The Navy’s plan to have a force with 170 ships by 2027 has suffered delays, for various reasons, but it is still moving ahead with the same objective in its perspective planning and has catered for a third aircraft carrier in it, Vice Chief of the Naval Staff Satish Namdeo Ghormade said Tuesday.
He mentioned that although threats keep changing, the Navy caters for them when it builds its 15-year Maritime Capability Perspective Plan, when asked about China handing over one of its largest and most advanced warships to Pakistan last week.
The Navy has a present fleet strength of 130, including ships and submarines, he stated.
Ghormade said, “Maritime environment is a complex one and it only increases with more players involved.”
“We live in a time when global and regional balances of power are shifting rapidly and the region of most rapid change is undoubtedly the Indian Ocean Region. Continuous efforts are, therefore, on to ensure that our force levels grow progressively to enhance the capability of the Indian Navy to meet the emerging challenges,” he said.
He asserted that the Navy’s “complete and focussed thrust on strategic independence is in line with the national objective” of a self-reliant India. The Navy has developed indigenous designs in-house for over 57 years, including small craft to the aircraft carrier, building over 90 ships.
He added, “We have made our Maritime Capability Perspective Plan and we are progressing as per that schedule. The sanctions and projects move as per a process.”
He also said that while the Navy aims to meet the objective of having 170 and 200 ships in the future, “the timeline depends on the way our progress goes”. He said that an Integrated Capability Development System (ICAD) has been introduced, which is expected to be completed early next year and “the work is progressing on the tri-services effort to make an integrated development system, in which our Maritime Capability Perspective Plan has been included into it, which will ensure that our process continues”.
He said the maritime capability plan envisages a “balanced force” but, he said, that will happen as per prioritization under the ICAD.
“Earlier the plan was for 170 (ships) by 2027 but over the period, of course there has been a delay in the procurement and acquisition process. Now we are reformulating the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan for the next 15 years, but the ICAD, which has come up, is for a ten-year period. Why we work on a 15-year model, is because Navy’s projects have a long gestation period. We need to have a much larger time frame for induction.”
He said that the Navy will “amalgamate” and the MCPP will fit into the ICAD, “which is for the tri-services synergy and the integration will be taken forward, and our prioritisation will be with that capability development.” The Navy, he said, will stick to the figure of a 170-ship force but the timelines will change.
The MCPP, he said, “caters for capability dominant, and threat-cum-mission based approach”. The capabilities are built over a period of time, “which will meet our capability across the spectrum of warfare. From the lower density to nuclear war”.
Even as the threats keep changing, as the new warships being made available to Pakistan by China, the plan takes care of that and it is reviewed every five years, said Ghormade, “so that we take care of the threats that emerge”.
He added, “We do complete scanning, what all platforms are going to be inducted in the future by our adversaries, so all these factors are already taken into account.”
Asked about the third aircraft carrier, which has been an issue of contention, as Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, who is mandated with prioritisation in acquisition among the forces has spoken up against it several times in the past, calling it a high-value target, the Vice Navy Chief said that it has been catered for in the Navy’s planning.
He said that “the aircraft carrier, the submarines, maritime patrol aircraft all have their definite role, therefore to make a balanced force all these are required for the capability of the country. When we made this plan, we have factored in the aircraft carrier, we have factored in submarines upon which we worked on the affordability.”
The Navy is assuming a “conservative estimate, what will be the budget which will be available to us, based on the projected growth rate of the country, how much money will be available to us, we have planned for the next 15 years.” He said that the Navy has worked on force structures on that basis, and has reached the current figures.
“In our budget we would be able to cater for all of this. And therefore, a third aircraft carrier figures into that planning.”
Asked about the ban on Italian defence giant Leonardo Spa being removed, Navy officers mentioned the firm will not be considered for the ongoing tender to procure torpedoes for the Scorpene Class submarines, fourth of which will be commissioned in Mumbai on November 25.
Ghormade was speaking ahead of the commissioning of the fourth submarine named INS Vela, under the P75 project. The next will be commissioned by the end of next year and the last by the end of 2023.
On November 21 the first of the Visakhapatnam Class destroyers under the Rs 35,000 crore P15B project, INS Visakhapatnam will also be commissioned in Mumbai. The other three destroyers under the projects, INS Marmagao, INS Imphal and INS Surat will be delivered annually till 2025.
Asked if the annual Malabar Naval Exercise, which includes all four Quad nations — India, the US, Australia and Japan — as its participants, will be expanded, Ghormade said, “At present the government’s decision is to maintain that but whatever is going to expand beyond this, will be a government decision and we will go by that.”