Adding might to Indian Navy : An interview with Vice Admiral B Kannan

Kunal Biswas

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Adding might to Naval muscle
T.E. Raja Simhan
[email protected]
http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/NEWS/newsrf.php?newsid=19702



Vice Admiral B Kannan, AVSM, VSM
Indian Navy Information Resource and Facilitation Centre - Content

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In the next 10-15 years, the Government plans to spend nearly Rs 1.30 lakh crore to induct 40 vessels, including war ships, in the Navy. The good news is that almost all of them may be built in Indian shipyards. But the bad news is that lack of local expertise in a few areas will force the Navy to look at international markets to procure materials like propulsion systems. It is in this context that a tripartite collaboration among the Navy, the industry and academia should be strengthened to improve the indigenous content, says Vice-Admiral B. Kannan, Chief of Material, Ministry of Defence (Navy). He oversees the Navy's management of all material, which includes logistics supply and support chain for the service, repair and refits of warships, aircraft and submarines, development of naval systems and products, embracing new technology, management of Naval dockyards and the management of information technology.
 

Kunal Biswas

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In an interview with Business Line, Vice-Admiral Kannan dealt on the vital role of the private sector and academia in the Navy's fleet expansion. Excerpts from the interview:

Can you outline the Indian Navy's fleet expansion plans?

We plan to build another 40 ships in the next 10-15 years. These belong to different categories, capabilities and sizes to meet operational requirement in the interest of our nation. These ships would be either built in different public sector or private sector ship yards depending on how the government decides.


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Kunal Biswas

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Of the 40, how many will be built in Indian shipyards, and what are the categories?

I would say all of them. The faster we build, the Navy can induct them quickly in to the fleet. We do require ships that can carry a large number of people and take on board helicopters.

We also require ships for shallow water operations and for mid-range destroyers. The mix is to be worked out based on the threat perceptions. We also need ships operating with minimum recurring cost.



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Kunal Biswas

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But do we have adequate expertise?

In keeping the ships float-worthy, we are in a comfortable situation as the right quality of war grade steel is available. On hull design, it largely depends upon Navy's in-house capability. For movement of ships, lots of propulsion systems, including gas turbine or diesel engine up to the propeller, are required. Here, our indigenous content is only 60 per cent. We are really worried about this as we do not have enough content from local players.

This is despite the fact that we have companies like Kirloskar and Larsen & Toubro, involved in making turbines, gear boxes or shafts. We need participation from the academia and private sector in electric propulsion, which has not been so far dealt with by the Navy, to drive the ships. They offer a lot of advantages even though the initial capital investment is high.

But their life time cost is significantly lower than the conventional modes of propulsion. That's an interesting area in which the Navy is going to venture into. Today, the ships are predominantly fitted with gas turbines or steam engines, the latter is on its way out even though the new aircraft carrier undergoing sea trials in Russia is fitted with steam propulsion.


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Kunal Biswas

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What about the Navy's fight capability?

It is all related to missiles, torpedoes and weapon systems. Here the local content is only 30 per cent while the rest 70 per cent is imported material. There is tremendous scope for improvement in areas like radar and tactical gunnery missile systems. While the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is focussing on strategic missile and long range missile systems, we need to have more emphasis on naval guns; fire control systems for guns and short range missiles. We have made some beginning between the Navy and the DRDO on this.


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Kunal Biswas

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When it comes to Defence-related projects, why is it done only by DRDO?

The DRDO is only the lead laboratory. There are private sector industries involved in supplying hardware and software. It may not have the label of a private sector as an entire system but may be a DRDO product.

If you look at the entire platform or ship as one identity, then the naval platform or ships is having 65-70 per cent of local content. The indigenous aircraft carriers have nearly 70 per indigenisation level. The P28, which is to be commissioned soon, has nearly 95 per cent indigenisation content. This includes equipment, labour and material.


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Kunal Biswas

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So, what is the expectation from the private sector?

An area where we require participation from the private sector is engineering equipment associated with propulsion. Apart from indigenous manufacture of individual equipment and machinery, we need to develop skills to integrate them on the platform (ship).

Let me clarify this issue. Today, we are able to manufacture turbines, gear box and shafting systems, but we do not have adequate domain knowledge to integrate them to the hull form selected for the ship.

Our expertise in hydrodynamics, design of propellers and propulsion system integration is presently limited and this is one area where academia can intensely participate. Once we consolidate in this specialisation, I am sure that either the government or the industry will find it necessary to create the infrastructure to conduct model tests of platforms as well, so that we have the comprehensive capability of both design and testing.


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Kunal Biswas

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Are we up to scratch in ship-building capabilities?

There are two or three areas to be addressed. One is availability of infrastructure and human resources, which is available with ship yards vis-à-vis their skills as war ships require certain types of skill sets that comes out of experience. It is not easily available in the market.

The third aspect is that you also need to have very close interaction with naval agencies. They need to take the naval designs in to the production line. The ship yards are already doing this. Orders have already been given to Pipavav and smaller vessels for coast guard are being built by L&T at its Hazira and Kattupalli ports. This is a new beginning as far as ship building is concerned. It is also a fact that we do not have major competence in war ships or weapon platform with the private sector. It will soon follow as it requires some time as the shipyards try to consolidate. In the next ten years we would have a very clear identification of ship yards vis-a-vis their capability. Some will specialise in frontline ships; some for support ships and some in submarine construction. It is not possible to really have expertise in a shipyard for the entire range of ships that we plan to construct. Nor should we aim at that way.


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Kunal Biswas

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What are your comments on the offset clause?

We need to buy equipment propulsion and weapons from international markets. We need to look significantly the area of offset project wise. Integration can be part of offset.


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Do you foresee 80-90 per cent of localisation in weapons?

I do not see this happening. I think engineering may be easy to achieve. The climb from 60 per cent to 90 per cent is very steep. Similarly, for weapons we may come up to 60 per cent and thereafter the climb is very steep. For crucial weapon systems or propulsion systems, it will take a decade for us to build the expertise. We need capital investment and a lot of effort in design, development and trial.
 

Kunal Biswas

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GRSE is slated to launch four ASW corvettes for the Indian Navy each costing nearly 1,700 crores apiece. Kamorta, the first in the series was also earlier launched by Smt Mamatha on April 19, last year. Kamorta after fitments is expected to be delivered to the Indian Navy in June 2012 and Kadmatt in March 2013. The keel of the third ASW corvette meanwhile was laid in August 2010. The remaining two ASW corvettes scheduled to float out next from GRSE yards are Kiltan and Kavaratti.

Dr. Pallam Raju in his address expressed delight that 50 percent of the total work on the frontline warship Kadmatt was completed prior to the launch as against 40 percent for the first ASW ship Kamorta launched in April, last year.
Livefist: India Launches 2nd Home-built P28 Anti-Sub Corvette

Any news on the P-28's? I hope they induct them soon.
No news yet, according to latest report, it should have been handed to Navy..
 

Bheeshma

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That's an old report. I believe the latest time line is between Dec 2012 -June 2013.
 

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