- Nov 30, 2011
NEW DELHI: Faced with an ageing underwater combat arm even as China and Pakistan bolster their fleets, India is now finalizing plans to order three more French Scorpene submarines after the first six are constructed at Mazagon Docks as well as issue the tender for six new-generation stealth submarines by next year.
India is also steadily cranking up military force-levels and infrastructure in the strategically-located Andaman and Nicobar Command in a bid to effectively counter China's strategic moves in the IOR as well as ensure security of sea lanes converging towards Malacca Strait, as was reported by TOI earlier.
"The aim is to ensure the islands are not only well protected but also act as a strategic location for basing aircraft, warships and submarines. The proximity of A&N Islands to Malacca Strait makes them very strategic since they overlook busy sea lanes and choke points," said Navy chief Admiral Robin Dhowan on Thursday.
On the underwater combat front, work is also underway to draw up technical parameters and select the shipyard for the construction of six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), which got "acceptance of necessity" earlier this year. "The six SSNs will be constructed under the Make in India programme," said Admiral Dhowan.
INS Arihant, the country's first nuclear-powered submarine armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, called a SSBN in naval parlance, will also be commissioned next year. The other two follow-on SSBNs are in an advanced stage of construction at Vizag. "INS Arihant's sea trials (which began a year ago) are proceeding satisfactorily," said the Navy chief.
All these projects may seem a lot but remember India currently has just 13 ageing conventional diesel-electric submarines -- 10 of which are well over 25 years old -- and one SSN in INS Chakra on lease from Russia, which is not armed with nuclear missiles in line with international treaties.
China, in sharp contrast, has 51 conventional and five nuclear submarines, and is on course to induct another five JIN-class SSBNs with the 7,400-km range JL-2 missiles. The frequent forays of Chinese conventional and nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean region, with halts from Colombo to Karachi, has only added to India's strategic challenges in the region over the last couple of years. The combat edge India has over Pakistan is also fast eroding, with Islamabad recently ordering eight more advanced diesel-electric submarines from Beijing.
The Navy, however, is nonchalant. "Collaboration between Pakistan and China is nothing new, nor is their development of Gwadar port. The geostrategic environment keeps on changing. We take note of the developments and factor them into our own plans," said Admiral Dhowan.
Asked about China's plans for an overseas military logistics facility in Djibouti, he said: "It's their plan. We are focusing on our strategy of shaping a favourable and positive maritime environment with presence and cooperation with IOR countries."
"Today, our Navy is a multi-dimensional, networked force, which is combat-ready to take on any challenge in the IOR as well as protect the country's huge maritime interests," he said, adding his force's "operational footprint" had steadily increased over the years from the Western Pacific in the east to the North Atlantic in the west.
The maritime capability perspective plan has laid down the route for the Navy to become a 198-warship and 600-aircraft force by 2027, even though it's currently grappling with critical operational deficiencies in submarines, multi-role helicopters and minesweepers.