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Ensuring Carrier Battle Group on each seaboard: Admiral Lanba
By Sushil Sharma | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 12/10/2018 2:30:48 PM
Ensuring Carrier Battle Group on each seaboard: Admiral Lanba
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba, in a recent interview with  Hindi magazine DEFENCE MONITOR’s Sushil Sharma, has highlighted the present capacities and capabilities of the Indian Navy and future plans to augment the fleet strength. Admiral Lanba underlined the need for cooperation with the friendly navies to maintain peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). He also spoke about Indian Navy’s quest for new platforms and intense training to maximize availability of the naval assets for various operations. Here are excerpts of the interview:

Under your able leadership, what are the major changes that have been introduced in the overall functioning, training, force multification and acquisition in the Indian Navy and also which are the areas of concern in the way of operational preparedness?

Ans. The Indian Navy has continuously evolved and improved its structures and processes, in keeping with the changing strategic imperatives and requirements of modern war fighting. In the same vein, there have been some transformative initiatives which we have implemented in the past few years, to further optimise our effectiveness and preparedness for any eventuality. Two significant measures were the ‘Maintenance-Training-Operations-Transition Cycle’ and the ‘Mission-based Deployments’. 

The Transition Cycle ensures an integrated effort by all departments of the Service to ensure that every ship undergoes comprehensive crew training, safety certification and equipment performance checks before it is declared ‘ready for deployment’. There is significant focus on all aspects of Combat Readiness and Safety, materiel as well as procedural, in this process. This ensures that every ship which sets sail is always ready to undertake the complete spectrum of naval missions, from combat to humanitarian assistance. 

These ships are then tasked for ‘Mission-Based Deployments’ wherein they ensure continuous Indian Naval presence in our areas of maritime interest, while providing credible response options for a wide range of situations and contingencies. More importantly, these deployments enable us to monitor all extra-regional naval activity in our neighbourhood.

Safety has been another focus area and we have instituted an Indian Naval Safety Team at Kochi, which is coordinating actions across the Navy to continuously enhance safety standards. In training, we have significantly enhanced the practical component of our curriculum at all levels, by inducting new technologies for training, including simulators. This ensures that our highly skilled and technically proficient personnel are optimally equipped with knowledge and skills to operate and maintain their state-of-the-art systems, even in the most challenging conditions at sea.

Our acquisitions are being progressed in accordance with the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan and the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan, which is a joint capability development plan of the Armed Forces. Our long term plans are designed to ensure continuous presence of at least one Carrier Battle Group on each seaboard to ensure that our national interests in the maritime domain remain safe and secure at all times. We are making progress in inducting vital equipment, such as multi-role helicopters, mine counter measure vessels and submarines, all of which should join the Navy in the near future. It is also our continuous endeavour to maximise joint acquisitions, so as to achieve a higher degree of cost-effectiveness and interoperability with the other Forces.

In spite of DAC clearance for purchase of 24 MR helicopters and 111 LUHs some very important decisions on acquisitions such as- more maritime reconnaissance helicopters, Project 75I and amphibious fixed wing aircraft are in limbo for a long time. Can you please tell us about the present status of these projects? And do you think the delay in these projects may adversely affect naval preparedness?

Ans. There has been significant progress in induction of critical platforms and equipment in the recent past. Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft are at the Request For Information stage,which is likely to be issued shortly.The requirement of amphibious aircraft has been projected to the Ministry of Defence and a decision is awaited to progress the case with the Government of Japan for procurement of US-2i amphibious aircraft which meets the Indian Navy specific QRs.

P75(I) is being progressed under the Strategic Partnership (SP) Model as promulgated by the Government of India in Defence Procurement Procedure2016. To ensure uniform guidelines for progressing all four segments of the SP Model, the DAC approved Generic guidelines in Jul 18. Promulgation of Segment specific guidelines for the submarine segment by GoI/MoD is expected shortly. The Expression of Interest documents for shortlisting of Strategic Partners and Foreign OEMs for P75(I) are likely to be issued by end 2018 and the RFP issue is likely by mid-2019.

The Indian Navy has a strength of 15 submarines, which includes the nuclear-powered submarine Chakra (SSN), the 1st Kalvari class Scorpene submarine, 9 Sindhughosh class submarines and 4 Shishumar class submarines. The 2nd and 3rd Kalvari class submarine are likely to be commissioned by end 2019. While there have been delays in procurement of new generation P75(I) submarines, the submarine force levels have been maintained through life extension of our legacy submarines. Our existing submarines provide the Indian Navy with adequate Combat potential to meet our objectives. 

Indo-Pacific Region is becoming a hub of international naval activities and there is a possibility of breaking out hostilities. How do you see the role of Indian Navy in this region?

Ans. Whilst there is no doubt that there is an uptrend in naval activity in the Indo-Pacific, we are far from a stage where conflict is imminent. The Indian Navy is continuously engaged in promotion of a favourable and positive maritime environment wherein threats and challenges are regularly monitored and contained. Towards this the Indian Navy undertakes diverse engagements with maritime forces in the region and appropriate strategic communication, whilepromoting stability through presence in the region either independently or under cooperative mechanisms. 

In addition, Indian Naval ships and aircraft are deployed for presence-cum-surveillance mission across the IOR. Further, measures like maritime engagements, capacity building and capability enhancement and conduct of maritime security operations are being undertaken by the Navy. The Indian Navyadopts a comprehensive and coordinated approach towards maintaining regional peace and security by prioritising adherence to international law and norms amongst nations. This is achieved by enhancing mutual understanding and implementing cooperative measures to address common threatsto maritime security. 

Now that GoI has announced permanent commissioning of women in the armed forces, can we expect women officers in naval combat role soon? What steps have been taken in this regard?

Ans. The Navy has consistently ensured gender parity and non-discrimination between men and women. In the eightBranches and cadres where women officers are being inducted {Education, Law, Logistics, Air Traffic Control (ATC), Naval Constructor (NC), Observers, Pilots and Naval Armament Inspectorate (NAI)}, they are at par with their male counterparts in all respects, be it induction and recruitment, training or consideration for grant of Permanent Commission (in non-seagoing Branches, i.e. Education, Law and NC). As far as combat role is concerned, the Navy has already been inducting women officers, since 2008, as Observers in Maritime Reconnaissance (MR) aircraft. This gives them the opportunity to operate complex weapons, sensors and equipment on modern aircraft such as Dorniers, IL 38 and P 8I. Induction of women officers as Pilots in the MR stream has also commenced in 2017, thereby further expanding their employability in the combat role.

Any further progress on equipping the fishing boats with Identification transponders as this is an area for which you have expressed concern earlier?

Ans. Based on directive of the National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security, the Indian Navy and ISRO are jointly steering pilot implementation of GSAT 6 satellite-based tracking transponders for 500 boats each (total 1000 transponders), on the coasts of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, in conjunction with MHA and DADF/ State Fisheries Departments. Implementation has commenced and is planned incrementally, with complete roll out in the near future. The Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre at Gurugramhas been provided the feed, and the information is being continuously monitored.

In order to ensure wider acceptability amongst the fishing community, ISRO has developed two-way messaging feature including distress messaging, between the State Fisheries, Fishing boat owners and Fishermen with appropriate hierarchical access. While Indian Navy and ISRO are involved with the pilot implementation through a technical solution, the success of the endeavour would depend on effective management as well as continued engagement of MHA and Ministry of Agriculture/ DADF with the respective State Fisheries. This is considered essential for integration of the fishing boats with the coastal security framework in a phased manner and is an important endeavour towards strengthening our coastal security framework.

Whether the next IAC will be built by any defence dockyard or built through PPP? Also any decision taken about the type of propulsion (Nuclear or Gas turbine) system of the next IAC?

Ans. Selection of shipyard and the build strategy for IAC-2 will be finalised based on the Capacity Assessment of various shipyards iaw Defence Procurement Procedure provisions. With regards to the selection of propulsion fit, the initial proposal for IAC-2 had sought nuclear propulsion to meet thespeed requirement of30 knots for operation of fixed wing aircraft in all wind conditions. Until recently, nuclear propulsion was the only option which could achieve this criterion for top speed.

However, recent advances made in electric drive propulsion for marine applications, wherein electric propulsion has been proven on naval platforms for achieving high speeds, encouraged the Navy to re-examine the propulsion fit for IAC 2. Major global OEMs have also confirmed that electric propulsion can propel large platforms like aircraft carriers for achieving required 30 knots of speed. A fresh case for IAC2 with Integrated Full Electric Propulsion (IFEP) with significantly reduced AoN cost is now being progressed for approval by the Government.

I am hopeful that the programme will receive the requisite approval soon, so that the Indian Navy is able to deploy adequate combat power in the coming decades to secure our maritime interests.



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