Thursday, January 20, 2011
Indian Navy accelerates Nuclear Submarine programme
New Delhi. The Indian Navy has begun construction of second and third of its nuclear submarines, speeding up the indigenous underwater capability programme.
According to well placed sources, while work on Arihant, the first nuclear submarine that was launched in 2010, was going on as scheduled, construction of the hull and sub components of the remaining two submarines was also underway. Considerable experience has been built from the development of Arihant, and the successive two submarines would be successively more potent with more power and punch.
The Indian Navy also hopes to get the nuclear powered K-152 Nerpa from Russia around March 2011, and that would help Indian officers and seamen in gaining renewed experience in operating nuclear vessels. Indian crews are already training on board the vessel, an Akula-II class 12,000 tonne submarine.
Russia, as part of the Soviet Union, had given the first nuclear vessel to India in the late 1980s on a 10-year lease, but whatever experience Indian sailors got on operating it was lost as most of them have retired and the programme was not renewed.
There was no official confirmation on what is happening on building the nuclear submarine capability, but Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma, told newsmen on his Navy Day press conference that the Naval Headquarters was aware that the Navy’s submarine fleet was getting old and required a renewed effort to build an honourable number of both nuclear and conventional submarines.
Arihant itself is due to be commissioned in 2012.
Naval sources indicated that some of the Indian warships could be equipped with nuclear arms as part of India’s No-First-Use-But-Massive-Retaliation Policy.
“We have Arihant. It is there. We have a triad in place now, but we have to use it as effectively as possible. We will have Arihant going within two years. There is progress in the project, despite some initial hiccups,” the Naval Chief said without giving any details.
Self reliance through indigenization is absolutely essential, he significantly stressed.
It may be noted that in the coming years, the Indian Navy’s submarine fleet could come down to as low as only eight submarines, from its existing strength of 15. And these are also old despite some periodic upgrades. The Navy has 10 Soviet vintage Kilo class submarines and four German HDWs. The 15th is a very old Foxtrot class, and set to be decommissioned.
Responding to a question by India Strategic, he observed: “There was a downward trend because of the gap that took place. For 17 years, we didn’t commission any indigenous submarine. That is why this gap took place.”
Conceding that there was a delay in the Scorpene programme, Admiral Verma said that it was now on track.
The French DCNS has reportedly offered two more submarines to make up for the depletion in addition to the six Scorpenes it plans to deliver from 2014 onwards. The Scorpenes are being build at the state-run Mazagon Docks Ltd. (MDL).
Admiral Verma said that the emphasis was on strengthening all the dimensions, and with data links and indigenous combat management systems, be they surface, sub-surface and air. And that the Navy had also decided to order four more Boeing P8-I maritime reconnaissance and anti-ubmarine warfare aircraft from the United States. The maritime and coastal surveillance and protection was of paramount interest so as to prevent a repeat of 26/11/2008 terror attacks by Pakistani saboteurs.
The Navy and Indian Coast Guard (ICG) are going to use a number of networked aircraft and other assets to monitor the seas, and the Navy is also acquiring Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft to further augment its surveillance capabilities.
The first P8-I, the metal for which has already been cut at Boeing’s Seattle factory, is due for delivery in January 2013, around the time this hi-tech aircraft is also delivered to the US Navy. Admiral Verma and a high level visited the US recently and he said he was happy that the production of this “extremely modern and capable aircraft” was on track.
One good thing about the Indian Navy, he pointed out, was its capacity to design its warships, and integrate them with state-of-the-art sensors. All future development programmes are aimed at inducting the highest available levels of technology into the indigenous military industrial stream.
He reminded that the Navy Day is marked to commemorate the daring and innovative actions taken by our Navy during the 1971 conflict that helped contribute to India’s resounding victory. The Navy Day is an occasion to remember our war heroes and rededicate ourselves to the service of the nation. Indeed, the theme of this Navy Week, ‘Glorious Wake, Vibrant Future’, reflects this very sentiment.
Admiral Verma said that over the past year, the Indian Navy had maintained a high tempo of operations. “Our ships, submarines and aircraft have conducted sustained operations towards safeguarding our maritime interests. We have operated in tandem with navies of friendly nations in the form of naval exercises, as well as cooperative security initiatives in support of our foreign policy. We have consolidated our coastal security organisation and infrastructure. In addition, we have moved steadily forward in our quest for greater indigenisation of our equipment along with nurturing of our human resources.”
Elaborating, he pointed out, There were 36 ships and submarines on order in various Indian shipyards now, and largely on-track.
The construction of the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier at Kochi was progressing satisfactorily, though with some initial hiccups, and the refurbishment of Vikramaditya – aka Gorshkov – in Russia was doing well.
Russian sources told India Strategic that work on Gorshkov was at a satisfactory pace and the ship was due for delivery before the Navy Day in December 2012 under the Russian government’s sovereign guarantee. Indian officers and crew are supervising and training on it.
Admiral Verma said that while the Navy’s first stealth frigate INS Shivalik was already commissioned, two more ships of the same class were on the anvil.
Then, three Kolkatta class Destroyers, four advanced anti-submarine corvettes, four offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), and a second sailing ship, were in various stages of construction.
In addition, five more OPVs, two Cadets Training Ships had been ordered from private shipyards, while the Government had also sanctioned four modern Landing Platforms Docks (LPDs) and a second line of six advanced submarines under Project 75 with high ToT levels. Apparently, the Navy is happy with INS Jalashwa, the decommissioned LPD USS Trenton that it bought for a pittance from the US in 2007 for amphibious role concepts.
The second line of submarines will have higher levels of underwater capability with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP).
There are also three follow-on ships of the Talwar class from Russia and two replenishment tankers from Italy, both due shortly.
Admiral Verma said that Mid-life Upgrades (MLUs) on 13 Rajput (erstwhile Kashin) and Godavari Class were also being conducted to significantly modernise them as 21st Century combatants.
As for naval aviation, Admiral Verma said that while the naval variant of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft was progressing, the Navy was training on the six carrier capable Mig 29Ks it had received from Russia at INS Hansa in Goa. A total of 16 plus 29 of these aircraft had been ordered.
It may be noted that the Navy is also looking for bigger aircraft carriers, of 60,000 tonnes plus, and it is possible that it would build them with foreign collaboration. Indigenous capability though is the key.
These carriers would launch the aircraft by catapults and land them by arrestor wires. Some presentations are reported to have been made by US companies in this regard, as only they have the technology.
There was emphasis on strengthening the helicopter fleet also.
Admiral Verma observed that the Navy was stepping up the technological training facilities for its officers as a high degree of competence was needed in operating modern warfare assets. This would enable the officers and men to move to civilian assignments also after retirement.