Saturday, May 28, 2011
The Navy continues to hone its war-fighting capabilities despite being stretched in coastal security and anti-piracy operations. The force is now on course to soon induct two more deadly stealth frigates to bolster its growing "blue-water" warfare capabilities.
Sources say the 6,200-tonne indigenous stealth frigate INS Satpura is likely to be commissioned in June-July, while the Russian-built 4,900-tonne INS Teg should finally be ready for induction by September-October.
These long-awaited warships will come at a time when Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma has stressed that "maintenance of war-fighting abilities" remains the "top-most priority" for his force despite the "large number of peacetime commitments (anti-piracy, coastal security and the like) at hand".
"With the security situation being fluid, we need to maintain the organizational ability to deploy warships, submarines and aircraft at immediate notice," said Admiral Verma, at the naval commanders' conference here on Tuesday.
INS Satpura and INS Teg will certainly boost combat capabilities, packed as they are with sensors, weapons and missile systems, coupled with their stealthy nature due to "vastly-reduced" radar, infra-red, noise, frequency and magnetic "signatures" to beat enemy detection systems.
That's not all. INS Satpura, the second of three indigenous stealth frigates built under the Rs 8,101-crore Project-17 at Mazagon Docks, will be followed by INS Sahyadri after six months. The first, INS Shivalik, was commissioned in April last year.
Similarly, INS Teg is to be followed by its sister frigates, INS Tarkash and INS Trikhand, built under a Rs 5,514-crore project inked with Russia in July 2006, after gaps of six months each.
Both the Indian and Russian projects, of course, have been dogged by huge time and cost overruns. The three warships from Russia are actually "a follow-on order" to the first three frigates, INS Talwar, INS Trishul and INS Tabar, inducted by India in 2003-2004 at a cost of over Rs 3,000 crore.
Though their induction too was delayed, the Navy is quite happy with the power the Talwar-class frigates pack. The warships have "a very high weapon and sensor density", including eight vertical launch cells for the 'Klub-N' anti-ship and anti-submarine cruise missiles. In addition, the three new frigates will also be armed with the 290-km BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.
The Shivalik-class frigates, in turn, can also deal with "multiple-threats" in all three dimensions -- air, surface and sub-surface. Apart from Russian Shtil surface-to-air missile systems and Klub anti-ship cruise missiles, they are also armed with the Israeli 'Barak-I' anti-missile defence systems to guard against Harpoon and Exocet missiles, launched from platforms like P-3C Orion aircraft and Agosta-90B submarines which Pakistan has acquired from US and France.
The defence ministry has also approved Project-17A to construct seven more frigates at Mazagon Docks and GRSE in Kolkata, with even more stealth features, for around Rs 45,000 crore. In all, the Navy has around 30 new warships and six submarines on order as of now to maintain its force-levels at about 140 combatants.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
KARACHI: Suspected militants have stormed an airbase in Karachi late Sunday night, rocking one of the nation's heavily guarded military installations with fiery explosions and leaving at least 10 people, including six of them, dead just three-week after the death of Osama bin Laden.
They also blew up a PC3 Orion aircraft in one of the most brazen attacks in years.
Pakistani security personnel are still battling with the militants holed up at the Pakistan Air Force's Faisal airbase which also houses PNS Mehran, the naval air station, the country's interior minister Rehman Malik said.
"I can confirm that security forces have killed six of the attackers while the rest are holed up in one building of the air station and are fighting a losing battle," Malik told Aaj television channel.
Malik said heavy contingents of special naval and military commandoes and other security forces have been rushed to the base to control the situation.
Earlier, officials of the Citizens Police Liaison Committee confirmed that at least four naval personnel were killed. While other officials said six persons were injured, including a foreigner.
A Pakistan Navy spokesman, meanwhile, confirmed that two naval officers were injured in the attack.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani reportedly spoke to the heads of all three armed forces asking them to take immediate action to control the situation.
The terrorists, numbering between 12 and 15, targeted PNS Mehran where some Chinese engineers were reportedly engaged in work within the Faisal airbase, at about 10.40 pm, sources said.
The armed men lobbed several grenades and exchanged heavy fire with security forces. The firing died out at about 11.30 pm but erupted again at midnight.
The militants apparently entered the Naval base and hangers through the Pakistan Air Force museum, a source said.
"They took advantage of the fact that people at that time were leaving for home from the PAF museum inside the Faisal base," the source said.
Dawn News channel quoted witnesses as saying that they had heard up to five blasts. Heavy firing continued for over 20 minutes after the first blast occurred, following which there were reports of intermittent firing.
Hundreds of paramilitary personnel surrounded the airbase while commandos from the army's elite Special Services Group were sent in to sweep the area.
Footage on television showed ambulances rushing to the airbase.
The high-security area where the attack occurred also houses the PAF's Southern Air Command, Air War College and museum as well as PNS Mehran.
Militants had also attacked two Naval buses in April in which around seven people were killed.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. (NNS) -- The F-35C Joint Strike Fighter made its first public appearance at an air show May 21.
Piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Eric "Magic" Buus, the F-35C made a single pass down the show line at the Joint Service Open House at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
The flight commemorated 100 years of naval aviation by highlighting the future of tactical air power for the U.S. Navy. The F-35C variant of the joint strike fighter is distinct from the F-35A and F-35B versions with its larger wing surfaces and reinforced landing gear for greater control in the demanding carrier take-off and landing environment.
The flyover originated from the F-35C's primary test site at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. and was executed in the same manner as any controlled test sortie. The aircraft, CF-2, flew within its approved flight envelope and was accompanied by an F-18 Hornet flying chase.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program is in the system development and demonstration phase, focusing on delivering three different and new aircraft variants to the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. All three variants integrate advanced low observable stealth into a supersonic, multi-role fighter.
Friday, May 20, 2011
India is to invest USD 46.96 billion as part of moves to boost up its naval forces over the next 20 years adding 101 new warships, ranging from sophisticated destroyers to nuclear submarines.
"Going by the investment value, India is expected to build sophisticated destroyers, new generation and new radar vessels, nuclear submarines, and amphibious ships," Naval analyst Bob Nugent and vice president of the United States-based AMI International, said here today.
Speaking at a pre-event press conference for the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference to be held here for May 18 to 20, the international expert said that Indian investments in surface and under sea platforms would be double that of China, which was spending USD 23.99 billion to build 113 war vessels.
While, Indian naval programme would be focused on building nuclear submarines, the Chinese thrust would be on building an aircraft carrier.
India, he said was looking at building compact hi-speed and hi-tech warships, the analyst said, that Indian shipyards were in the process of completing hi-speed coastal boats to prevent Mumbai type terror attacks from the sea.
He said, that Indian naval shipyards were already operating its full capacity, raising the risk of ship building programmes running short of local yard space.
He cited that the first casualty could be India's ambitions to build six French Scorpene submarines, adding that this order could be reduced from six to three due to limited yardspace.
Maritime experts said, that India's expenditure on warship building could account for as much as 27.8 per cent of the total investment in Asia-Pacific.
They said, that India and China naval buildup programme would outstrip that of non-NATO and even Russian investments.
Other major naval investors in Asia-Pacific would include Australia - USD 14 billion, Indonesia - USD 7 billion, Taiwan – USD 16 billion, Pakistan – USD 2.85 billion and Singapore – USD 1.74 billion.
Backing his confident in the Indian investment on naval ships, he pointed out that India have built and or was in the process of completing 100 coastal boats.
Nugent stressed that the high dollar investments for each country showed the high-end naval vessels to be built in the coming years though the number of units might be small.
He said the region was already rated as the world's leading investor in the naval vessels, with 340 units, worth USD 69.1 billion, being built or to be completed over the next three years.
A further 193 naval vessels, costing USD 71 billion, were planned to be built between 2014 and 2019 in the region, he said. Nugent estimated that the region would build 236 naval vessels, an investment of USD 28.2 billion, in 2020-2030.
The large scale Asia Pacific investment on the naval ships puts the region in second place behind the United States, which is to invest USD 280 billion on 505 vessels over the next 20 years.
But Asia Pacific was ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). NATO is to invest USD 153.3 billion on 581 vessels over the same 20 year period, lower than Asia Pacific's combined USD 168.3 billion investment on 769 vessels.
According to Nugent, there was no regional "Naval Arms Races" unfolding so far, and the investment from each country would depend on the respective economic growths.
Comparatively, the Caribbean and Latin American region would invest USD 24.8 billion on 292 vessels over the next 20 years, the Middle East and North Africa USD 38.2 billion on 453 vessels, Non-NATO Europe USD 8.8 billion on 61 vessels, Russia USD 22.1 billion on 84 vessels, and Sub-Sahara Africa USD 3.1 billion on 41 vessels.
Two Indian naval crews will be going to France to train for operating the Scorpene killer submarines , six of which are being built at Mazagon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai under the Rs 23,562 crore programme called Project-75.
"The Indian crews will begin the training with the French navy after some months. We now hope to get the first Scorpene by August 2015. Each submarine will have just a 36-member crew since automation levels in them are very high," said an official. With India down to just 14 submarines now, the Navy is keen that the Scorpene project, which has been hit by a huge cost escalation and is running three years behind schedule, does not suffer any more slippages.
Both MDL as well as French collaborator DCNS, however, are confident that Project-75 is now fully on track. "The first Scorpene will be 'launched' into water in 2013, and will be ready for commissioning by August 2015 after extensive harbour and sea trials," said a top DCNS official.
"The target is to deliver the sixth submarine by 2018, one every nine months after the first one in 2015. The third and fourth submarines are already under construction at MDL," the official added.
Navy, on its part, is keeping its fingers crossed about the Scorpene project as well as its new programme called "Project-75 India'' . The government of course is yet to finalize P-75 I, under which six new stealth submarines equipped with both tubelaunched missiles for landattack capabilities as well as AIP (air-independent propulsion ) are to be built with foreign collaboration for over Rs 50,000 crore.
Projections show the force will have only five of its existing 10 Russian Kiloclass and four German HDW submarines by 2020. Consequently , even with the six Scorpenes, India will be far short of the at least 18 conventional submarines required to deter Pakistan and China, both of which are rapidly augmenting their underwater combat arms.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The 105 meter-long SIGMA class frigate, built by Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding for the Royal Moroccan Navy, left Vlissingen on the 6th of May for her sea acceptance trials in the North Sea, right on schedule as agreed in the contract.
During the SAT, an extensive program will be carried out in which the platform as well as the sensor weapons and communications suite will be tested.
The second frigate of 98 meters is scheduled for sea trials at the end of 2011 as the third frigate, also 98 meters long, is still under construction at the Damen yard in Vlissingen, to be launched in September this year.
The three SIGMA-class frigates for the Royal Moroccan Navy have been designed according to Schelde Naval Shipbuilding's revolutionary SIGMA approach and are a further development of the SIGMA-corvettes for the Indonesian Navy. The SIGMA approach applies modularity in many areas.
The Moroccan SIGMA Class frigates equipped to conduct the traditional naval tasks as well as maritime security operations. The vessels are also suited to support humanitarian aid operations.
The Damen Shipyards Group offers a complete range of naval and patrol vessels ranging from 7 to over 200 meters. Part of this portfolio are the Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) naval combatants and auxiliaries, embodied by the SIGMA and ENFORCER series.
DSNS’s recent export successes are orders for four SIGMA corvettes delivered to the Indonesian Navy and three SIGMA frigates for the Royal Moroccan Navy which are under construction. At present DSNS has under construction for the Royal Netherlands Navy: four Patrol Ships and a Joint Logistic Support Ship (JSS), the largest military vessel built by DSNS so far.
After three weeks of trials at sea, the first-of-class Aquitaine multimission frigate has returned to dock. The trials were a first opportunity to demonstrate the frigate’s impressive seakeeping qualities. Its manoeuvrability and propulsion system performance met especially the customer’s highest specifications.
FREMM Aquitaine’s crew comprised French Navy personnel, customer representatives, employees of DCNS and its partners. The chief objective of the mission was to demonstrate the frigate’s seakeeping and other nautical qualities and validate the performance of its propulsion and navigation systems.
“These initial sea trials with the first-of-class Aquitaine went very well indeed,” says Vincent Martinot-Lagarde, FREMM programme manager. “The objectives of this first period of sea trials were reached, with more than hundred tests successful. Te propulsion and manoeuvrability tests performed exactly as we predicted and in line with the customer’s expectations.”
These first tests in the ship’s ‘natural environment’ focused indeed on the two key elements of its performance: propulsion, manoeuvrability, and the navigation system. Over 100 tests were conducted successfully. The FREMM high-performance and state-of-the-art hybrid propulsion system (CODLOG: Combined Diesel eLectric or Gas) met the expectations. The Aquitaine was taken to its maximum speed of 27 knots. At this speed, it still had a considerable amount of power in reserve. During manoeuvrability tests, the ship also performed in line with the customer’s requirements. In particular, its turning circle and stopping distance were better than specification.
For DCNS, these first sea trials were a dual success. Not only did DCNS exceed the initial objectives of the mission, but the campaign also served to validate the overall work method devised for the FREMM programme, including the shore integration facility for warship exploitation systems. This facility simulates navigation and platform management and made a significant contribution to the smooth execution of the trials. Moreover, it also played an important role in helping the French Navy crew to fully familiarise themselves with the vessel before putting to sea.
“These first results are extremely positive and will help us to offer our export customers high levels of performance,” continues Vincent Martinot-Lagarde. “By demonstrating the high quality of our upstream work, the entire process has been validated.” An important milestone has been reached with these successful trials, which are further proof that the DCNS FREMM frigate is an extremely promising and competitive solution.
A major programme for DCNS and partners
Under the FREMM programme, DCNS will build 12 vessels: 11 for the French Navy and one for the Royal Moroccan Navy. FREMM frigates are the most technologically advanced and competitively priced on the world market. These heavily armed warships are being built under DCNS prime contractorship to carry state-of-the-art weapons and systems, including the Herakles multifunction radar, MdCN deep-strike cruise missiles, Aster anti-air missiles, Exocet MM40 anti-ship missiles and MU90 torpedoes.
FREMM multirole frigates are designed to respond to all types of threats with unparalleled flexibility, interoperability and availability. As demonstrated by the export contract with the Royal Moroccan Navy, they are also designed to meet the needs and expectations of international client navies.
FREMM technical data:
Length overall: 142 metres
Beam: 20 metres
Displacement: 6,000 tonnes
Max. speed: 27 knots
Complement: 108 (incl. helicopter detachment)
Accommodation: 145 men and women
Range: 6,000 nautical miles at 15 knots
DCNS is a world leader in naval defence and an innovative player in energy. The Group’s success as an advanced technology company with global reach is built on meeting customer needs by deploying exceptional know-how and unique industrial resources. DCNS designs, builds and supports surface combatants, submarines and mission-critical systems and equipment incorporating the most advanced technologies. It also proposes services for naval shipyards and bases. The Group employs 12,000 people and generates annual revenues of around EUR 2.4 billion.
The latest of the Royal Navy's new Type 45 air defence destroyers has been formally commissioned into the fleet today.
HMS Diamond is one of six multi-role vessels being built to provide air defence using the Sea Viper missile system.
She can embark 60 troops and their equipment, supported by a modern medical facility that can deliver a surgical capability. She could also carry up to 700 people to support a civilian evacuation.
The Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, said:
"The Type 45 programme is an example of how we are investing in capabilities for the future. This ceremony marks another step in the delivery of six of the most powerful air defence destroyers ever built for the Royal Navy. These new ships will provide the UK with a world class military capability that will form a key part of the Future Force 2020."
Hundreds of guests including families of the 190-strong ship's company attended the ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base which was conducted by the Reverend Scott Brown, Chaplain of the Fleet.
During the ceremony the ship's sponsor, Lady Johns, who launched the ship at BAE Systems' Govan shipyard on the River Clyde in November 2007, inspected the members of the ship's company on parade.
HMS Diamond's Commanding Officer, Commander Ian Clarke, read out a Commissioning Warrant and the ceremony was rounded off in traditional Royal Navy fashion with the cutting of a commissioning cake.
Performing the honour was the Commanding Officer's wife Joanne and Engineering Technician Ross Hindmarch, who, at 17, is the youngest member of the ship's company.
Commander Clarke said:
"This is a proud moment for all on board HMS Diamond. As she nears the end of her trials phase, this ceremony marks our transition to front line service.
"Thereafter, the emphasis will be on combat readiness in preparation for our first deployment next year. I'm thrilled that so many families, friends and affiliates, some from overseas, were part of our momentous day."
All the Type 45s will be based in Portsmouth. The first, HMS Daring, was commissioned in July 2009, followed by HMS Dauntless in June last year.
The fourth, Dragon, is due to arrive in Portsmouth for the first time in September. All six are scheduled to be in service by the middle of the decade.
The maiden flight of the naval variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) will take to the skies in July, exactly a year after it rolled out from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL’s) Aircraft Research and Design Centre hangar in Bangalore.
“We would be conducting the first flight of the LCA Naval Prototype-1 (NP1) – a trainer aircraft -- in July. The aircraft is currently undergoing a series of ground tests, and preparations are on for the flight certification which is mandatory before the first flight,” said Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief controller R&D (Aeronautics and Service Interaction), Prahlada.
He said all agencies involved in the programme, like the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), HAL and the certifying agencies including Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) and Director General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA), are extremely cautious about ensuring that the first flight is carried out without any hassles. “Being the first flight of the LCA naval programme we are extremely careful. We want to ensure that everything is put in place before the first flight and that the programme is as successful as the Indian Air Force (IAF) version which has had no accidents since it started flight tests on January 4, 2001,” he said.
The LCA’s IAF version has an impeccable record of completing over 1,600 flights without any incidents. The LCA NP-1 is different from its IAF counterpart. It has a new, stronger and longer landing gear, an arrester hook for ship deck landing, front fuselage droop for better over-the-nose vision to facilitate landing on aircraft carriers, an additional control surface to reduce carrier landing speed and consequential changes in various systems.
The LCA NP1 will fly with a GE-F404-IN20 engine and is specifically designed for ski jump take off and arrested landing, with high landing loads compared to its IAF counterpart.
The Navy has placed an order for six LCA Navy aircraft and is expected to replace the depleting Sea Harrier squadron. The LCA Naval variants will operate alongside the MiG-29Ks by 2014.
Indian Navy’s submarine arm had clocked an impressive strength of 21 submarines in the 1980s and its Order of Battle (ORBAT) included the Charlie class nuclear propelled submarine INS Chakra, taken on lease from the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991.
The Indian Navy (IN) successfully absorbed the Chakra’s nuclear propulsion technology while it was based at Vishakapatnam. The submarine was seen exercising with a few selected fleet units of the Navy in Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) maneuvers.
Since then however, the Navy has witnessed a steady decline and its ORBAT of submarines is down to 14 boats, some of them on the verge of retirement.
India’s Scorpene project is delayed, but the requirement of an additional six boats at least in a second line of construction is inviting keen competition from several countries, including Russia, Germany and France.
The existing boats include four Dr Gabler 1500 HDW/IKL designed submarines inducted between 1986 and 1994, and 10 Kilo class double decked boats from Moscow, supplied between 1986 and 2000. The Indian Navy has acquired just two submarines since 1990 in the last 21 years. Of the ten Kilos, the last, INS Sindhushastra (S 65), was commissioned in June 2000, as the fully converted submarine capable of firing Uran missiles.
Four more were later converted in Russia during long refits and, at present, the older six Kilos are 22 years old and ageing. The 20- year old INS Sindhukriti (S-61), the first submarine to be attempted to be refitted in India for conversion to fire Uran missiles with Russian help, has been languishing in refit at Vishakapatnam for the last three years.
To augment the Navy’s submarine strategic capability, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) took over the loss making Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL) from the Ministry of Shipping at Vishakapatnam, as it was right next to the Ship Building Centre (SBC) where India’s nuclear submarines are being built. HSL was given the contract to refit INS Sindhukriti.
The inability to carry out refits of the Kilo class submarines in India is another debilitating factor leading to a degraded operational capability.
Submarines require very robust checks for safety of their hulls, that have to withstand deep depths and no system like pumps and machinery can afford to fail, as it can be fatal.
The life span of Russian platforms has posed many challenges. There are problems in the supply of spares and documentation despite the setting up of Roboronservice Ltd in India by a group of Russian companies to provide better support to the Indian Navy. The L One (L1) syndrome of lowest cost tender acceptance system of procurement leaves little flexibility.
Some times, the L1 issue has become a challenge for logistic and acquisition managers in India’s Armed Forces.
DECLINING SUBMARINE STRENGTH
The number of conventional submarines in the Indian Naval fleet to ensure adequate availability in numbers for operations, training, exercises and contingencies is likely to keep declining from the present 14, till the first Scorpene submarine rolls out of Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) in about four to five years.
The vexed Scorpene building programme has also seen an escalation of around $ 1.5 billion over the initial price tag of $ 3.8 billion, and in the words of Defence Minister AK Antony, for reasons that ‘MDL could not procure items as per the contract from India’.
MDL has had to import engines and other equipment at higher prices than quoted in the negotiations, as the contract was hurriedly signed. The situation also worsened when there was a war room leak of information from NHQ’s nerve centre, implicating retired naval officers and son of a member of Parliament.
Historically, it was in 1997 that the Indian Ministry of Defence (MOD) had taken up the ‘two line 30 year national submarine building programme’ for the Indian Navy to boost itss submarine strength as well as India’s indigenous manufacturing sector.
India did build Leander class frigates successfully at the Mazagon Docks.
Former Naval Chief Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, a proponent of submarine power for the Navy, and Rear Admiral Raja Menon, a former submarine captain who had trained in Germany at the HDW yard, scripted the Indian navy’s long term vision.
Adm Bhagwat also pushed for the Dhanush nuclear capable missile, to be fitted on the OPV INS Subhadra and Sukanya in the interim for nuclear deterrence, despite detractors. It is not much known, that the in the 1960s, as a young Lieutenant, Bhagwat had volunteered for the Navy’s budding elite submarine arm but did not fully qualify, as the competition was severe.
In the coming years though, he enrolled his son in to the Indian Navy, who is now a senior Commander and a qualified nuclear submariner.
Adm Bhagwat could not follow up on his aggressive thrust to make the Ministry of Defence give accent to maritime issues, especially submarines and an indigenous aircraft carrier in his time. His tenure was also cut short by a ministerial order.
It was a jolt to the Armed Forces, and the Navy’s submarine plans suffered. It is well said, new brooms take time to settle and sweep differently. Only in 1999, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) formally approved and recommended the long term plan for the local construction of 24 submarines over 30 years in two lines.
The decision for the first line of submarine building programme languished for seven years. The vested interests of the three contenders were not easy to resolve. These included Armaris (now defunct), the French and Spanish combine DCNS which finally secured the $ 3.8 billion contract for six submarines, German HDW which had supplied two 1500 IKL/HDW boats from Germany and helped build two at MDL, and Rubin/Amur of Russia, which had also offered to build submarines.
India’s Larsen & Toubro (L&T), which has engaged in building India’s ATV nuclear submarine INS Arihant with Russian help, is confident that it can also deliver new submarines in cooperation with foreign shipyards.
South Korea, which had locally manufactured the 212 HDW submarines under license, has also offered its interest in the project.
Many professionals from 1998 onwards had suggested that one or two submarines should be urgently built abroad and inducted to adapt to the technology first, as was done from HDW in the 1980s, but it was not to be.
The saving grace is that the IN has plans to induct two nuclear propelled submarines soon; the home built INS Arihant which will be armed with the DRDO’s 700km K-15/Sagarika missiles by the end of next year, and Nerpa from Russia.
The initial snags reported in the Arihant’s nuclear reactor operation have been overcome and the arduous harbour trials are reported to be going well at Vishakapatnam.
It will be a proud day for Indians, when the submarine’s reactor is made critical and Arihant sails out on nuclear power. The other submarine, the 8,500 ton Akula class Nerpa, being christened INS Chakra, is expected to arrive on lease later this year.
Unconfirmed reports say that the Indian crew for it is already being trained in Vladivostok. In India, these officers and men would have had extensive training in nuclear reactor operations already at one of India’s power reactors.
When commissioned, the two nuclear boats will be a formidable addition to the Indian Navy’s declining strength. The base and safety facilities are being setup under the care of Vice Admiral P K Chatterjee, a submariner at NHQ who heads the Nuclear Safety Division.
For underwater communications, an agreement has been reported to have been signed with a private company to build tall transmitter towers for Very Low Frequency (VLF) Radio Waves to transmit messages to submerged submarines at 300 bits/sec.
VLF is a communication system that allows submerged submarines to receive messages without having to break the surface or through towed and tethered buoys or their periscope masts. This is an advancement on the earlier VLF station which was set up under the Navy’s Project Skylark in Tirunaveli in South India with US help, akin to the Omega system which was proposed for Australia in 1972.
THE SECOND LINE
The progress for the approved second line of building submarines, pending since 1999, appears to be moving swiftly now.
In mid-July 2010, the Indian media stated that the programme for the next line six submarines was to be funded at about US $ 8 to 10 billion inclusive of technology transfers and offsets. The Navy had released the relevant RFI on 26 September 2008.
The replies continue to be reviewed by the Indian Navy and the Acquisition Wing of MOD, and most foreign builders have been called for consultations, so that a comprehensive RFP can be issued.
The plans call for import of two, and the construction of four in India, under what is called Project 75-I. An RfP is awaited, and may be issued within this year. In financial terms, this acquisition could nearly be as big as the Indian Air Force’s tender for 126-plus order for Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).
The responses to the Navy’s 2008 submarine RFI include the five designs tabled below, which in all probability will include options for Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) systems as no leading navy can have submarines that surface often to charge batteries, acting like sitting ducks in today’s technology of detection.
DCNS has offered the Super Scorpene design which is still on paper, with MESMA AIP with a sales pitch that since DCNS is building the Scorpenes in India at MDL, the second line will come out faster and economically. DCNS can also build simultaneously at another yard like HSL. (The French also claim the submarine design can be fitted with a nuclear propulsion package plug on the lines of the French nuclear submarine of the Rubis class).
Navantia is the Spanish submarine builder who was the partner with DCNS in Armaris for the current six Indian Scorpenes project progressing at MDL. Navantia has since broken off from DCNS, and has offered the Spanish S-80 design almost with the same argument of alacrity as the French, with a competitive ethanol based AIP. Navantia is constructing S-80 submarines for the Spanish Navy and has a very advanced open architecture design for fire control suites and also has a tieup with Lockheed Martin of USA, which should allow the Indian Navy to independently select fire control suites, missiles and torpedoes from either source.
Rubin has offered the Amur design which has also been on the cards for long. Many in the Indian naval community wish to see the Navy and MOD adopt a Russian design as Russians have good submarine technology and have proved alternate reliable strategic partners. The Amur designers claim they can fit eight vertical BrahMos missile launchers and Russia holds the BrahMos technology.
Fincantieri/Rubin has offered the S-1000 design. Fincantieri has emerged as a favoured reliable, and economical warship supplier that has delivered fleet tanker INS Deepak, an Oceanographic research vessel ORV Sagar Nidhi, and is a consultant to IN for its ambitious 37,500 ton aircraft carrier project at Cochin Shipyard Ltd.
ThyssenKrupp Marine has offered the HDW Type 214 with the sales pitch that the 214 is the only widely proven design in service and that the Indian Navy operates the earlier adaptation of the 209 class. HDW claims it can deliver submarines timely, as in the past.
AIR INDEPENDENT PROPULSION (AIP)
The Indian Navy is in the search for an AIP system and contemplating to upgrade one or two of the 1500 HDW boats with an AIP plug when the boats come up for refits. Singapore has adopted the Swedish Sterling engine with climate control for tropical waters for its Archer class from Kockums AB, which is now under the German umbrella of the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. The Indian Navy and Republic of Singapore Navy relations are very close and Indian officers are seconded to Singapore, and have exchanged notes.
In the current Scorpene contract, the Indian Navy has the option to fit the French MESMA ethanol steam system, which the French firm DCNS has fitted on the Pakistan Navy’s AgostaB submarines.
Little is known how the MESMA is progressing in the Pakistan Navy and this writer met the Vice Chief of the Pakistan Navy in Singapore during an OPV Conference and he claimed success. The German HDW submarines employ a fuel cell AIP technology and the Spanish have an adapted ethanol based AIP, which they claim is superior to the French. Russians claim they have an AIP design and it is reported India’s DRDO has been experimenting with an AIP also.
The Indian Navy has a grave responsibility in the coming years and if the Indian economy is to continue to grow at a steady rate then energy security, stability in the Indian Ocean, exploitation of the two million sq miles of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and protection of India’s shorelines against 26/11 type of attacks will need a robust, large and well equipped, well trained, and well funded Navy.
The Indian Navy has a crucial role in ensuring that the trading Sea Lanes and choke points in the Indian Ocean and the littoral areas are secure at all times.
To patrol the seas, a large Navy needs a surface fleet and a sufficient strength of conventional submarines is a necessity for the Indian Navy in current scenario in the Indian Ocean.
India’s maritime military strategy is predicated on preparing for a possible conflict whilst maintaining a deterrent posture that ensures peace. The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) has stated in Indian Navy’s strategic document India’s Maritime Military Strategy thus: “The direction appears abundantly clear – a compact but capable Navy. The emphasis would be on force multipliers, quality of weapons, sensors and networking of platforms. In other words, the focus would be on critical capabilities than on the number of ships or aircraft.”
So be it, but all new projects, including the second submarine line, should also help bring new technologies and economic benefits to Indian industries.