The Indian Navy will continue to rely on its submarine fleet — especially its new and stealthy Scorpène-class boats — to deter the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) from deploying more warships to patrol the Indian Ocean.
Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) of the Indian Navy Admiral Sunil Lanba said the Indian Navy holds the advantage or “balance of power” against the PLAN in the Indian Ocean. He admitted, however, that China holds the advantage in the South China Sea.
Adm. Lanba revealed PLAN squadrons sent to the Indian Ocean Region comprise seven to eight ships. It is this continuing threat that goaded India into speeding-up the deployment of its new Scorpène-class or Kalvari-class submarines.
The first boat, INS Kalvari (S21), was commissioned in Dec. 2017. The second boat, INS Khandari (S22), has been launched and is undergoing sea trials. The third of six Kalvari-class submarines, INS Karanj (S23), was launched in January 2018.
But the Indian Ocean is India’s own and the Indian Navy plans to attain 100% control over this strategically vital body of water with an ambitious and massive warship building program spanning the next two decades.
At the heart of this build-up will be the addition of one more aircraft carrier (the Navy’s third) and three more Kalvari-class submarines. Both these warships have different but complementary roles aimed at keeping the PLAN at bay.
“A submarine is for sea denial while a carrier battle group is for sea control,” said Adm. Lanba. “Carrier battle groups will enhance the Navy’s role in the (Indian Ocean Region).”
He assured his countrymen the Navy keeps close and constant watch over India’s maritime terrain. To ensure it attains this mission, the Navy is looking at commissioning 56 warships and six submarines to enhance its strength. This huge number is separate from the 32 warships now under construction, he said on the eve of Navy Day last week.
The new warships are part of a 10-year warship-building plan that includes the construction of India’s third aircraft carrier. Construction of this carrier, which will be the navy’s second indigenous aircraft carrier, will start within the next three years. Construction is scheduled to be completed by 2028.
Two aircraft carriers are in service: INS Vikrant (R11) and INS Vikramaditya (R33). INS Vikrant is India’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier. It’s also the first ship in the Indian Navy to be built completely using domestically-produced steel. Vikrant can deploy 26 fixed-wing aircraft, most of which are Mikoyan Mig-29K carrier-based, multi-role fighters.
The Indian Navy currently deploys 140 warships and 220 aircraft. More than 30 warships are also under construction.
Among the major surface units in operation are 11 Delhi-class guided-missile destroyers and Kolkata-class stealth guided-missile destroyers; 14 Krivak-class and Godavari-class guided-missile frigates; the INS Arihant (SSBN-80) nuclear ballistic missile submarine and 14 Russian Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarines and German Type 209 diesel-electric attack submarines.
The navy’s airpower includes 9 Kamov Ka-31″Helix” airborne long-range early warning helicopters; 6 Kamov Ka-28 anti-submarine helicopters; 8 Boeing P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine surveillance aircraft, 45 Mikoyan MiG-29K carrier-based fighters and 30 British Aerospace Sea Harrier carrier-based fighters.
The Indian Navy has always had the ambition of exercising sway two oceans — “guarding the Indian Ocean and heading for the Pacific Ocean.”