Monday 10 December 2018, 04:57 AM
Possibility of a ‘two front’ situation can not be ruled out- Admiral Sunil Lanba
By Sushil Sharma | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 12/16/2017 2:32:21 PM
Possibility of a ‘two front’ situation can not be ruled out- Admiral Sunil Lanba

Indian Navy is currently engaged in increasing its fleet strength with modern surface and aerial platforms. Navy has its plans to play greater role not only in the Indian Ocean Region, but also in the fast evolving security scenario in Indo-Pacific Region. Induction  of Kalvari (Scorpene) class submarine and launch of second indigenously built Arighat nuclear submarine has enhanced its capabilities and confidence to face challenges arising around India’s maritime interests. ‘Defence Monitor’ editor Sushil Sharma recently interviewed the Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba who highlighted various steps being taken to strengthen his force. Here are excerpts of the interview:

Q- Keeping the present security challenges emerging from Pakistan and China, do you think the shortage of functional submarine fleet is a major area of concern for the Navy? Do you also think that delay in the Project 75I will further aggravate your concern?

Ans. The Indian Navy’s present strength of fourteen conventional submarines, including the recently delivered Kalvari, is adequate to meet our current operational requirements. INS Chakra and the indigenously built INS Arihant have also significantly augmented our underwater warfare capability. The fighting capabilities of older submarines are being improved through Medium Refit-cum-Life Certification programmes. However, we are fully seized of the need to eventually replace older submarines with the new platforms and furthering our underwater capabilities. The Navy is, therefore, pursuing a well charted induction plan in this important segment. The deliveries of Project 75 have already commenced. The first boat, Kalvari, will be commissioned very soon and trials for the second boat, Khanderi, are progressing satisfactorily. Four more submarines will be inducted under this project. Moving further, six more submarines will be inducted over the next decade under Project 75(I) which is being actively pursued under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model. Let me assure you that, despite the initial delays, our submarine induction plan is well on track now. What is more important is that all the future submarines will be built in India and this is a big advantage, both in operations and maintenance. 

Q- Do you see a possibility of two front war with our adversaries and how prepared is Indian Navy to face such an eventuality? 

Ans. The geopolitical situation in our neighbourhood is indeed fragile. State sponsored non-state actors continue to pose a severe challenge to our internal security. We are also witnessing a growing strategic convergence between our Western and Northern neighbours. Therefore, the possibility of a ‘two-front’ situation in the future cannot be completely ruled out. That notwithstanding, as professional military forces, all the three Armed Forces would always remain prepared for all the eventualities. Our military strategy caters for all plausible scenarios. Our forces regularly exercise their responses, independently and jointly, across a wide range of scenarios. If you have a quick look at the seas around us, it becomes evident that we do not have much flexibility of classifying it into multiple fronts. It is a large, near continuous and interconnected ocean space. We treat our maritime areas of interest as one common domain. We have accordingly reworked our deployment philosophy to ensure requisite presence across our areas of maritime interest. I would like to assure you the Indian Navy is fully geared up for any security challenge that the nation may face. 

Q- Shortage of Naval helicopters is another area where no perceivable progress has taken place. How will you manage to operate the aviation wing of the navy with the obsolete fleet of Sea kings and Chetaks? 

Ans. I do share your concerns on the delays in induction of new ship borne helicopters. However, we are actively pursuing short, medium and long term plans to meet our present and future requirements. In the short term, we have already commenced upgradation of our existing inventory to meet the immediate requirements. In the medium term, we would be inducting additional quantities of helicopters currently in service such as ALH and Chetak as also a small number of Multi Role Helicopters (MRH). In the long term, however, true combat edge can only emerge from domestically produced capabilities. Therefore, both the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) as well as the Naval Multi-Role Helicopter (NMRH) projects are being progressed under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model. Having catered for the intermediate requirements through short and medium term steps, we are now resolutely pursuing these two ambitious projects with due diligence. 

Q- The new frigates and destroyers inducted in the Indian Navy are equipped with the separate and safe cabins for women officers. So can we expect induction of women officers for combat role in the Navy soon? 

Ans. At the outset, I would like to inform you that the Navy has already employed women in combat roles. We have been deploying women officers as Observers in Maritime Reconnaissance (MR) aircraft such as Dorniers, IL 38 and P8I, since 2008. This gives them the opportunity to operate complex weapons and sensors on these modern aircraft. Further, induction of women officers as Pilots in the MR stream has also commenced this year. The Indian Navy is committed to progressively expand the avenues for women in all possible roles in the Service. Deploying women onboard ships is one such avenue that the Navy would actively consider in due course of time. Our intention is reflected in the fact that some of our newer ships already cater for limited facilities to accommodate women. Future larger warships such as destroyers, frigates, aircraft carriers and amphibious ships, will have increased capacity to accommodate women. However, there are several other considerations other than accommodation facilities that influence the decision to deploy women onboard warships. Appropriate policy framework, gender sensitisation, legal regulations as well as selecting the right talent for the right job are equally important aspects. All these issues are being examined with due attention to detail. 

Q- What is the status on the IAC-2 project? With the delay in delivery of IAC-1, do you contemplate to change the builder for IAC-2? If yes, will that be a PPP or Private sector builder? 

Ans. With the experience gained in operating Vikramaditya and the construction of IAC-1, we are now more aware of the factors that need to be addressed while selecting the type of the next platform. We have invested considerable efforts in examining all the options available for the propulsion machinery, the launch and recovery systems of carrier borne aircraft and several other ship borne systems. We also have to take into account the financial viability against desired configuration. We would certainly desire that IAC-2 is a step forward from the configuration of IAC-1. We have approached the Government to seek a go ahead for this project. However, the exact scope of work for execution of the project can only be drawn up after completion of feasibility design study. The selection of shipyard will be finalised based on the capacity assessment of various shipyards vis-à-vis the selected design configuration of IAC-2. 

Q- What is your area of priority to uplift the maintenance capability of the Navy? 

Ans. The success of all operations at sea is firmly hinged on the quality of support ashore. Therefore, an increasing fleet strength does warrant a corresponding increase in the maintenance infrastructure. Sustained efforts on this front have ensured that the combat edge of the Indian Navy is always maintained. To consolidate our shore support further in keeping with the growing operational demands, we are looking at enhancement of dry-docking facilities for larger platforms, manpower accretion as well as greater participation of private domestic industry. We are setting up dedicated repair infrastructure for certain unique naval equipment for which the domestic industry may not be able to support us adequately with their current capability. We are also scaling up the in-house training of our uniformed and civilian manpower to make them fully confident of looking after the newly inducted state-of-the-art equipment.

Q- Why does the Indian Navy need an amphibian aircraft in its fleet? How such aircraft can help in serving the goal for Indian Navy? 

Ans. An amphibious aircraft substantially increases the operational flexibility in various roles. In addition to operations in Islands, these aircraft can prove their utility in a variety of roles such as special operations, logistics and technical assistance to ships at sea, long range Search and Rescue, medical evacuation and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. 

Q- What are your plans to enhance fleet strength of the Navy? 

Ans. Today, with 139 ships and submarines and 224 aircraft we can proudly count ourselves amongst one of the largest maritime forces in the world. More than just numbers, our worthy predecessors laid due emphasis on capabilities required for modern naval warfare. It is to their credit that today the Indian Navy is a multi-dimensional force capable of operating across the full spectrum of maritime operations – not just surface, sub-surface and air, but also cyber and Space. Indigenisation has been one of the cornerstones of the Navy’s force development strategy for a long time. These aspects remain relevant for our future force accretion plans also. Over the next decade, we would witness induction of formidable platforms including modern frigates, destroyers, aircraft carrier and submarines. The naval aviation wing is also being strengthened concurrently. The Indian Navy aims to be a 200 ship Navy by the end of next decade. What is more significant is that most of these new platforms would be built in India. A very few navies in the world can claim such all-round capabilities. The force levels will gradually increase to ensure that adequate assets, both in terms of capacity and capability, are available for the maritime security of the nation against all future threats. 


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