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'Indian Navy will become leaner and meaner'

November 04, 2004 20:10 IST

The Indian Navy is on course to becoming a leaner force with augmented weapon, sensor and network-centric competence to give it endurance, punch and extended operational range, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash has said.

"By 2015-20 the Indian Navy will be a three-aircraft carrier force -- one aircraft carrier on either coast and one in reserve – with adequate surface and subsurface combatants, robust reserves and sound logistical support for blue water operations and visibility wherever national interests dictate," Admiral Prakash told the 'Jane's Defence Weekly'.

"In the past, our ship-building and force-planning went awry due to the skewed debate over large versus small units," he said. The continuing reappraisal of the navy is going to rectify this error by maintaining little more than half of its 140-145 vessels as ocean-going, he said. The remainder will be assigned for coastal duties.

Admiral Prakash said work on refurbishing the Admiral Gorshkov, the 44,500-tonne Kiev-class Russian aircraft carrier that India acquired for the price of its refit (estimated at about 675 million dollars), at Russia's Sevmash shipyard is "encouraging".

He said, "The service is keeping its options open for a new enhanced weapons fit, fire-control system, radar and sensors for the 20 MIG-29K fighters, including four trainers, meant for the Gorshkov.

The navy reportedly paid 1.5 billion dollars for the 20 MIG-29Ks.

Admiral Prakash said the Indian Navy also plans to buy between 15 and 20 MIG-29Ks for the 35,000-37,000 tonne Air Defence Ship being built locally.

He regretted the "lacunae" in the Indian Navy's submarine building programme, stressing that it is a problem that needs the government's immediate attention, as many submarines are scheduled to retire by 2010.

He hoped the Project 75 contract to build six French Scorpene e-class submarines at Mazagaon dockyard in Mumbai will be signed soon.

According to the report, India is in talks with the US government for acquiring between six and eight refurbished P-3C Orions through the US foreign military sales programme, with the option of obtaining an equal number later. The acquisition will help the navy meet its maritime patrol needs. "But we would need assurances of life-time product support from the US," Admiral Prakash said.

The report said nearly a third of the service's 27 Sea King helicopters are grounded for nearly three years because of a shortage of spares following sanctions imposed by Washington on India in the wake of the 1998 nuclear tests.

The Indian Navy is carefully watching China's naval buildup and also the developments in the Pakistan navy. Of particular interest, said the Admiral, are China's naval activities in Myanmar, where it is helping modernise the country's armed forces and its ports, and its role in developing Gwadar on Pakistan's western Makran coast.

A Chinese naval presence in Gwadar will give Beijing a strategic edge in the oil-rich Persian Gulf area, Admiral Prakash said. "We are watching China's navy making an entry to our west and east, but there is no cause for trepidation. We, too, are building up our navy and are quite capable of looking after ourselves," he said.
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