A new doctrine for the Navy

Print edition : July 16, 2004

A Sea Harrier takes-off from the flight deck of INS Viraat off the coast of Mumbai. A file photo. Admiral Madhvendra Singh declared that INS Viraat would remain in service through upgrades until Admiral Gorshkov is commissioned. Gorshkov's retrofit at the Sevmash ship-building facility in Severodvinsk on Russia's northern White Sea coast is likely to be complete by 2008-09. - SEBASTIAN D'SOUZA/AFP

The Indian Maritime Doctrine, released in April by the Navy Chief, urges the Navy to recognise its responsibilities towards developing a credible minimum nuclear deterrence and builds a strong case for it to acquire a "non-provocative strategic capability" through the submarine.

THE Indian Navy has revised its earlier defensive doctrine centred on coastal protection to an aggressively competitive strategy aimed at developing a credible minimum nuclear deterrence (MND), pursuing littoral warfare and dominating the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

According to the Indian Maritime Doctrine, released in April by the Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Madhvendra Singh during the Commanders' conference at the Eastern Naval Command headquarters in Visakhapatnam, the Navy is endeavouring to project power through "reach, multiplied by sustainability" across its "legitimate areas of interest" stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Straits.

For the first time, the Navy has stressed the need for a submarine-based credible MND capability that is "inexorably linked" to India pursuing an independent foreign policy posture. "If India is to exude the quiet confidence of a nation that seeks to be neither deferential nor belligerent, but is aware of its own role in the larger global scheme, it will need to recognise what constitutes strategic currency in a Clausewitzian sense," the 148-page analysis declares.

The Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft. The Navy is set buy two secondhand Il-38s to replace the pair it lost in an accident two years ago. These will be upgraded with the Sea Dragon radar, rendering the aircraft compatible with the proposed induction of nuclear-powered submarines and the minimum nuclear deterrence configuration.-

It goes on to state that for India to occupy its "appropriate" place in the global hierarchy as a secular, vibrant and economically thriving democracy there is a "strong case" for it to acquire a "non-provocative strategic capability" through the "most viable platform" - the submarine. The document strongly urges the Navy to "recognise" its MND responsibilities and to vindicate them swiftly.

After conducting multiple nuclear tests in 1998, India declared that its MND would be based on a triad of weapons delivered by aircraft; mobile, land-based missiles; and sea-based platforms.

Official sources said that to achieve the sea-leg of India's under-construction MND, the Navy reportedly entered into a covert agreement with Moscow recently for the lease-purchase of two Akula (Bars)-class Type 971 nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) for around $700 million each, with the option of acquiring a third one. The first submarine would reportedly be handed over by 2005.

The agreement was believed to have been completed after months of hard bargaining for the highly publicised but `related' $1.5-billion deal signed earlier this year for the 44,570-tonne Kiev-class aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and 16 MiG 29 K ground attack/interceptor aircraft that are to form its air group. The Navy is acquiring the 17-year-old carrier - which forms part of its overarching strategy of becoming "an effective instrument of foreign policy" - for around $675 million, which is estimated to be the price of its refit at the Sevmash ship-building facility in Severodvinsk on Russia's northern White Sea coast. The retrofit is likely to be complete by 2008-09.

At the Naval Commanders' conference in Visakhapatnam in April, Admiral Madhvendra Singh with other Commanders.-

Indian and Russian officials, however, declined to comment on the SSN lease. They also refused to confirm or deny Russian involvement in resolving the technical problems faced by India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in jointly building the classified SSN, known as the advanced technology vessel (ATV). Indian military planners, though consistently refuting the ATV's existence, have subtly hinted that it forms part of the country's MND.

Russian technicians had reportedly helped miniaturise the ATV's 40-55 MW pressurised water reactor, mating it successfully with the hull. The SSN is likely to be ready for trials by 2008-09, several years behind schedule, officials sources conceded.

The continuing involvement of private defence contractors Larsen & Toubro (L&T), which started in 2001, has helped fast-forward the moribund ATV programme as well as the stalled but related development of Sagarika, the equally secret submarine-launched cruise missile, which has been facing technical setbacks and a resource crunch.

Official sources said the Navy had "shelved" for now its earlier, associated proposal to lease four Russian Tu 22M strategic bomber/maritime strike aircraft. Instead, it was utilising its resources to upgrade three Il-38 `May' maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) to the Il-38SD standard. The first of these is undergoing flight tests and is expected to be handed over to the Navy late next year.

The Navy is about to conclude an agreement to buy two second-hand Il-38s to replace the pair it lost in an accident two years ago adjoining its base at Hansa in Goa. These will be upgraded with the Morskoi Zmei (Sea Dragon) radar system rendering the MPAs compatible with the proposed SSN induction and the overall MND configuration.

The Sea Dragon is capable of detecting surface vessels and submarines within a 150-km range, in addition to mines and air-borne targets. Fitted with an electronics warfare suite and armed with Russian R-73RDM2 (AA-11 Archer) short-range air-to-air and Uran surface-to-air missiles, the Navy's MPAs are expected to remain in service for 25 to 30 years.

Admiral Madhvendra Singh told mediapersons recently that the Navy was also negotiating the purchase of eight to 10 refurbished Martin Lockheed P 3C Orion maritime strike/reconnaissance aircraft via American foreign military sales (FMS) to extend the Navy's reach as part of its revised doctrine of growing "longer sea legs".

THROUGH a prudent concentration of force and its judicious dispersal, the Navy plans to play a proactive role that is operationally capable of countering effectively distant, emerging threats, protecting sea lanes of communication (SLOC) and combating piracy. It also wants to control the strategically located IOR, the world's busiest waterways, by dominating "choke points, important islands and vital trade routes". Over the past decade, the IOR had been the largest recipient of warships - almost half of those transferred worldwide.

To activate this strategy the Navy plans to start policing the IOR later this year, along with the navies of Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, to check piracy, trafficking of weapons and narcotics, and all potential threats to commercial sea lanes. Earlier, at the United States Navy's request, as part of the growing India-U.S. military cooperation, the Indian Navy's missile boats had patrolled the Malacca Straits alongside U.S. Navy vessels for a year after 9/11.

Two `Petya class' patrol craft of the Indian Navy, INS Sujata and INS Savitri, provided security cover to the three-day World Economic Forum meet that ended in Mozambique on June 5. This followed a similar initiative last July when the Navy provided protection to the African Union summit in Mozambique, making it the furthest afield the Indian Navy had ever ventured (Jane's Defence Weekly, June 4, 2003).

"This (patrolling the IOR) is a subtle hint to (nuclear rival) China from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states that India is a credible ally and long-term partner," said Commodore Uday Bhaskar of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi. To bolster its profile, the Navy has quietly stepped up the frequency of naval manoeuvres with the U.S., France, Russia, ASEAN and West Asian states including Iran, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Navy views with trepidation the rapid resurgence of the Chinese Navy, the only Asian navy with SLMB capability and one that was rapidly moving from being a coastal navy to a formidable ocean going force. In addition to operating an aircraft carrier by 2015 - the Chinese have acquired decommissioned carriers from Australia and Russia in order to study their construction details - the Indian Navy envisages China embarking on the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as soon as it is able to project power well beyond China's shores.

China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) sailors walk off one of the two submarines that arrived in Hong Kong, on April 30. China spends 24 per cent of its defence outlay on PLAN, according to the Indian Navy's analysis.-ANAT GIVON/AP

China, which spends 24 per cent of its defence outlay on PLAN according to the Indian Navy's analysis, also has burgeoning naval cooperation with Myanmar. It is helping Myanmar modernise its naval bases at Hainggyi, the Coco's islands, Akyab, Za Det Kyi, Mergui and Khaukphyu by building radar, refitting and refuelling facilities.

The Chinese are also believed to have established a Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) facility on Coco's islands, 30 nautical miles from the Andaman and Nicobar islands, enabling them to monitor India's missile tests off the eastern Orissa coast.

To counter PLAN and to expand its strategic reach, the Indian Navy views itself in 2012-15 as a force comprising about 135 vessels - down from the present strength of around 150 ships, but far less than the optimum level of 200 vessels - and centred round at least two, if not three, carrier battle groups (CBGs). These are to include boats with long-range precision-guided weapons capable of anti-ship, anti-submarine and decisive land-attack missions.

Over the next decade, the Navy hopes to commission the indigenously designed 32,000-35,000 tonne air defence ship (ADS), work on which is to begin, following repeated delays, sometime later this year at Cochin Shipyard Limited.

Admiral Madhvendra Singh declared that the Navy plans to keep INS Viraat, its only aircraft carrier (Centaur-class), in service through upgrades until Gorshkov is commissioned.

Meanwhile, the three Project 1135.6 Talwar-class frigates - the last, INS Tabar, was commissioned in Russia in April - are to be fitted with the supersonic BrahMoS anti-ship cruise missile, a joint India-Russia product with a range of 290 km carrying a 200 kg conventional warhead, enabling the Navy to determine the outcome of land-based battles. The three frigates - of which the Navy is likely to order three more - would also be equipped with the vertical launch Russian Kulb-N missile capable of engaging surface targets and submarines at ranges of 10 km-220 km.

On June 4, the Navy launched INS Satpura, the second indigenously built 4,900-tonne, Project 17 New Nilgiri (Leander) class stealth frigate at Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL), over three years behind schedule. INS Shivalik, the first Project 17 ship launched a year ago and an enlarged and modified version of the Project 1135.6 frigates, is likely to be commissioned by 2005-06. INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri would be ready at 18-24 months intervals thereafter.

Alongside, under Project 75, the Navy plans to build six French Scorpene submarines at MDL. While price negotiations for it were concluded last year at Rs.90-100 billion ($2-2.2 billion), the deal is awaiting finalisation. Navy sources said the new Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government was likely to clear the Scorpene deal sometime this year.

Thereafter, as part of the 30-year plan to construct 24 conventional submarines in order to maintain adequate operational force levels that will be down to 10-12 submarines by 2010, the Navy hopes to build another six boats. These, in all probability, will be Russian Amur-1650 diesel-electric submarines to assist the Navy in maintaining its strategic ambition.

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