The extensive modernization ofIndia’s navy represents its desire to become not only a major regional player, but a major global one as well. Throughout most of the 20` century,India’s naval priorities were essentially focused on containingPakistanand securing the maritime approaches to Indian territorial waters.
This keptIndia’s naval outlook confined to its own waters. The expansion ofIndia’s economy since the late-1990s, along with its growing domestic interests and desire to be a regional power has, however, led it to expand its outlook to the widerIndian Oceanregion.
Since 2002,Indiahas undertaken a major naval modernization program, with the overall aim of upgrading its military in a 15-year timeframe. The US$40 billion that the Indian Government plans to spend between 2008 and 2013 forms part of this modernization program.
Numerically, the plan intends to make the Indian Navy the third-largest fleet in the world. It currently stands as the fifth-largest, with 171 vessels and around 250 aircraft. In January 2011,India’s Defense Ministry released the Defense Procurement Procedure 2011 (DPP-2011), which contains separate guidelines for government-owned and privately-owned shipyards to promote competition and increase the efficiency of indigenously-built ships.
The centerpiece of the Indian Navy’s modernization scheme revolves around the acquisition of aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered submarines. Presently,Indiahas allocated funds for the acquisition of three aircraft carriers. The first, INS Vikramaditya (formerly the Russian Navy’s Admiral Gorshkov), has been in the process of retrofitting inRussiasince 2008.
After considerable delays, it is expected to be delivered in 2012. The Vikramaditya will carry 16 MiG-29K aircraft. India’s other two aircraft carriers are locally built — the first, INS Vikrant, is due to enter service by 2014 and the second carrier is due in 2017 and is expected to carry 29 MiG-29K aircraft. These aircraft carriers would essentially makeIndiaa true blue-water navy and consolidate its force projection capability over a far greater portion of theIndian Ocean.
In 2009Indialaunched the INS Arihant; its first indigenously-built nuclear submarine, with the intention of commissioning it in late-2011. This will giveIndiaa nuclear triad (land and sea-based ballistic missiles and bombers carrying nuclear-tipped bombs/missiles), a capability currently only possessed by theUnited States,ChinaandRussia.
The Arihant will carry Shaurya missiles, which are capable of carrying a 1-tone nuclear warhead with a range of 750 kilometers and designed specifically for submarines. The vessel will also contain 12 Sagirika missiles, which have a range of up to 1,900 kilometers. Five indigenously-built nuclear-powered submarines are planned for the next decade at a total cost of $2.9 billion. The allocation of $11 billion for six diesel-electric submarines featuring improved land-attack capabilities has also recently been approved.
While aircraft carriers and submarines dominate the naval modernization program, there are other elements. In 2010Indiasigned a contract with the Pipavav Shipyard to build five patrol vessels. It has also built three multi-role, stealth-featured Shivalik-class frigates, with the first of these, INS Shivalik, being commissioned in April 2010.
Three Russian-built Talwar-class frigates have also been acquired, with the first, INS Teg, to be commissioned later in 2011 and the remainder due to start service in 2012. These will double the number of Talwar-class frigates, with the INS Talwar, Trishul and Tabar having already been commissioned in the last decade.
In addition to such measures, which are consistent withIndia’s expanding Indian Ocean profile,Indiahas sought to establish either bases or listening stations in many of theIndian Oceanislands.
Among the most significant of these was the establishment of a listening post in northernMadagascarin 2007, givingIndiaa naval position near southernAfricaand the sea lines of communication from that area.Indiahas also sent a naval patrol vessel, along with a Dornier-228 maritime reconnaissance aircraft to theSeychelles, reportedly to control piracy in the region.
The Indian Navy has also regularly assistedMauritiusin conducting hydrographic surveys, thus ensuring a near-constant naval presence in that country.Indiahas acquired berthing rights inOman, following joint military exercises in 2006 and a subsequent defense agreement between the two countries. Such initiatives have allowedIndiato obtain a naval influence in the western Indian Ocean from the Middle East to south-easternAfrica.
PANETTA VISIT TO BOOST INDIA-US DEFENCE TIES
NEW DELHI:Indiaand theUSwill look to broaden defence ties during a visit this week by defence secretary Leon Panetta, officials said on Sunday.
Panetta, a former chief of the US Central Intelligence Agency who took over as defence secretary from Robert Gates last year, is on his first visit toIndiain his current capacity.
During his two-day stay on 5 and 6 June inNew Delhi, Panetta is expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, besides holding talks with his counterpart A.K. Antony. Panetta will also address the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses think tank.
“The secretary has been eager to visitIndiasince assuming his post last summer,” an unnamedUSofficial was quoted as saying last week in a post on theUSdepartment of defence website.
“We’re trying to have a relationship withIndiathat is broad, strategic and continual. WithIndia, we are getting to a place where this type of interaction is just part of the norm of the relationship, where we engage on a whole range of issues—strategic issues, cooperative issues and a whole range of cooperative issues,” the official said.
Once mired in mutual suspicions, India-US defence ties have undergone a sea change from the days of the Cold War, whenIndiawas seen on the side of the former Soviet Union, and theUS, with its military and other support toIndia’s arch-rivalPakistan, was seen as unsympathetic toIndia’s security concerns.
In the 1990s, both sides moved towards greater contacts with the setting up of the defence policy group, institutionalizing a dialogue between theUSdefence department andIndia’s defence ministry.
ButIndia’s nuclear tests in 1998 and the subsequent sanctions soured the relationship, and it was only the removal of the strictures a decade ago that led to a resumption of civilian defence and military contacts in the form of joint exercises and dialogues.
Panetta’s stopover inNew DelhiafterSingaporeandVietnamis unlikely to yield a far-reaching pact like the one clinched in 2005 whenIndiaand theUSsigned the landmark new framework in the India-US defence relationship that set the contours of their partnership for a decade. But his trip will be keenly watched as he could expand on what role the US would like India to play as Washington implements President Barack Obama’s “pivot towards the Asia-Pacific” strategy—underlining the US as a Pacific power despite planned cuts of about $500 billion in defence spending.
“The core of what we’re trying to do in this swing through Asia is give a comprehensive account to everyone in the region about what the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific (region) will mean in practice,” the US official cited earlier said.
In his speech at the ShangriLa Dialogue forum inSingaporeover the weekend, Panetta reiterated the importance of the high-growth Asia-Pacific region to theUS—namingChina,IndiaandIndonesiaas examples of high-growth economies.
Noting that the region has some of the world’s largest populations and the largest militaries, Panetta said, “While the US military will remain a global force for security and stability, we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region,” according to a text of his speech posted on the website of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which organized the Shangri-La Dialogue.
The assurance comes against the backdrop of concerns among many countries in the region about the rise ofChina, its military modernization and the disputes over islands in the South China Sea thatChinaclaims as its territorial waters in its entirety.
Chinese officials have been critical of theUS’s shift of military emphasis to Asia, seeing it as an attempt to fence in the country and frustrateBeijing’s territorial claims.
The new strategic guidance to theUSdepartment of defence released by Panetta in January says theUSis “also investing in a long-term strategic partnership withIndiato support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broaderIndian Oceanregion”—a key commercial sea route.
“US economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region andSouth Asia,” the strategic guidance posted on the department of defence website said.
OnChina, the guidance said the country’s emergence as a regional power “will have the potential to affect theUSeconomy and our security in a variety of ways. … the growth ofChina’s military power must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region. …Working closely with our network of allies and partners, we will continue to promote a rules-based international order that ensures underlying stability and encourages the peaceful rise of new powers, economic dynamism, and constructive defence cooperation.”
“This is the hedging strategy” ofIndia, theUSand other countries in the region vis-a-visChina, said former foreign secretary and ex-ambassador to theUS, Lalit Mansingh. “We don’t know which wayChinawill turn, but we will be prepared, that is the idea.”
Indiais often cited as having the potential to counter-balanceChinathough the Indian government is reluctant to be seen as such.
ButIndiahas in recent years signed defence pacts with a host of countries includingThailandandVietnam, besides announcing its intention to post a defence attache inSeoul.
On the bilateral front, Panetta will discuss defence trade with Indian leaders, as well as future US-Indian military-to-military relations, the outcome of the 20 May North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) summit inChicago, and long-term trends inSouth Asiaand the rest of the region.
Indiahas in recent years emerged as a major buyer of US military hardware, from an amphibious assault platform—the USS Trenton—to transport and reconnaissance aircraft.
USenvoy to India Nancy Powell was recently quoted as saying that defence hardware deals worth $8 billion were in the pipeline.
Powell did not specify which firms she was talking about or when the deals will be signed, but embassy officials said she was referring to negotiations that include about a dozen Apache helicopters with engines for Indian jets, Reuters reported.
“WhatIndiawould like to see is joint research, development and manufacture of military hardware. We have not yet reached that stage of the offset policy,” Mansingh said.
The situation inAfghanistanandUSties withPakistanare also expected to be on the table, an Indian government official said, requesting anonymity.
FIRST SATELLITE FOR ARMED FORCES TO BE READY IN A MONTH
NEW DELHI: The armed forces are finally set to get their first-ever dedicated military satellite, a naval surveillance and communications one, as part of their long-standing quest to effectively harness the final frontier of space.
The geo-stationary naval satellite has “already been shipped out” for its launch that will take place “within a month or so”, government sources said.
A not-too-subtle indicator of the space event in the offing was also the creation of a new post of assistant chief of naval staff (communications, space and network-centric operations) at the Navy head-quarters over the weekend.
Though tight-lipped about the “over-the-sea” satellite’s launch, the Navy on Sunday said Rear Admiral Kishan K Pandey, a communications and electronic warfare specialist, had taken over as the new ACNS (CSNCO) in keeping with its endeavour to transform from a “platform-centric Navy” to a “network-enabled Navy”.
The satellite, with an over 1,000 nautical mile footprint over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) stretching from Africa’s east coast right till Malacca Strait, will enable the Navy to network all its warships, submarines and aircraft with operational centres ashore through high-speed data-links.
There is an urgent need to keep real-time tabs over the rapidly-militarizing IOR, whereChinais increasingly expanding its strategic footprint, as well as on troop movements, missile silos, military installations and airbases across land borders.
The long-delayed naval satellite is to be followed by ones for the Army and IAF for “over-the-land use”. In absence of dedicated satellites, the armed forces have so far depended on “dual-use” Indian satellites as well as lease of transponders on foreign ones for their navigation, communication, surveillance and reconnaissance purposes.
There are around 300 dedicated or dual-use military satellites orbiting around the earth at present, with theUSoperating over 50% of them, followed byRussiaandChina.
China, in particular, is pursuing an extensive military-space programme that even extends to advanced ASAT (anti-satellite) capabilities with “direct-ascent” missiles, hit-to-kill “kinetic” and directed-energy laser weapons.
DRDO, on its part, contends it can quickly fashion ASAT weapons, if required, by marrying the propulsion system of the over 5,000-km Agni-V missile tested recently with the “kill vehicle” of the almost-ready two-tier BMD ( ballistic missile system) system it has developed.
ButIndiais still some distance away from effective ASAT capabilities. The government is also not yet willing to establish a tri-Service Aerospace Command on the lines of the Strategic Forces Command which handles nuclear weapons.
The naval satellite is a step in the right direction. The Navy has already tested the “ship-end” of the new space era dawning through the massive Tropex (theatre-level readiness and operational exercise) held in January-February. The network-centric operations were tried with both the Eastern and Western Fleets, backed by fighters, spy drones and helicopters, out at sea.
AKASH MISSILES SUCCESSFULLY DESTROY AERIAL TARGETS
Two Akash missiles flying at supersonic speed destroyed fast-moving aerial targets over theBay of Bengalon Friday. They were fired in quick succession from theIntegratedTestRangeat Chandipur, off the Odisha coast, on Friday.
The Akash missiles were fired from mobile launchers and the test was a part of the post-induction validation trials by the Indian Air Force. The missile successfully hit two fast-moving bodies of the Pilotless Target Aircraft Lakshya. All the mission events, including the end-game warhead detonation in proximity mode, were successfully demonstrated.
The missiles were randomly selected from the production lot and launched in a gap of 10 minutes of each other. It flew at 2.5 Mach and successfully intercepted the targets that moved at 160 metres a second.
The first missile intercepted an in-bound target in a 23-km range after Lakshya reached an altitude of 2.5 km; the second was a “crossing target,” which was intercepted in a 17-km range and at an altitude of 2.5 km.
“All the mission objectives were met,” the sources said.
Except firing, every operation was automated, with the ground systems and the missiles having worked in unison. The flight control radar performed with high accuracy and consistent guidance.
Akash missile systems were developed by the DRDO as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme and has been fully inducted into the Indian Army and the Air Force. The missile is powered by a ramjet rock propulsion system and has a 25-30-km strike range. The missile is also supported by the Rajendra radar system, which can simultaneously track 64 targets.
The system can launch eight missiles simultaneously on four different targets. The Akash missile is highly manoeuvrable and is capable of zeroing in on any fighter aircraft, in both approach and receding modes. It can carry a 60-kg conventional warhead which will auto-explode on close proximity. Each air defence system comprises the missile, the launcher, the ground system and the radar.