But for the accident on one of its conventional submarines, INS Sidhurakshak which sank and killed 18 crew members in Mumbai harbour, the Indian Navy would have surely thought of 2013 as one of its most significant years.Consider this:
- First of the the eight Boeing P8 I long range maritime reconnaissance planes contracted by the Indian Navy was inducted earlier this year.
- The nuclear reactor on INS Arihant India's first home grown nuclear submarine went 'critical' in August
- After much delay it biggest acquisition, the almost brand new, aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya will be joining the fleet in less than a week
- A military communication satellite meant exclusively for the use of the Indian Navy has become operational this year.
- After years of delay, the navy has got a clutch of advance jet trainers Hawks to train its pilots in handling fighter jets that will fly will from the aircraft carriers
India's Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi, speaking exclusively to me
onboard INS Jalashwa, it's second largest ships said the Indian Navy is indeed poised for a major expansion. "As outlined in our maritime capabilities prospective plan, which really is the growth road map for our capabilities, many of these inductions are poised for realization." Admiral Joshi also pointed out that these acquisitions will give the Indian Navy great reach and sustenance and long sea legs. "We can reach out to distant waters, and sustain ourselves, bring our combat potential to where it be so required in very distant waters. Now where would that tasking be? Would really be a function of national interest? Whereabouts is it that our national interest are spread, you are as aware of them as I am. And all the capabilities being inducted are tailored in that direction as the spread would show you."Talking about aircraft carriers and India's long time ambition to operate two carrier battle groups simultaneously, the Navy Chief says three-four years down the line, the Navy would have two brand new carriers."For our needs we have long felt that at least 2 carriers operational, one on each seaboard, one on the western seaboard and one on the eastern seas board is a must. With the commissioning of Vikramaditya, we would have 2 carriers but Virat as you know is getting a little long in the tooth. She is eminently capable of performing the role she has been designed for. But as you extend the service life of a ship, and we have extended her life quite a bit, it becomes something like maintaining a vintage car. You spend you know a lot of money to keep it going. And therefore we would plan to keep her going till the time we are able to induct IAC 1,.which got a bit delayed but is now on track. And you should see her commencing her sea trials somewhere around 2017. And therefore at that time we will have two brand new carriers and would be able to provide adequate coverage on both our seaboards."Adm Joshi however admitted that depleting submarine strength is a matter of worry. "Submarine-force levels are I agree with you, are under strain. And essentially it is so because our Project 75 got a bit delayed, indigenous construction with foreign collaborations. But that again the issues that had caused the delays are now behind us. The production is in full swing. And again commencing 2016-17 onwards, we should have our first boat online and we have been assured by both DCNS and MDL that the subsequent ones, they will try and compress the timelines for delivery, so that the last boat actually will be commissioned at about the time she was envisaged. "He also was upbeat about India's public and private sector shipyards' capabilities."I would say that the Indian ship building industry is coping up in a most admirable fashion, both the public sector, which really has had the lead in this regard, but also the private sector, which has chipped in and has come up very rapidly. As on date out of 47 orders that we have for ship construction and submarine construction, we are very proud of the fact that 46 are actually being built in Indian shipyards, both public sector and private sector. The only ship, which is not being built in India, is Vikramaditya!"The Navy chief was pleased about the Navy's own communication satellite, launched with ISRO's help earlier this year."The satellite would stabilize fully, it has stabilized in parts, it operates on different bands. Certain bands have been proven. Certain bands are currently; some bands are in the process of trials and evaluations. But this is a force multiplier. It covers our entire footprint of area of interest in the Indian Ocean and beyond. And therefore for your data transfers, for your maritime domain awareness picture transfers, for your entire range of communications and networking needs, it provides the best possible answer. Therefore we are now operating, unit to unit link, so each unit has exactly the same pictures as any unit of interest will be able to do, including the aircraft. It brings an entirely new dimension in network operations and in maritime operations. And this again is indigenous in collaboration with ISRO."