Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba said the Indian Navy had envisioned a fleet of 200 ships and 500 aircraft by 2050.
New Delhi: The government has approved the acquisition of 56 warships over the next 10 years, including six submarines, Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Chief of Naval Staff, said Monday.
Admiral Lanba was speaking on the eve of the 48th Navy week, observed annually to mark India’s biggest maritime strike — the attack on Karachi in 1971 by missile boats of the western fleet.
The current size of the Indian naval fleet is 132 vessels. There are 32 vessels that being built, or are contracted to be built, in private and public shipyards in India. In addition, the government last month contracted two Admiral Grigorivich-class frigates from Russia. The new platforms will be replacements for decommissioned vessels, as well as additions to the fleet.
“By 2050, I envisage a fleet of 200 ships and 500 aircraft,” said Lanba.
Third aircraft carrier
Apart from six new submarines, which would be in addition to the Kalvari-class that has recently begun sailing out of yards in Mumbai, the plans for acquisition include the construction of a third aircraft carrier, now on paper called the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier II (IAC II).
“We have sent the proposal to the government. It is a blueprint. We envisage building the IAC II as a 65,000-tonne carrier,” said Admiral Lanba.
Despite the lofty plans, ship and submarine building plans for the Indian Navy have a notorious record of going awry. In 1999, under the previous NDA rule, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government had approved a 30-year submarine building plan. It envisaged the acquisition of 24 submarines by the Navy by 2030. Only one — the INS Kalvari, the first of the Scorpene-class — has been commissioned in 18 years.
Among the types of ships that the Indian Navy urgently needs are Mine Counter-Measure Vessels (MCMVs), the last of which is to be decommissioned within months. Such vessels are tasked to clear entry and exit routes to ports of potential sabotage by adversaries.
He said the Indian Navy had a decisive edge over the Pakistan Navy at present, even after Pakistan contracted eight submarines from China earlier this year.
Response to China
The 10-year plan that Admiral Lanba announced Monday is a response to the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy plan to sail four aircraft carriers in the same period. China currently has one carrier, the Liaoning, in its fleet. A second is being tried at sea.
India has one carrier, the INS Vikramaditya (formerly the Admiral Gorshkov).
“It is important to have at least two (carrier) battlegroups all the time. We are working on the IAC II that we think will take seven to 10 years (to build). We should be able to operate at least two carrier battlegroups while one (carrier) would be in refit,” explained Lanba.
“I think that in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), at least, the balance of power is in our favour against China. In the South China Sea, the balance of power is in China’s favour,” he said.
He said that there were six to eight Chinese warships in the IOR at all times. These included three in a counter-piracy role off the east coast of Africa and three to four survey vessels and satellite-control ships.