an emerging security partner in the contested Asia-Pacific region. In charge of guarding the nation against any sea-borne threats is the Indian Navy, with its fleet of 140+ front-line battle vessels.
Indian Navy has considered the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as its own backyard and has interjected efforts in securing these strategic waters. For decades, the navy had enjoyed unquestioned supremacy in the region but that is in question as the Chinese foray into the IOR.
Under the navy’s albeit control, are strategic waters stretching from Malacca Straits to the Strait of Hormuz overlooking the Persian Gulf. For a growing economical power like India, it is critical that its maritime borders and Sea Lanes of Communication are always sanitised, given the fact that almost 90% of its trade happens over sea routes.
The Chinese under their ‘String of Pearls’, are encompassing littoral states in an effort to increase their reach across these lucrative waters. PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) – the naval force of China – is being used as a sculpting tool for this ambitious mission.
China is rapidly modernizing its armed force and this is threatening to set-off the delicately maintained regional balance in the Asia-Pacific region. India is widely viewed as the lone power that is capable of checking the flying dragon.
India itself has its share of problems with the Chinese in the contested Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and South China Sea. Repeated incidents of Chinese warships surfacing close to Indian territorial waters have racked up issues between the neighbours.
Military planners at South Block – India’s military power seat – view China’s ‘Pearl of Strings’ as an effort to deny India its maritime freedom in the region. Docking of Chinese submarine in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, stand as a testimony to the dragon’s unwarranted adventures.
PLAN has guaranteed long range access to the waters through its fleet of 200+ vessels which consists of 6 SSNs, 4 SSBNs, 28 destroyers and 46 frigates. Indian Navy on the other hand, is left grappling with just over 140 front-line battleships which comprise of an aircraft carrier, 14 attack submarines, 9 guided-missile destroyers and 15 stealth frigates.
These vessels no doubt form a formidable force but still fall well short of guarding India’s increasing maritime assets. The government having taken note of these blaring issues has launched several proactive initiatives to arm the navy to the teeth.
Successive efforts have meant that the navy is steadily evolving from brown water force to a credible blue water navy. Since the past decade, the navy has been inducting 4 to 5 combatants per year. The navy in the 80’s, had around 23 ships under its control and today the number has reached a staggering 140+ vessels. This growth can be accounted to the navy’s unabated support to Indian made products.
As Chinese intrude into India’s backyard, it is critical that the navy boosts of the latest combatants. Navy’s modernization plans have chalked out route maps to operate at least 200 battle vessels by 2025. Indian Navy currently has over 48 surface and under-water combatants under construction at various Indian shipyards.
India’s urgent need is for submarines, which play a critical role not only in combats, but also during peace times performing ISR missions. The navy operates 1 Akula-class SSN, 9 Kilo-class and 4 HDW Type-209 SSKs. On the contrary, the Chinese have close to 70 submarines but the worry for India is SSNs and SSBNs.
China’s state-run channels, have several times quoted top naval officials, boosting of having the capabilities to blockade India using just its six SSNs. Aging under-water combatants of the Indian Navy will surely find it hard to level out against their Chinese counterparts.
India’s P75 and P75I programs, which were to equip the navy with six ultra-quiet diesel-electric submarines each, have been delayed for years. The P75 program under which Scorpene submarines are being built is over 4 years late. A commercial bid for the P75I program is yet to be floated out.
The government has recently green lighted navy’s demand for six SSNs which will now be built in Indian shipyards. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has publically accepted the sorry state of India’s silent forces and has admitted India will need more than planned 24 submarines to counter the Chinese.
Indian navy puts up a vibrant show when it comes to surface and aerial ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) combatants. India under its control has about a dozen ASW corvettes which can hunt down lurking submarines. Project – 28, under which the navy is acquiring four corvettes, is progressing as per schedule. Only this year, the navy inducted two indigenously developed Kamorta-class corvettes. INS Kiltan and INS Kavaratti, last two of the four corvettes, are to be delivered to the navy by 2017.
The government is contemplating plans with the navy to procure at least eight more Kamorta-class corvettes under Project – 28A. India Navy’s need for six missile corvettes has been answered with the DAC clearing the program in-principle.
The addition of Boeing manufactured P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft has given the navy ears and eyes over the waters. The aircraft with its sensory package is capable of detecting the slightest anomaly on the ocean floor. Armed with depth charges and torpedoes, the aircraft are death warrants for lurking submarines.
Eight such P8I’s are under the navy’s command and these aircraft are stationed at INS Rajali close to Chennai. P8I’s, since their induction have prowled waters across navy’s spear of influence. By 2022, Indian Navy will have four more P8I’s under its command and the number is expected to reach at least 24 by the next decade.
The induction rate of surface combatants like destroyers and frigates are progressing almost as per plans. Inclusion of Kolkata-class destroyers, Shivalik-class and Talwar-class stealth frigates have greatly enhanced the firing power of the navy.
By 2030, Indian Navy will be commissioning at least 40 front-line vessels to its force. With projects P-28, P-15A, P-15B and P-17 gaining traction, Indian shipyards plan to culminate these programs well before respective deadlines. The addition of these surface combatants will enable India to counter the Chinese influence in the region.
By 2019, Indian Navy will be operating two carrier battle groups – led by the 45,000 tonne INS Vikramaditya and the other by INS Vikrant (IAC-I). These massive floating airstrips promise to project India’s power across the region and will serve as force multipliers for India’s ‘Act East’ policy.
India is rumoured to have completed its nuclear triad with the induction of INS Arihant in mid-2016. Even as the ATV program matures, the government has recently green lighted the construction of six nuclear powered attack submarines. The additions of nuclear-powered vessels which enjoy unhindered ranges are bound to deter the Chinese.
On the policy planning front, India is actively gaining support for its ‘Act East’ policy which it formed exclusively to check the on-slaught of the Chinese. India has garnered support of Vietnam, Japan and other littoral states in the region. Successive efforts form the government have made sure that India has gained solid ground on the geopolitical front.
The Western and Eastern seaboards of the country are better guarded than ever. With constant addition of advanced maritime platforms, the Indian Navy has evolved from brown water force to a credible ‘blue water’ navy. The recent initiatives of the government promise to propel forward the growth prospectus of the navy. By 2030, the Indian Navy will help India project her power across the waters.
Combat Vessels of the Indian Navy
|Class of the vessel||Number of Vessels||Tonnage||Armament|
( Aircraft Carrier)
|1||45,000 tonnes.||Carries close to 30 combat ready MiG -29K fighter aircraft.
Barak – 1 and Barak – 8 SAM.
|Akula-class nuclear attack submarine||1||8,000 tonnes. On lease from Russia.||Klub Cruise missiles and standard heavy weight torpedoes.|
|Sindhughosh-class (Kilo-class) Diesel-electric submarine||9||3,000 tonnes.||Klub cruise missiles and Test ASW homing torpedo.|
|Shishumar-Class (Type 209) Diesel-electric submarine||4||1850 tonnes.||Wire guided homing torpedo.|
|Kolkata-Class Guided Missile Destroyers.||3||7500 tonnes.||BrahMos cruise Missile.
Barak – 8 SAM system.
|Delhi-class Guided Missile Destroyers.||3||6700 tonnes.||Kh-35 Switchblade SSM.
Barak-1 and Shtil SAM system.
|Rajput –Class Guided Missile Destroyers.||5||4974 tonnes.||BrahMos and Styx AShM missiles.
Barak 1 SAM system.
|Shivalik-class Stealth Guided Missile Frigates.||3||6200 tonnes.||BrahMos and Klub cruise missiles.
Barak-1 and Shtil SAM System.
|Talwar-class Stealth Guided Missile Frigates.||6||4,000 tonnes.||BrahMos and Klub Cruise missile. Shtil SAM System.
|Brahmaputra Class Frigates||3||3850 tonnes.||Kh-35 SSM missiles.
Barak-1 SAM system
|Kamorta-class ASW corvettes||2||3500 tonnes||Solely designed to hunt submarines. Features ASW rockets and depth charges.|
|Khukri-class corvettes||4||1350 tonnes||P-20 M Missiles.
|Kora-class corvettes||4||1350 tonnes||Kh-35 SSM missiles.
Igla SAM System.
© Karthik Kakoor