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The B3 Factor and Indian Navy’s Wish List

The Indian Navy has been leading the other two services the Army and the Air Force in indigenization. The Navy has already fielded a indigenously built aircraft carrier the INS Vikrant, undoubtedly an achievement for a developing manufacturing economy with limited R & D resources.

The Navy has the ambition of fielding a 200 ship and submarine force but this may be trumped by the B 3 Factor – Budget, Bureaucracy and the Book or Rule Book.

But first the wish list derived from media reports on the Navy Day on 4 December 2022.

200 Ship Navy

The Indian Navy hopes to float 200 ships and submarines in decade and a half by 2037. This will require an accretion of approximately 70 vessels from the present 130 plus. Indian Navy’s Maritime Capability Perspective Plan 2022- 23 is said to be working around these numbers as reported by the Deccan Herald.

“Some assets would be decommissioned in years to come and at the same time, there would be several additions, we hope to be 200 plus by 2037 and MCPP aims towards that,” Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Western Naval Command said as per the Deccan Herald.

Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh indicated the accretions thus, “While 43 are being made in Indian defence PSUs and private sector, two are being built in Russian shipyards,” he said and added that 39 more ships are in the pipeline.

The total at 82 ships and submarines is expected to make up for the shortfall of 70 with some decommissioning thus reaching the figure of 200. The breakdown of the 200 is being worked out separately.

Aircraft Carrier

Indian Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar during the media interaction on December 03 clarified that discussions on the second aircraft carrier -IAC 2 are ongoing and there is a possibility of the Navy going in for a repeat order for IAC 1 instead of an entirely new carrier.

“We are still working on some aspects of IAC-2 like what size it should be and what are the capabilities desired. But right now, we have put a hold on it (IAC-2) because we have just commissioned the Vikrant and are quite happy with the ship. We are examining whether we should look at a repeat order for IAC-1 instead of going for IAC-2 to capitalise on the expertise gained during the former’s construction. We are in the discussion stage right now,” he said as per the Hindustan Times.

Fighters for the Carrier

The Navy is progressing the case for a twin-engine, deck-based fighter (TEDBF) for the carriers, with the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) and Aeronautical Development Agency on the TEDBF project.

Admiral Kumar said, “The first prototype of the TEDBF is likely to be ready around 2026, and its production could begin by 2032,” he said.

In the interim period the navy plans to induct 26 fighters for Vikrant through a government-to-government contract for which Dassault Aviation’s Rafale-M and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet trials have been completed. “Trials have been conducted on both fighters and the evaluation process is underway. We will take a call on what’s in our best interest,” the navy chief indicated as per the Hindustan Times.

Predator Drones

The Navy Chief indicated that the project for procurement of armed MQ-9B Predator or Sea Guardian drones from the US is "under process" as per the Times of India which has placed the cost at $3 billion (Rs 24,000 crore) for 30 drones. "We are discussing whether the numbers (10 drones each for Navy, IAF and Army) need to be rationalised," the Times of India quoted the Navy Chief.

P 75 I Submarine project

The P 75 I programme which includes design and development of an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarine continues to face delays and the deadline for submission of bids by Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) of Germany and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) with Indian shipyard Mazagon Docks and L & T has been extended to August 2023 as per the Economic Times.

Submarine builders from Sweden, Russia, France, and Spain have left the competition due to conditions set by the Ministry of Defence on liability and other issues. Now technology transfer will remain a deal breaker for the German and South Korean firm as this will require respective government approval.

The B 3 Factor

The plans by the Indian Navy to induct the plethora of ships, submarines and aircraft are in line with the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan [MCPP]. However, it is not clear if the MCPP is matched with allocation of budget.

The capital budget allocated to the Indian Navy for acquisition of fleet and aircraft for 2022-23 was approximately Rs 36,000 Crore or US $ 4.42 Billion. Will this be adequate to induct the 70 ships and numerous drones and aircraft planned by the Indian Navy in the coming decade and a half remains to be seen?

Bureaucracy is the second B when combined with the Book of Rules the proverbial Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 is expected to be a stumbling block in smooth acquisitions and add to the delays.


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