The Indian Navy is to operate in a contested Indian Ocean regarded by the maritime arm as India’s Ocean. While the Indian Navy expects to field at least 150 warships by 2030, the PLA Navy is rapidly expanding its 355 ships to 555 as per some estimates many of which including an aircraft carier could well operate in the Indian Ocean.
Presently the PLA Navy’s regular presence in the Indian Ocean is the anti piracy patrols with a guided-missile destroyer and a missile frigate Linyi, along with a vessel forming a part of the flotilla with 45th now making way to replace the 44th in the Gulf of Aden.
Meanwhile Pakistan despite the economic hardships is expecting to field 50 warships in the near future making the Indian Ocean a congested if not contested zone.
Here is a review-
The Times of India has reported that the Indian Navy now has 68 warships and vessels on order. Presently the Indian Navy is reported to be having 132-warships, with 143 aircraft and 130 helicopters. In addition ‘acceptance of necessity’ (AoN) for eight next-generation corvettes, nine submarines, five survey vessels and two multi-purpose vessels to be built in India in the coming years have been accorded. This is expected to enable the Indian Navy to reach a force-level of about 155-160 warships by 2030 and 175 if not 200 warships by 2035 the Times of India quoted a source purportedly of the Indian Navy.
This comes even as the PLA Navy has 355 ships and an Indian Navy estimates could be of 555 warships by 2030 as quoted by the Times of India.
While presently the PLA Navy is restricted to the Western Pacific, the large surface fleet will facilitate deployment in the Indian Ocean Region by 2030 or so supported by a string of bases from Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, Karachi and Gwadar in Pakistan. This may also imply Chinese aircraft carrier[s] operating in the Indian Ocean Region.
Anticipating this a Door Darshan reported indicated that Indian Navy has submitted a proposal to the Defence Ministry for the construction of its second aircraft carrier. The Cochin Shipyard Limited in Kerala is slated to undertake this project.
The Defence Procurement Board (DPB) is reported to have discussed the Indian Navy’s proposal for acquiring a second Vikrant-like aircraft carrier displacing 45,000 tonnes, and estimated to cost of around ₹40,000 crore.
The DPB is headed by the Defence Secretary and the final approval will have to be accorded by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by the Defence Minister or the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) headed by the Prime Minister.
Despite the large number of surface ships being inducted, the Indian Navy will face a shortfall of submarines and mine clearing vessels. While nine submarines are in the pipeline, approval delays implies that they will be on the drawing board for the first time and an optimistic estimate would indicate that construction on the first underwater boat may only start by 2028 or so.
Apart from the large PLA Navy submarine fleet number over 60, Pakistan is set to acquire eight Chinese Yuan class submarines by 2023-28. This may bring the Pak submarine fleet at par with Indian conventional submarines given the vintage of the Kilo and HDW class.
Quwa.com reports that Pakistan has a vision of a 50-ship surface fleet, of which 20 ships would be ‘major surface vessels,’ procured from Turkey and China as well as the Netherlands ship maker Damen operating from Romania. This fleet will be mainly deployed in the Arabian Sea thus indicating a high density of warships in the Northern Indian Ocean.
Several European nations and even Canada have programmes for annual deployment of ships in the Indo Pacific while QUAD navies – US, Australia and Japan apart from India have a permanent presence in this zone.
All this makes the Indian Ocean a contested zone or at least a congested one.