Defence ministry blocks Navy’s ‘unrealistic’ five-year acquisition plan

The Indian Navy's five-year acquisition plan would double the defence budget
Aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya | Source: Indian Navy

The plan has been sent back for pruning, because it would double India’s defence budget. Top Navy officials meet new minister Sitharaman to brief her.

An elaborate plan drawn up by the Indian Navy to acquire new warships, aircraft, submarines and special equipment over the next five years has met with disapproval from the defence ministry. Officials have termed it ‘unrealistic’, given projected national growth and spending power.

The five-year plan, which was submitted earlier this year by Navy HQ to the defence ministry, would have ended up more than doubling the Indian defence budget for capital acquisition, which currently stands at Rs 86,529 crore.

Sources told ThePrint that the plan – which includes acquisition of new aircraft carrier-borne fighter jets – is unlikely to be cleared in the current form, as it would put a great burden on the exchequer, and would leave little money for the Army and the Air Force, which too have major acquisition projects coming up. This is why the Navy has been asked to alter the plan

India presently spends 12.2 per cent of its annual budget on the defence forces, excluding a pension bill that has increased rapidly after the implementation of the One Rank One Pension policy. In the current financial year, the pension bill has, in fact, surpassed money allocated for capital acquisitions of the armed forces.

New minister, new hope

Sources said the Navy’s top brass briefed defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the five-year plan in her first few days in office, with a request for clearances.

Another plan, to build a new aircraft carrier named Vishal, has also been moved again. This plan had been nixed by previous defence minister Manohar Parrikar last year, because it had been deemed too expensive. The project is estimated to cost a whopping Rs 1.35 lakh crore at the approval stage, a projection that is likely to go up with time.

India already has a joint working group with the US for this aircraft carrier, and the Navy wants to try its luck with the new minister.

Other major acquisitions

The Navy has several other major acquisitions coming up, the biggest being the plan to make six new conventionally-powered submarines under the Project 75I plan, which is expected to cost over Rs 60,000 crore.

Besides this, the Navy plans to acquire 57 new fighter jets for operation on the existing INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, and the INS Vikrant, which is currently under construction in Kochi.

In addition, the procurement process for new landing platform docks, minesweepers, shallow water craft and frigates is ongoing.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Navy’s ship missile acquisition is predicated to threat posed by Chinese naval assets unstring of pearls, increased Pak naval assets including submarine fleet. If BNP comes in power in Bangladesh, their submarines can close Kolkata ports. Paper warriors, IAS, of defence ministry are a-priori slaves of budgets. There would be no India if Chinese break through Indian Navy cordon. Naval plans can be evaluated only by peer level naval experts not paper warriors led by Nirmala Sitaraman. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

  2. Indian Navy does not need aircraft career s. It needs air assets around coast line with aircraft of Mach 2-3 speed. With 1,35 lakh crores we create 10 such naval air bases to take care of entire coast. We can also develop island bases.

    • I would beg to differ with your statement.
      Aircraft carriers provide a floating runway. So that the strikes can start mid sea. As a result increasing the range even with the limited endurance our aircrafts possess.

  3. Good. India needs to drop “me too” A.C. etc and build tiny missile/air/naval bases on it’s many islands from which it can defend or swarm

    India does not need Aircraft Carriers. It is a doctrine and expense entirely unsuited to India’s military requirements and is simply a “me too” method resulting from the absence of original and purpose made, fit for purpose strategic and tactical thinking on India’s part. What India needs is several nuclear armed nuclear submarines for deterrence, and tiny bases all over the Lakshadweep, Minicoy and Andamans among whith attack submarines, helicopters, multi-role fighters, missiles, reconnaissance come depth charge/torpedo amphibian aircraft, long range torpedo boats, and long range light destroyers can be deployed, moved around and concentrated at will. Backed up with a strong Coast Guard and a distributed fast destroyer and attack submarine home fleet..

    India does not have the wherewithal, manpower aquifers nor the foreign and military policy to wage aggressive war. Just defensive war. And that too only in paper. Going by India’s general leadership competence, one must assume that the Aircraft Carrier is intended in the same way as a Scarecrow. To deter predators by participating in fleet reviews. In today’s world the AC cannot do that. Everybody with a serious navy knows that the AC cost of ownership must include a carrier battle group and suitable aircraft. Without which, like the obsolete, carcinogenic Admiral Gorshkov, they will have to rust in port. Karwar or elsewhere.

    Every serious Navy also knows, that the place for a serious AC is in the Oceans. Not to “project” power like an Indian Policeman but to show raw power in places of interest by drawing the gun like an American Cop. The key issue is, has India defined its military and foreign policy objectives? If yes, where does an AC fit in? Where will a Carrier Battle Group be used and risked in war (where there are no lower cost and more effective alternatives)? I stick by my guns. The AC is unfit for purpose as will become apparent if India ever gets around to defining and understanding the purpose of an armed forces in India’s existential geo-political context.

    China is far beyond India militarily, technologically, economically and in Human Development. China’s lebensraum is laid out clearly in a PLA 25 year strategic plan approved by the Politburo in 2000. China has been implementing this plan to pre set time frame in terms of armament as well as military exercises for the conquest of Arunachal Pradesh and driving a wedge towards the Bay of Bengal apart from the conquest of Taiwan among other adventures. China’s lebensraum is as inexorable as Islam’s.

    One must work strategy and tactics to deter on the principles learned from guerrilla “swarming” and rear guard to hold China at bay when the elbowing turns to bayoneting. On the sea, in the air and on the ground.

    India would do well to derive the lessons of Horatio Nelson’s victory against the Spanish Armada at Trafalgar, the sinking of the Bismark and Shivaji’s strategies and tactics that brought the immensely more powerful and wealthy Mughals to their knees. Or Gyap’s conclusive destruction of the US (McNamara) fallacy that “spend is power” in Vietnam. Right now, we have Islam unfolding and over whelming wealthy, entrenched nation states such as Iraq, Syria, the United States and NATO members.

    Indian Naval thinking has grown within the prism of the Second World War and HMS Hercules which Britain gave to India because it was obsolete and the UK did not need it, and has since grown up in tactics and operations based on what is available rather than what is needed and has salivated over US toys, and is constrained from strategic thinking.

    What purpose does an aircraft carrier serve? India will never send one out to support an invasion of Argentina or Hong Kong. India has no far flung empire to guard or intentions of making one. An Aircraft Carrier is a ponderous ship and requires a great deal of effort and planning to move, along with its protective and supportive flotilla. This is why it is used for “showing the flag” or as a center piece of an expeditionary force. As a reactive or responsive capability it is useless as by the time it comes within range of any action, the action will be long over. The Air and Sea arms have to primarily pay attention to how soon they can engage with adequate force from dispersed locations economically. By this token, the Air Craft Carrier is non starter for an aggressive posture in IOR other than as part of an expeditionary force. The invasion of Singapore, perhaps? Or, Kenya? Unless, the Indian Navy intends to use its Aircraft Carriers together with their flotillas in constant grid movement along shipping lanes. This is easier, better and far less expensively achieved by the destroyers I have mentioned in tandem with micro air bases dispersed along the archipelagos.

    True that two thirds of the World’s shipping passes through the Indian Ocean. India can have Three Squadrons or Six Vignettes (eighteen) ships of Fast Nuclear Powered Missile Destroyers with choppers mounted on the stern with active sonar and radar to effectively police the ocean at less cost than an aircraft carrier and the flotilla required to service and protect it.. Apart from the limitation in spread and flexibility, there is the enormous risk s of having so many eggs in a carrier.

    As for oceanic command, what India needs as back up for the Fast Destroyers are nuclear powered attack submarines. Nuclear powered, nuclear ICBM launch platform, strategic submarines prowling the seas to give India’s “No First Use” deterrence credibility is four decades over due.

    • We had to evacuate out of Yemen. India has interests far away from shores.
      Russia, China, France, UK and USA are maintaining and acquiring Air Craft Carriers. UK has just commissioned an Aircraft Carrier despite its dwindling resources and interests beyond its shores.
      For kind information the Defence of Indian Air Space the responsibility is with IAF and not IN.
      We need to get over our land lubbers mindset. We seem to have learned nothing from 1971.

  4. Defence of a nation has a price:
    Considering the threat perceptions from our existing potential adversaries, the Navy decides on the minimum deterrent force levels. There can be no bargaining ( like deciding to buy extra Aloo instead of costly Piazz) if the country has to be protected!

  5. Unfortunately this Govt. doesn’t care country’s defence needs& safety of jeans. Whereas MPs, MLAs, IAS given all sorts of subsidies * undeserved life pensions for miss-administering our country. Media is also selfish as they don’t highlight and expose misdeeds of these worthies. Real sorry state of affairs.

  6. India will never learn.It is always the navy, with which power can be projected and also acquired and held.But who will teach the so called powers that be at New Delhi. Whether it’s the UPA or the NDA governments.

  7. Security is our own creation. Requirements for more advanced technologies, sophisticated arms and arm carriers must be on need base and not on the best idea of making india superpower. Think about the poor in India. Who will not like riding the best car in the world but that should not be encouraged. We create our own security issue

  8. More than 75% of the area is coast. Hence navy has to be strongest when compared to neighbour countries. Also, never ignore the fact that pakistan is growing in power with the support from major powerful countries and new allies ( won’t mention names ). India needs to raise the defence budget. When the country is surrounded by countries which don’t want us to exist, then we don’t have any other choice but to stay strong like ISRAEL. Nevertheless don’t ever forget what has been going around since past few months. Serious threats.

  9. So little is said by using huge words. Few also appreciate that the true projection of power is through Navy. Navy that’s powerful enough and supported by ops logistics upto great distances. Easier said than done is having small, fast flotilla. Infact, India had been pushed there in the past. Small and multiple crafts are problematic, difficult to maintain and useless when it comes to deep sea or even littoral warfare. And to talk of nuclear propulsion is just too immature at present. Easier said than done. And the world won’t give you anything if you don’t dare to develop and manufacture on your own. That’s the unique achievement of Indian Navy. With just limited resources, far limiting political will and many bureaucratic hurdles, Navy could actually build India’s Maritime Doctrine (almost 100 years after Mahan did for America). So the so called ambitious plan of asset creation is not in isolation. Meticulously the Doctrine has been conceived over decades to light the torch of indigenisation, taking all stakeholders together. None of the assets is totally acquired from abroad, it’s created in India. And more than paper Gyan of what should be done, let’s start concentrating on what we have gained expertise on. And anyways, you don’t get manpower for the asking to create and then man multiple small platforms with limited operational envelop. Yes Navy is ambitious, else who would have believed just 2 decades back that it would expand so fast. Comparing to China, it’s a huge challenge to match up. But then, it needs to start. And that’s the last hope.

  10. India Navy has proved it’s might with the Hero Carrier INS Vibrant in 1971 Bangladesh Liberation war .Only fools will say our Navy don’t need carriers .We need three more aircraft Carriers So when one is in the Dock three will be operational.Floating air power is the teeth of a strong Navy .War and Prep aredness is not Chicken Cooking in Kitchens .The more you Sweat in peace the less we bleed in war

  11. Navy first and foremost critically needs anti-submarine helicopters to protect each frigate, destroyer, cruiser etc and to effectively counter Pak and Chinese submarine threat. Each such helicopter costing around 200 crores can very effectively protect the aforementioned ships each costing 2000 crores and above. Aircraft carriers are not the priority now.

  12. Listen to Navy they are correct in their planning for acquisition. These beurocrats who becomes ministers now will not understand much the importance of weapons and their presence. To save India it is required to increase Defence budget on regular basis.

  13. Defence is priority. Our minister are incapable of understanding defence requirements. There should be a substantial increase in the defence budget and the resources should be divided between space warfare, cyber security, air force army and the navy. A concerted effort should be made to make in India even if collaboration is required so that we can export weapons which will give a fillip to our economy

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