India's Defense Modernization Highlights Naval Designs

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    India's Defense Modernization Highlights Naval Designs


    NEW DELHI -- Most of the attention given to India's big defense modernization program, valued at more than $50 billion, has focused on the $11-billion fighter jet contract that New Delhi is looking to sign. However, concerned by the threat from the seas, especially in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks in November, India has been looking to build its naval strength as well.

    In a recent move, the federal government has also designated the Indian navy as the nodal authority responsible for overall maritime security, which includes coastal and offshore security.

    Last week, India approved its biggest-ever domestic defense contract, valued at more than $9 billion, to produce seven advanced stealth frigates for the navy at shipyards in Kolkata and Mumbai. With the P17A warship project now cleared by New Delhi, the Indian navy is further gearing to bring in 40 new warships over the next three five-year plans. The government plans to invest more than $12 billion over the next 10 years on warships.

    Rear Adm. Sudhir Pillai also said that in the next decade, 400 new aircraft will be inducted into the Indian navy fleet, including the advanced P8I maritime patrol aircraft manufactured by the U.S. aerospace contractor, Boeing. Pillai said that India would be the first country to acquire the Boeing P8I maritime patrol aircraft in a $2.2 billion deal, providing the Indian navy an edge in the Indian Ocean region and enabling it to operate a platform alongside the U.S. Navy.

    Indeed, New Delhi believes that the navy will have to play a major role in the coastal areas to pre-empt attacks similar those in Mumbai last year.

    To ensure that the sea-security assets are optimally deployed, there must also be synergy between organizations manning the sea, with the navy now designated to command all joint operations. The navy will be assisted by coast guard, state marine police and other government agencies for the coastal defense of the nation. The Indian coast guard has additionally been designated as the authority responsible for coastal security in territorial waters, including areas to be patrolled by the coastal police.

    The anti-terror role of the navy will be enhanced with the establishment of a specialized force to protect naval assets and bases on the west and east coasts, as well as the island territories. Further, all coastal states will be provided with nearly 200 high-speed interceptor boats in the next two to three years. The boats are to be initially imported from Greece and subsequently prototyped indigenously.

    Earlier this year India had said that its project to build three nuclear-powered submarines is nearing completion. "Things are in the final stage now in the ATV (advanced technology vessel) project. There were bottlenecks earlier. . . . They are over now," Defense Minister A K Antony has said.

    The project is part of India's $3-billion plan to build five submarines and complete the triad of nuclear-weapon launch capability from air, land and sea platforms. The submarine strike capacity would complement India's land-based nuclear delivery platforms via ballistic missiles, such as the Prithvi and Agni.

    Given the huge volumes of oil movement between the Persian Gulf and Malacca Straits towards North Asia, the Indian navy is looking to possess a long-range nuclear platform on the eastern and western seaboards, with adequate strike capability. Concomitantly, India is developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles which can be nuclear-tipped if required.

    India has developed a submarine-launched supersonic missile with a modification of the BrahMos cruise missiles. Such a capability has to date been limited to advanced nations such as U.S., France and Russia. Ship- and land-launched versions of the BrahMos are being inducted in the navy and army. The state-controlled Defense Research and Development Organization is also undertaking a joint development project with Israel Aerospace Industries for a surface-to-air missile to be deployed from both land and ship.

    In 2007, construction of the highly advanced Scorpene submarine also began at the upgraded Mazgon Dock in Mumbai, under a $3.5-billion deal for six such French submarines. As the Scorpene contract involves technology transfers, it is a win-win deal, offering new technology to India in exchange for a possible foothold for French firms in the lucrative Indian market.

    With India's efforts to acquire aircraft carriers -- both the Admiral Gorskov from Russia and the two that are being indigenously developed -- facing delays, other options are being probed. They include the purchase of the 36-year-old USS Trenton -- re-christened INS Jalashwa -- for $50 million, in early 2007. Trenton is the first-ever U.S. warship inducted into the Indian navy, and the second-largest that India now possesses (after the aircraft carrier INS Viraat).

    But in addition to foreign purchases, the Indian government is also encouraging the private sector to play a role in defense. India's largest engineering and construction firm, Larsen & Toubro, has announced plans to build defense warships and paramilitary vessels at its proposed shipyard-cum-port facility in Tamil Nadu.

    WPR Article | India's Defense Modernization Highlights Naval Designs
     
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