India’s naval modernization: involvement in the Indo-Pacific power structure


Naval forces at sea face a complex three-dimensional threat from air, surface and submarine offensives and, therefore, each of the naval platforms within a fleet plays a vital role. (Photo source: Twitter / @ PRO_Vizag)

By Milind Kulshreshtha

As India celebrates 2021 as Swarnim Vijay Varsh to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1971 victory, the date of December 4, 1971 is a cherished moment in Indian naval history. On that date, Indian warships carried out one of the most ingenious and daring attacks on Pakistan to mark its place in the world’s navies. The success of the naval attack demonstrates the professionalism of the men in white and the foresight of the naval leadership.

Over the past five decades, the geopolitics of the region have changed a lot. Today, the Indo-Pacific holds the world’s attention with particular emphasis on the role of India. The responsibility of the navy has grown far beyond Indian waters and the capabilities pitted against an adversary who has also evolved as a military superpower during this time and is determined to use international waters to achieve its expansionist agenda. The ripples of the 2020 Sino-Indian border skirmish at Galwan were felt strongly in Indo-Pacific waters, which saw the emergence of several collaborative and interoperable multinational task forces deployed by like-minded nations. . The new era also sees the advent of stronger Indo-Pacific alliances like QUAD and AUKUS. India’s realignment in the Indo-Pacific for a definitive leadership position in the arena indicates an authoritative operational presence in the future.

Despite the gloomy clouds of the pandemic, last year’s border crisis saw the Navy push on war footing to bolster its combat capabilities through the launch of an aircraft carrier, large ships from war, submarines and sea planes. In terms of maritime relations, peacetime activities have been replaced by the urgency of establishing new links with world naval forces, reinvigorating old ones and cooperating with world powers. For such future roles in the Indo-Pacific, the Navy’s Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) may provide for a second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) from a budget allocation point.

Three-dimensional deterrence

Naval forces at sea face a complex three-dimensional threat from air, surface and submarine offensives and, therefore, each of the naval platforms within a fleet plays a vital role. The unique design of a destroyer, frigate, submarine or aircraft carrier supports such threat engagements not only to defend the assets of its own fleet, but also to launch a three-part offensive against an opponent on the surface, below the surface or in the air. Currently, the Navy’s MCPP for the next 15 years is being revised for publication next year and will highlight the 10-year Integrated Capability Development Plan (ICDP). The ICDP being developed by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) is expected to define the Maritime Theater Command, its administrative direction and the underlying technologies. A maritime theater command has evolved as a cooperative engagement capability for the three services to be a powerful response against a common adversary. The Navy evolves INS Karwar as a key naval establishment for Maritime Theater Command.

With the advancement of the Chinese Navy through a robust and well-funded warship building program, India’s maritime power and technologies are also feeling the heat. China is now aggressive in its international intentions, be they diplomatic or military, and the possibility of a maritime skirmish or an impasse at sea in the future requires the Indian Navy to be ever vigilant in using techniques of surveillance (such as space, drones, transmission intelligence etc.). China’s ongoing aggressive exercise in the South China Sea to dictate terms to neighboring countries using maritime militia forces are some of the issues that have the potential to come closer to the IOR. The Chinese fishing fleet already has serious global influence through IUU fishing activities (illegal, unreported and unregulated), with militia-like intent and this now extends to the waters of the South Atlantic near South America.

Indigenous efforts through dual-use technologies

Recently, the Indian Navy’s ambitions of having 200 ships in its fleet by 2027 have been revamped to 170 ships. With native warship building agencies like MDL and GRSE shipyard, India already has a sustainable shipbuilding capacity. The Indian Navy is among the few in the world with the ability to build niche naval platforms such as aircraft carriers and submarines. It can also integrate any weapon and system from multiple sources aboard a locally built warship or as an upgrade as part of the ship’s Mid Life Update program to maintain an advantage over the adversary. With Atmanirbhar Baharat’s momentum in place, the indigenous component in warships can be expected to exceed 80-85%. This will be essential for the combat capabilities of the Indian Navy. However, the Indian industry needs to focus more on providing rigorous marine grade products of mature design for reliable continuous operations in a harsh marine environment.

Even though the Navy’s prospect plan for indigenization has been in place for about two decades, however, the momentum to manufacture technically advanced systems such as aids to navigation (Navaids), maritime communication systems, naval guns, ship engines and gas turbines, etc. is still far from being achieved. Bridge-launched naval drones, artificial intelligence in naval combat, space surveillance, secure private 5G network for machine-to-machine communication are some of the other solutions the Navy has been looking for for some time.

One way or another, the collaborative industry-university ecosystem has embarked on a spiral of laboratory testing delaying naval verifications at land-based testing sites, not to mention more stringent on-board at-sea verifications. . Although this techno-managerial problem may take a little longer to be resolved, the development of dual-use technology by public and private agencies can be seen as a successful initiative for the Defense indigenization effort. , for example, a ruggedized merchant ship navigation system for naval warships. Thus, a dynamic commercial shipbuilding ancillary sector comprising manufacturers of shipboard equipment and systems can become a supplier of deployable technologies for warships such as main propulsion systems, power generation, navigation systems. and communication, etc.

As the role of the Indian Navy is visualized in Indo-Pacific waters, the Navy is also preparing for attacks on the supporting infrastructure of warships in the virtual realm. Maritime ships, submarines and aircraft rely heavily on maritime communications infrastructure. Recently, DRDO handed over the EW suite “Shakti” to the Indian Navy, but the progress of the EW suite is rapid due to the adversary’s ability to outsmart what is deployed, thus requiring an ability to continue to revolutionize these. technologies. The threat to essential space-based navigation, surveillance and communication networks for warships is a reality today and requires strengthening the resilience of space. With such multidimensional threats coupled with challenges in electronic warfare, cyberspace and outer space, the Navy’s task to remain effective in the Indo-Pacific requires resources in terms of combat platforms and d advanced infrastructure.

SSN – The weapon of choice in the Indo-Pacific

The construction of SSN (hull classification for nuclear attack submarines) under AUKUS is a clear indication of the Indo-Pacific seeing more and more of this long-range stealth submarine weaponry being deployed to create a serious deterrence against China and its maritime silk routes. China also has SSNs with exactly the same intention in mind, and for second strike capability. The Chinese SSNs navigate today in the waters of the IOR without being disputed, because these boats are not detected even by space surveillance techniques. For India, while conventional submarines have played a strategic role against adversaries closer to Indian shores and adequately held Pakistani naval power, however, in the future, a robust SSN program will be the key to conducting to an effective operation closer to the Pacific side of the Indo-Pacific.

Also Read: Indian Navy Needs More New Technology To Address Emerging Challenges In Indo-Pacific


Strong deterrence in Indo-Pacific waters will support India’s position against any Chinese misadventure on land, in the air or at sea. The technologies deployed by the multinational naval task force in the Indo-Pacific are among the best in the world. maritime world today, and India cannot be left far behind. While more naval platforms are desirable to become a powerful force in the Indo-Pacific, technological solutions such as software-defined radio (SDR), tactical data links, AIP (Air-independent Propulsion) ) for silent submarine operations, the naval version of LCA and ALH are some of the well understood war equipment already under development in India for many years, but are now to be delivered to the Indian Navy in a fit and a form that responds to maritime operational challenges and helps make India a superior naval force in the region.

(The author is a strategic analyst with a keen interest in technology related to C4I solutions and Multiplatform and Multisensor Data Fusion (MPMSDF). The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express. Online. Reproduction of this content without permission is prohibited).

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