The Indian Navy (IN) intends to become completely self-reliant by 2047 and is currently in the midst of a major modernization programme. Delhi Defence Review’s Chandrashekhar Bhattacharyya (CB) caught up with Vice Admiral Satish Namdeo Ghormade (Adm. Ghormade) who is the serving Vice Chief of Naval Staff to discuss this and more.
CB: Over the past several years, IN’s share of the Defence Services Budget has been on the lower side than not. And this doesn’t seem to be changing anytime, given that all three services are in need of huge Capex outlays to modernize. How do you see the Navy making this rather limited allocation work?
Adm. Ghormade: Govt is well aware of the Nation’s Maritime capability needs and commensurate share of funds are being regularly provided to IN to grow and develop in a balanced manner in tune with the nation’s geo-political aspirations and developmental goals. Further, to effectively confront the multifarious challenges that are emerging in the complex maritime environment, the IN has modernised itself as a balanced, formidable, multi-dimensional and networked force that maintains high readiness at all times to protect India’s maritime interests, safeguards her seaward frontiers and addresses all maritime threats. Consequently, the allotted resources are judiciously utilized, through closely monitored processes, to ensure smooth progress of all modernisation projects and sustain capability growth of the Navy.
Clip: Light Combat Aircraft Navy taking off from INS Vikrant during recent trials
CB: The Navy’s work with DRDO labs has been exemplary over the years. Are you pushing for greater allocation towards R&D for Naval platforms in areas such as engines (gas turbine and diesel) and multi-function radars, since these are some of the big ticket sub-systems still being imported?
Adm. Ghormade: IN has been allotted adequate funds for indigenous R&D and Modernisation of the Navy. The modernisation plan for future includes induction of Aircraft Carriers, Next Generation Destroyers, Frigates, Missile Corvettes, Nuclear Powered submarines, Conventional submarines, Carrier Based Fighters, Multi Role Helicopters, state-of-the-art weapons, sensors and equipment, with adequate impetus to latest technologies viz Unmanned Technology, MUM-T, AI, ML and Robotics. All of these are being progressed through indigenous route. Further, development of technical and support infrastructure for maintenance of these new inductions is also being progressed.
CB: The Type 052 D and 055 D destroyers of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) have 64 and 112 VLS cells per vessel respectively whereas India’s destroyers are outfitted with a comparably lower number of such cells. Is the Navy planning for greater displacement in its next generation destroyers in order to accommodate a larger number of VLS cells, among other things?
Adm. Ghormade: The GoI and the Indian Navy are seized of the development of our potential adversaries in our Area of interest. Their deployments and operations are closely monitored and the future development plans are also scrutinized. The Indian Navy’s capability development plan is driven to meet those challenges in the maritime domain. Such development of capability and capacity of our Navy is undertaken with the objective to achieve a ‘Balanced Force Mix’ for undertaking variety of Roles and range of Missions to meet objectives in our areas of interest, and also facilitate Out-of-Area Operations.
Further, all future inductions are planned to have the maximum ‘force behind the punch’ to meet all threat scenarios. Therefore, our Next Generation platforms would have cutting edge technology, latest weapons and sensors along with increased Weapon density, in order to build a capability that addresses threats across the spectrum of warfare.
CB: Now, as we can see, PLAN submarines, both conventional and nuclear are being built in ever greater numbers. Is the Navy also planning to acquire an even greater number of ASW corvettes to augment the current projected numbers?
Adm. Ghormade: Modernisation of Navy in all spheres, including Anti-submarine warfare, is being undertaken expeditiously as per our Capability Development Plans. The current ASW capability of IN is being augmented with the induction of Visakhapatnam class destroyers, with the latest ship of the class, INS Mormugao inducted on 18 Dec 22. Further, two more ships of the same class viz. Imphal and Surat are slated to be commissioned soon. In addition to the destroyers, the ASW capability of the IN will be augmented through induction of latest Multi-Role platforms such as P17A Frigates, P1135.6 Frigates, ASW Shallow Water Craft, MH-60R Helicopters, etc. All of these would usher in a multitude of capability against ASW threats. Further, based on the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plans, capability of IN would be further enhanced with induction of indigenous platforms capable of operating across all three domains of warfare, including ASW.
CB: The Twin-Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) seems to have a very tight schedule in terms of development given that it is supposed to fly in the next 3-4 years and enter service in the early 2030s. Since Full-Scale Engineering Development (FSED) funding is yet to be approved, how does the Navy plan to keep to the schedule?
Adm. Ghormade: TEDBF is an advanced, indigenously designed, Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter program for the Indian Navy. The Qualitative Requirements and aircraft geometry have been worked out. Landing of LCA(N), an indigenously designed, developed, constructed and operated Aircraft, on indigenous Aircraft Carrier Vikrant on 06 Feb 23 is a historic development. All lessons learnt from the indigenous development of LCA(N) are being gainfully utilised for the development of TEDBF. The development and build of TEDBF has been carefully planned based on the resources available. Its first flight is likely in next 3-4 yrs.
Clip: Light Combat Aircraft – Navy making its first landing on INS Vikrant
CB: Recently, the Navy signed a deal with an iDex winner for unmanned systems, given the budgetary limitations touched upon earlier, what is the Navy’s plan for a greater inventory of unmanned systems?
Adm. Ghormade: The process of technological advancement is ever continuous and transforming rapidly to bring in disruptive technologies that change the face of warfare in ways that are hard to predict. The current global environment is witnessing an explosive growth of autonomous systems, both mobile and stationary, which are poised to revolutionise warfare. It is evident that unmanned and autonomous systems will create fundamental shifts in the way that the Indian Navy conducts its operations.
CB: We are hearing today that next aircraft carrier will likely to be similar to the INS Vikrant. Will the Navy push for more indigenous content in the carrier, specifically with a view to substituting systems that were imported for the INS Vikrant such as radars, aviation complex related items etc?
Adm. Ghormade: IN is committed towards indigenisation and is at the forefront of AatmaNirbharta. Majority of weapons and sensor fit envisaged on all future platforms are indigenous. As also Hon’ble Prime minister’s articulation on AatmaNirbhar Bharat, as we transit the Amrit Kaal towards ‘Shathayu Bharat’, the Navy too in 2047 would be a fully ‘Aatmanirbhar’ force that is Combat ready, Credible, Cohesive and Future Proof in service of the Nation.
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