Saturday, November 30, 2013

Will the CCS bite the bullet?

More than a year after the Naresh Chandra Task Force on National Security submitted its report to the Prime Minister, one is hearing of a forward movement towards implementation of some of its recommendations. Although the report has not been made public--contrary to the earlier promise--the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC), comprising the 3 Service Chiefs, has worked out a blueprint for a new higher defence management structure for the armed forces and sent it to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) last month. 

Even the Technical Coordination Group (TCG), headed by the National Security Adviser and comprising top secretaries to the Government of India (GoI) has reportedly cleared the proposal for presentation to the Cabinet Committee on Security(CCS), the country's highest decision making body on matters of defence and security. It is anybody's guess however if--not when--the CoSC proposals would be put up for the consideration of CCS! For, ultimately, this new structure would be a major step in breaking the status quo in the country's higher defence management and the 'deep establishment' in New Delhi is loathe to change. The question is: can the CCS overcome resistance from the well-entrenched bureaucracy and bite the bullet? 

Even as we await that decision, this is what has the CoSC proposed. According to sources in the know, the plan mainly is to:
  • Appoint a 4-star permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff for a fixed tenure of two years
  • Create three more tri-service commands--Special Operations, Cyber and Aerospace.
  • Revert the Andaman Nicobar Command to the Navy
Creation of the three commands may take some time but is doable in short term. According to available details, the proposed cyber command will be headed by officers from the three services by rotation but special operations command will be led by the army but assisted by the air force and the navy while the aerospace command would be headed by an air force officer to be assisted by officers from the other two services. The ANC is proposed to be the Navy's 4th Command. The status of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC)--custodian of India's nuclear arsenal--will however remain unaltered. 

The biggest sticking point apparently is appointment of the Chairman Chiefs of Staff since it would involve shifting one of the three current service chiefs to that post at the very least. However, given that the political leadership is preoccupied and weakened, it is unlikely that the proposal will get to the CCS in the current government's tenure. Which is a pity since many of the other recommendations of the Naresh Chandra Task Force--when implemented--would bring in the much needed vigour in management of India's defence forces. From what we know, it had also asked for integration of Service HQ and Ministry of Defence by allowing more cross-postings, had suggested shifting focus of India's national security strategy from Pakistan to China, recommended better Intelligence Coordination between all agencies and creation of dedicated financial Institution for access to energy, rare earths and raw materials from across the world.

From some of the occasional interaction that this author has had with a few members of the Task Force, before and after the submission of the report, one aspect is very clear: There was no consensus on the creation of the post of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), leading to recommendation to appoint another four-star officer as permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC).

The Permanent Chairmam according to the recommendation of the Naresh Chandra Task Force, will have a fixed tenure of two years and will be rotated among the three services. This officer will be assisted by the existing Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), headed by a three star officer from any of the three services.

Over the past decade, the IDS has evolved in a barely workable tri-services structure with over 300 officers drawn from the three services trying to function as a cohesive unit tasked with evolving "jointness." On ground however, jointness or inter-operability has remained at best patchy.

The new post, the Task Force is hoping, will also bring in synergy in major acquisitions for all the three forces. Often, the three services have worked independently in procuring same set of equipment, duplicating work and creating separate infrastructure when synergy would have saved hundreds of crores of rupees.

However, critics of the new system say the recommendation to appoint Chairman CoSC is nothing but old wine in new bottle. It is a 'no go' because the Chairman will remain ever dependent on each of the services Army, Navy & IAF for its personnel requirements. Personnel of each service will be 'lobbyists' of respective Chiefs. Yet another opportunity, they say, to reform has been lost. National Security System does not have to depend on seeking Least Common Multiple (LCM)-solutions. It does not have to seek to appease lobbies and turfs.

The solution, some in service officers say, lies in divesting the three Chiefs of operational command of forces. Let them be Chiefs of respective Staff - 'resource providers to joint operational/ strategic commands' - content with recruiting, training of personnel; holding and maintaining equipment; and executing related administrative functions.

Appointment of CDS is however the prerogative of the apex political authority, namely the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). It can choose from panel of names forwarded by the three Services. There should be no rotation to appease services. Choice of apex political authority has to be final.

In absence of a common meeting ground on deciding to appoint a CDS, the Naresh Chandra Task Force recommendation can however be utilised in the interim in creating more cohesion among the services. For instance, the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, who will have a fixed two year tenure can be made in charge of making net assessment about the strengths and weaknesses of India’s adversaries—China and Pakistan—in a holistic manner, taking into consideration inputs from all the three services and cross-referencing those inputs with other agencies like the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and RAW. Currently, the three services send their individual assessments just to complete formalities to the IDS where it remains buried in files that never see the light of the day.

Over a decade after a CDS was recommended by the Group of Ministers (GoM) in the wake of the Kargil conflict, there is no unanimity on that issue yet. Given the strong differences within the services as well as in the political class, could this be the best arrangement for now? Or is it too impractical?

To find the right answers the government should have made the Naresh Chandra Task Force report public and let a healthy debate ensue.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

India's Emerging Blue-Water Navy

My latest piece in The Diplomat


On November 16, the Indian Navy finally took delivery of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, formerly the Adm. Gorshkov, at Sevmash Shipyard in northern Russia's Severodvinsk town. The acquisition marks a new phase in India’s quest to become a true blue-water navy.

The handover ceremony of the 44,570-tonne carrier is sure to have generated more than a passing interest within the PLA Navy and across the rest of the continent, since India will be the only country in Asia to have two aircraft carriers in its fleet. Admittedly, the 55-year old INS Viraat is “long in the tooth” as India's Navy Chief Admiral D. K. Joshi himself described it in a recent interview, but it will continue to operate until India's locally built carrier INS Vikrant becomes operational by 2017. 

At the moment, only the U.S. Navy brings that sort of capability to Asia. Although it is coming five years late – the original delivery was scheduled for 2008 – the Vikramaditya will give India the ability to project raw naval power in its “near abroad” as well as in its extended neighborhood. With a capacity to carry two dozen Mig-29 K fighter jets and 10 Kamov helicopters at any given time on board and fitted with the latest sensors and missiles, the brand-new aircraft carrier will boost the Indian Navy's firepower significantly.

But the Vikramaditya is not the only reason why the Indian Navy feels upbeat about its future capabilities. Naval aviation, long treated as a poor cousin of surface combatants in the Indian Navy, is exhibiting some new chutzpah of late. Days before Defence Minister AK Antony and flew to Russia with Joshi, the nation’s Defence Acquisition Council approved the purchase of four more Boeing P8I maritime patrol and antisubmarine aircraft in addition to the eight already contracted. The first of these eight planes was in fact parked at INS Dega airfield for everyone to see when Joshi formally inducted the newly acquired Advanced Jet Trainers Hawks into the Navy, to take training of Naval fighter pilots to the next level. The second P8I landed in India on November 15.

INS Dega, a small air station under Eastern Naval Command, is set to become Indian Navy's biggest air base on the eastern seaboard soon. The expansion of air assets in the East is just one of the several plans that the Indian Navy has unveiled to strengthen its presence in the Bay of Bengal and support India's “Look East Policy.” The P8Is are set to replace the hardy but old Soviet-made Tu-142 M aircraft that have been the backbone of the navy's long range maritime patrols – with flights lasting up to 16 hours at a stretch. The P8Is are expected to play a major role in the Navy's  surveillance role in the Indian Ocean as well as Malacca Straits.

As Joshi told this writer in an interview for Indian broadcaster NDTV on board INS Jalashwa, the navy's biggest amphibious ship: "The first P8I has already arrived and is in the process of being accepted. Various acceptance trials are in progress and by the end of the year we will have three of them and others following in quick order next year. That brings into this region a capability that has not existed before. It’s a brand-new aircraft, apart from the platform which in any case is a proven Boeing aircraft. The fit has been to the specification the US Navy currently has. So therefore the capabilities that are coming into our hands are absolutely state of the art."

Another capability the Indian Navy quietly added earlier this year was a dedicated communication satellite for its exclusive use. The satellite is expected to fully stabilize by the end of December. Launched with the help of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the naval satellite is described as a force multiplier by senior naval officers. It covers the Navy's entire area of interest in the Indian Ocean and beyond. The satellite handles all data transfers for maritime domain awareness and the entire range of communications and networking needs of the Indian Navy. "It brings an entirely new dimension in network operations and in maritime operations," Joshi told this writer a fortnight ago, speaking about the satellite for the first time in the public domain.

In fact, but for an accident on board a refitted conventional submarine, INS Sindhurakshak that killed 18 sailors and sank the boat after an unexplained explosion in Mumbai harbor, the Indian Navy could have celebrated 2013 as one of its most significant years in terms of ramping up its capabilities. For instance, the nuclear reactor on India's first locally built nuclear-powered submarine, the INS Arihant went “critical” in August, marking a major milestone in India's effort to acquire a credible nuclear triad. One more year of sea trials will allow the Arihant to become operational by the end of 2014. With at least three more locally manufactured nuclear submarines in the pipeline, the Navy is hoping to overcome one obvious weakness in its arsenal: depleting submarine strength.

 The force levels of conventional submarines is down to the single digits and with delivery schedules for two building projects running way behind time, naval headquarters is naturally worried about its submarine arm. Joshi admitted as much: "Submarine-force levels I agree with you are under strain," he said, not wanting to sound too alarmist. He also hastened to add that by 2017-18 the two major submarine building projects will be back on track.

The big picture is indeed positive for the Indian Navy. Its long-term Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan had identified a mix of two major roles for the force: One, the traditional blue water operational capability and two, a plan to effectively counter threats closer to the coast. It is steadily working towards achieving that objective.

In April 2012 a new naval base, INS Dweeprakshak (Island Protector) was put into operation at Kavaratti in Lakshawadeep, the tiny island chain, southwest of mainland India. Although the Indian Navy has had a small presence on the strategically important islands for the past decade, its decision to open a permanent base emanated from recent incidents of piracy very close to these islands. The Navy has captured at least 100 pirates and foiled several piracy attempts in this area in recent times.

The Navy is also in the process of setting up Operational Turn Around (OTR) bases, Forward Operating Bases and Naval Air Enclaves along the coast, which would enhance the reach and sustainability of its surveillance effort on both the coasts. In 2011, the Navy focused on creating operational and administrative infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands, considered the country's strategic outposts.

Given the extensive plans presented to parliament, it is evident now that the Indian Navy is in the midst of its most ambitious expansion plan in the past three decades. Senior officers point out that the Indian Navy's perspective-planning in terms of force-levels is now driven by a conceptual shift from numbers of platforms – that is, from the old bean-counting philosophy – to one that concentrates on capabilities.

As the Indian Navy Chief pointed out in our interview: "The navy has great reach and sustenance. Long sea legs. We can reach out to distant waters, and sustain ourselves, bring our combat potential to where it is so required." With strategic planners predicting future conflicts in the Indo-Pacific, the Indian Navy's rising profile will be keenly watched across the region and beyond.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

So it's going to be 17 Mountain Corps?

Earlier this week Indian Army's top brass, comprising the Army Chief, the Vice Chief and the 7 Army Commanders, met to clear the promotion of nearly two dozen Major General rank officers to Lt. Generals. One of these to be promoted officers--the names of those approved for the next rank should become public in less than a month's time--will have the honour to raise and head India's 1st dedicated Mountain Strike Corps, to be most probably numbered 17, cleared by the government in July.

South Block, the British time building that houses among others the Army Headquarters, is right now in the middle of fine tuning the contours of the formation to be reportedly based at Ranchi in Jharkhand. 

Top sources say while Panagarh in West Bengal will witness the raising of two new Mountain Divisions, the location for the third is in the final stages of discussion. All the three new divisions will eventually come under the new 17 Corps to be based in Ranchi. Significantly, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh was in Ranchi over the last two days, ostensibly to pay a visit to the 23 Division based there. So what will it be called? 17 Corps? Or 17 Mountain Corps? I am yet to get a clarity on this though surely Army HQ has already thought about it or even finalised it.

India already has 13 full-fledged Corps. Three of them, the Bhopal-based 21 Corps, Mathura-headquartered 1 Corps and 2 Corps, located at Ambala, are designated as Strike Corps. But all of them are tasked for an offensive against Pakistan. The 17 Corps--as a dedicated Mountain Strike Corps--will specifically provide an offensive option against China if required.

The budget of Rs 64,000 crore for the new corps  is to be spent over seven years –- which is just as well since raising new formations as large as a Corps is not an easy task. It is further difficult to make that formation capable of mountain warfare. For mountains gobble up troops; they take a heavy toll on man and machine. 

The decision on 17 July was somewhat reminiscent of a similar choice exercised by the UPA government almost over four years ago.

The then outgoing UPA-I government's Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) was meeting for the last time before the results of the 2009 general elections were to be announced. The sole item on the agenda: Enhancing India's military preparedness against China.

According to insiders present at that meeting, some of the members of the CCS wanted to leave the decision to the next government but better sense prevailed and days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's first UPA government went ahead and sanctioned raising of two new Mountain Divisions for deployment in India's north eastern State of Arunachal Pradesh, an area claimed by China as South Tibet. In addition, the Indian Air Force was given the go ahead to reactivate half a dozen Advance Landing Grounds (ALGs) spread all along the Arunachal-Tibet portion of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries and base additional squadrons of Sukhoi-30 combat jets in Assam.

The goal was to plug existing gaps in India’s preparedness along the Arunachal Pradesh-China frontier. The two new divisions were to include a squadron of India’s armoured spearhead—Soviet-built T-90 tanks--and a regiment of artillery. 

Now four years later, the two mountain divisions have completed their recruitment, equipping and orbatting in the North-east. One of them--the 56 Mountain Division--after being raised in Nagaland's Zakhama area has been placed at Lekhabali, north of the Brahmaputra adding teeth to Indian Army's presence in East and Central Arunachal Pradesh. The other new Division--71--headquartered at Missamari in the plains of Assam, will enhance troop deployment beyond Tawang in West Arunachal Pradesh in addition to the 5 Mountain Division already stationed at Tenga.

The new mountain corps will require light artillery which can be easily transported, even airlifted in the highest mountains. Given India's painfully-slow process of weapons acquisition, empowering the Mountain Strike Corps quickly will be a big challenge. 
It is all the more necessary for the government to walk the talk in making the new formation a reality by adhering to timelines.

Thankfully, both in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh on the frontier with China, India's strategic planners have started to make amends for decades of lethargy and apathy.

China watchers will recall that it was in  2006 that the Cabinet Committee on Security(CCS), which takes the final decision on India's security matters had decided to reverse the decades old policy of NOT building infrastructure in the border areas, lest the Chinese get easier access to Indian areas in the event of a skirmish!

The late realisation and start to improve infrastructure--both military and civil--in these remote areas however means that at least for decade, India's military preparedness there will remain tenuous.

Over the past one year, having travelled to both Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, I am convinced that India has the right intention but somehow lacks the means to get its act together in building and improving infrastructure. There are multiple agencies involved in planning and giving clearances for border projects. Although the  Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is primarily responsible for road and bridge building in these areas, it is hampered by a number of shortcomings. Having told the BRO to construct 73 strategic Roads in 2006, it was expected that these roads will be ready by its original deadline of 2012. Unfortunately on a fraction of the work has been completed

As a quasi-military organization the BRO is entrusted with building and maintaining these strategic roads and come rain or winter, its labourers work to keep the only road link to Tawang in Arunachal Prdaesh open through the year but at the moment they are fighting a losing battle, as I saw during my travel there. The fault lies not with them but with people higher up who planned  the widening of the only road without building an alternative.
Constant landslips, frequent blockades are a recurring challenge. But landslides apart , BRO officials told me that they are plagued by a shortage of labour in this sector. Earlier, large groups from Jharkhand and Bihar made their way to these parts.  No longer, since now plenty of work is available in their home states. Excruciatingly slow environmental clearances both by the central and state governments add to the delays. In Arunachal Pradesh, nearly five months of Monsoon followed by a couple of months of intense cold and snowfall means, the working season is limited to less than six months. 

In Ladakh too, the situation is no different. Snow and severe winter leaves the road and infrastructure builders just about six months of work time through the year. But as state government officials in a remote sub-division like Nyoma in south eastern Ladakh told me last fortnight the clearances have started flowing in faster than before. The road from Upshi to Demchok for instance is currently witnessing intense broadening and improvement work. Demchok is the place where maximum face offs have occurred between Indian Army and Chinese PLA patrols. The Indus also enters India at this extreme south-east corner of Ladakh.

 India owes it to its own forces to put in place better infrastructurealong the China frontier  and provide border guarding forces like the ITBP better facilities than the current ones. Although there is clamour to entrust the India-China border fully to the Army or bring the ITBP fully under the Army's control, so long as the ITBP is deployed on the front line, it deserves better treatment. 

Similarly, the Centre and the State government must go the extra distance to support the nomadic tribes that live along the remote Ladakh frontier. The further these grazers keep going in search of pasteur for their cattle, the better it is for Indian authorities to lay a claim on the undemarcated borders. These nomads should get full material help in their quest for a better life and access to more grazing land in the border areas.

We all recognise that 2013 is not 1962.

India's military capability is far far better than it was then; And finally there is too much at stake for Beijing to launch any overt aggression.

But as I wrote earlier, what has not changed is the Chinese tendency of bullying weaker neighbours and its policy to keep redefining 'core' interests according to circumstances. Policy making in China is one continuous process. In India on the other hand, it varies according to personalities and political parties in power. While the military in India has overcome the trauma of the 1962 defeat, civilian policy makers appear to be still bogged down by the burdens of the past in dealing with China.

Policy makers in India must be mindful of the fact that military preparedness and trying to improve diplomatic relations are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Following is the list of India's Corps with their locations:

1 Corps--Mathura
2 Corps--Ambala
3 Corps--Rangapahar (Dimapur)
4 Corps--Tezpur
9 Corps-Yol
10 Corps--Bhatinda
11 Corps-Jalandhar
12 Corps--Jodhpur
14 Corps--Leh
15 Corps--Srinagar
16 Corps--Nagrota
21 Corps--Bhopal
33 Corps--Sukna (Siliguri)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

All you wanted to know about INS Vikramaditya

Two days before Indian Navy's biggest acquisition ever, INS Vikramaditya is inducted in the service in Russia, here's a background note on its long, chequered journey from an abandoned decrepit Russian aircraft carrier to what the Navy says, a 'game changer' in Asia. All information and pictures, courtesy the Indian Navy. 

For almost a decade India had two aircraft carriers and the Indian Navy was fully cognisant of the criticality of having an aircraft carrier available for deployment on each seaboard to fulfil the Navy’s assigned tasks. In recognition of the importance of aircraft carriers, the Indian Navy had already started exploring the possibility of indigenously designing and constructing an Aircraft Carrier, this project took off in right earnest in the late 90s as the Air Defence Ship was conceived. However, given the long gestation period of such projects, the search for a replacement for INS Vikrant gained momentum as its decommissioning drew closer.

It was at this juncture that Russia offered Admiral Gorshkov to the Indian Navy. Negotiations over acquiring the 44,500 ton Admiral Gorshkov started in 1994. Various high level delegations who had assessed the ship had independently concluded that the ship’s hull was in good material state and would be worth considering for exploitation in the Indian Navy with a suitable mix of aircraft.

Signing of the Contract
After detailed negotiations the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in Dec 1998 during a visit by Russian PM Yevgeny Primakov. The Inter-Governmental Agreement which included acquisition of Project 11430 (Admiral Gorshkov) was signed between the Federation of Russia and the Union Government of India on 04 Oct 2000. After a Detailed Project Development Review, contractual negotiations and thereafter price negotiations, Government approved the acquisition on 17 Jan 04 at a cost of Rs 4881.67 Cr for the complete package of R&R of the ship, spares, infrastructure augmentation and documentation. The deal was signed on 20 Jan 04 and the effective date of the contract was established as 24 Feb 04. The R&R of the ship commenced from 09 Apr 04.

The repair and refit was being undertaken by FSUE Sevmash, the state owned shipyard at Severodvinsk, Russia. The R&R was scheduled to have been completed within 52 months. Though the refurbishment process was started in right earnest, soon it was realized that the work and equipment requiring replacement was significantly higher than originally estimated. Entire length of cable, large portions of steel hull, motors, turbines and boilers, etc. would have to be completely replaced with resulting in cost escalation and time slippage.

A protracted renegotiation for arriving at a mutually acceptable price for refurbishment was held in the ensuing months. Finally, in Dec 2009, the Indian and the Russian sides arrived at an agreement on the final price of delivery of this ship. More significantly, it was agreed that the delivery of the ship would take place only in the year 2012. Though the re-negotiated price was significantly higher than what was originally agreed upon, the fillip that the addition of Gorshkov would give to the Blue water requirements of Indian Navy compensated the greater price.

The Journey of Admiral Gorshkov (nee Baku)

The journey of ‘Vikramaditya’ began as the Kiev class aircraft carrying cruiser ‘Baku’. Developed from the Moskva class helicopter carrying guided missile cruisers the Kiev class was a pioneering Soviet era design, featuring a flight deck arrangement capable of operating fixed wing VTOL fighters for the first time in the Soviet Navy. Baku was constructed by Chernomorsky Ship Building Enterprise, Nikolayev (now in Ukraine). About 400 enterprises and nearly 1,500 - 2,000 workers from different republics of USSR took part in building of the ship. The ship was commissioned on 20 Dec 1987. Conceived as an armed cruiser, Baku was heavily armed with twelve Anti-Ship Missile launchers, ten gun mounts of differing calibre and rocket launchers and depth charges. The air element comprised Yak-38 aircraft.

‘Baku’ was envisioned to be a full-fledged aircraft carrier by Admiral SG Gorshkov, however, due to conflicting dynamics at that time, the ship turned out as the last ‘compromise’ ship of the Kiev series. After her development and construction, it became clear to the Soviet leadership that the vision of Admiral Gorshkov of a classical aircraft carrier with ship borne aircraft as the primary weapons was indeed the most logical way ahead to develop the surface forces. On 07 Nov 1990, the ship was named after Admiral Sergey Georgiyevich Gorshkov.

Baku/Admiral Gorshkov began its active operational service with the Northern Fleet and was deployed in the Mediterranean Sea and remained in active service till 1992 and thereafter continued in service albeit with limited operational deployments. The ship was finally decommissioned in 1996.

The Transformation

Admiral Gorshkov was put in hibernation after her last sailing in 1995. With most of her equipment lying un-utilised since then, the task of breathing life and converting her from a VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) missile cruiser carrier to a STOBAR aircraft carrier involved substantial degutting, equipment removal, refit and re-equipping. The major works envisaged were modification of flight deck to include ski-jump and arrester gear; modification of bulbous bow, aft aircraft lift & ammunition lifts; modification of 1750 out of 2500 compartments; installation of new main boilers; installation of new and additional Diesel Generators; replacement of existing distilling plants; fitment of Reverse Osmosis plants, new AC plants and Refrigeration plants and installation of new sensors and equipment. In 2007, as the refit and repair of the ship was in progress, the yard realized that the scope of work was much larger than initially estimated and so a revised timeline for completion of the task of modernization was agreed upon by both Russian and Indian sides. With a revised timeline the delivery of ship was expected by end 2012.

A Peek at the Scope of Work

Creation of Ski Jump
Creation of the flight deck with structural modification to convert the VTOL carrier to a STOBAR carrier was the most intricate and arduous. The task involved installation of Sponsons to increase the breadth at the Flight Deck and a fitment of a new 14 degree Ski jump, strengthening of arresting gear area, strengthening of run way area and elongation of the aft end to generate the required length of landing strip aft of the arresting gear. In all 234 new hull sections were installed to achieve the desired shape. Total steel work for carrying out structural modification on flight deck amounted to 2500T.
Modification of Super structure
The superstructure was modified to accommodate a host of sensors and equipment such as radars, Electronic Warfare suite and Action Information Organisation system and other systems to suit the requirements of ship borne fighters and rotors. A very unique structural modification that was carried out on board the ship was the installation of the aft mast for accommodating various communication antennae.
Machinery Modification
Vikramaditya in its older avatar was powered by boilers fuelled by heavy oil. The re-equipping included replacement of these old boilers with state of the art boilers utilizing LSHSD and providing a steam capacity of 100 Tonnes per Hour each.

Electrical re-cabling

The initial estimate included replacement of only 1400 kms of old cable with new cables. However, as degutting progressed and confined spaces were accessed it was realised that an additional 900 kms of cable will need to be replaced. Finally the mammoth task involved replacing 2300 kms of cable, which is a little short of half of the entire coastline of India.


The modification plan of Vikramaditya was not restricted to the gears and sparks alone. The change also necessitated revamp of the living spaces and galleys to cater to the needs of the Indian men in uniform. Of 2500 a total of 1750 compartments were completely re-fabricated. A host of new galley equipment suited for preparation of Indian food like dosas and chapatis was also installed.

Arrestor and Restraining Gears

The conversion of VTOL carrier to STOBAR involved fitment of three 30m wide arrester gears and three restraining gears. Installation of these equipment not only involved modification and strengthening of the flight deck but also changes to internal layout of compartments.


To sum it up, a total of 234 new hull sections were fabricated using 2500 tonnes of steel which is almost equivalent to the standard displacement of a mid-size frigate. Repair and re-equipping of Vikramaditya to give a new lease of life as a full- fledged carrier was no mean task and was probably as demanding a task as constructing a similar tonnage ship from the drawing board. The task was enabled by the expertise and experience of the Russian designers and yard workers working hand in glove with Indian experts. The extreme cold weather conditions of winter only made the work environment harder. At the end of this refit, spanning a little short of a decade, Vikramaditya has metamorphosed into a fully capable and potent platform.

Rise of the Phoenix …

Vikramaditya sailed for the first time under own power at 1200 hrs on 10 Jun 12, after a gap of about 17 years.

The New Avtar ‘Vikramaditya’

An aircraft carrier carrying potent long range multi-role fighters is a platform inherently deigned for power projection. In as much as ‘Gorshkov’ was transformed to create ‘Vikramaditya’, so also Vikramaditya will transform the face of the Fleet Air Arm of the Indian Navy.

STOBAR Carrier
Displacement: 44,500 T
Length OA: 284 m
Maximum Beam: 60 m
Speed: over 30 kts
04 propellers
powered by 08 Boilers,
Aircraft component:
MiG 29K, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Seaking, ALH, Chetak

Vikramaditya, the floating airfield has an overall length of about 284 meters and a maximum beam of about 60 meters, stretching as much as three football fields put together. Standing about 20 storeys tall from keel to the highest point, the sheer sight of this 44,500 tonnes mega structure of steel is awe inspiring. The ship has a total of 22 decks.

With over 1,600 personnel on board, Vikramaditya is literally a ‘Floating City’. Associated with this large population is a mammoth logistics requirement - nearly a lakh of eggs, 20,000 litres of milk and 16 tonnes of rice per month. With her complete stock of provisions, she is capable of sustaining herself at sea for a period of about 45 days. With a capacity of over 8,000 tonnes of LSHSD, she is capable of operations up to a range of over 7,000 nautical miles or 13000 kms.

To enable this 44,500 tonnes floating steel city to cut through the choppy seas with speeds of up to 30 knots, she is powered by 08 new generation boilers of steam capacity of 100 TPH at a very high pressure of 64 bars, generating a total output power of 180,000 SHP. Vikramaditya heralds in a new generation of boiler technology with a very high level of automation. These high pressure and highly efficient boilers power four enormous propellers, each greater in diameter than twice the height of an average male. Such a four propeller - four shaft configuration is another first in the Indian Navy.
The 06 turbo alternators and 06 diesel alternators onboard generate a total electricity of 18 megawatts to power various equipment of the ship, enough to cater to the lighting requirement of a mini city. The ship also houses 02 Reverse Osmosis plants providing an uninterrupted supply of 400 Tons per day of fresh water.
An extensive revamp of sensors including fitment of Long range Air Surveillance Radars, Advanced Electronic Warfare Suite makes the ship capable of maintaining a surveillance bubble of over 500 kms around the ship.

The ship has the ability to carry over 30 aircraft comprising an assortment of MiG 29K/Sea Harrier, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Sea King, ALH-Dhruv and Chetak helicopters. The MiG 29K swing role fighter is the main offensive platform and provides a quantum jump for the Indian Navy’s maritime strike capability. These fourth generation air superiority fighters provide a significant fillip for the Indian Navy with a range of over 700 nm (extendable to over 1,900 nm with inflight refueling) and an array of weapons including anti-ship missiles, Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missiles, guided bombs and rockets.
The ship is equipped with state of the art launch and recovery systems along with aids to enable smooth and efficient operation of ship borne aircraft. Major systems include the LUNA Landing system for MiGs, DAPS Landing system for Sea Harriers and Flight deck lighting systems.

The heart of the operational network that infuses life into the combat systems onboard the ship is the Computer aided Action Information Organisation (CAIO) system, LESORUB-E. LESORUB has the capability to gather data from ship’s sensors and data links and to process, collate and assemble comprehensive tactical pictures. This state of the art system has been specifically designed keeping in mind the essential requirement on the carrier for fighter control and direction.

One of the most prominent equipment fitted on the super structure is the Resistor-E radar complex. Resistor-E is the automated system designed for providing air traffic control, approach/landing and short range navigation for ship borne aircraft. This complex along with its various sub-systems provides navigation and flight data to ship borne aircraft operating at extended ranges from the mother ship. The precision approach guidance system aids the fighters on approach to be directed down to a distance of 30 meters short of flight deck. Vikramaditya also boasts of a very modern communication complex, CCS MK II, to meet her external communication requirement. Installation of Link II tactical data system allows her to be fully integrated with the Indian Navy’s network centric operations.

Once integrated, INS Vikramaditya will bring transformational capabilities to the Indian Navy and will be a ‘game changer’.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

In conversation with Navy Chief Adm DK Joshi

The Video link is here:


Visakhapatnam:  The year 2013 has been a significant landmark in Indian Navy's history. The P8 I's were inducted in the Indian Navy; the INS Vikramaditya is about to be inducted in the Navy shortly. Also the reactor of INS Arihanth, India's first nuclear powered submarine, went critical. The Navy's communication satellite became operational. All in all, a very good year except for one tragic incident - that of the explosion aboard the INS Sindhurakshak in Mumbai, which led to the loss of 18 lives.
But what does the future hold? 

Indian Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi in conversation with NDTV's  Nitin Gokhale

This ship is one of the bigger assets of the Navy in the east coast and looking at this ship one feels so confident about the humanitarian assistance and the disaster relief that this ship does. But how do you see the Navy's overall picture, the current status and going down 5 years from now? 
Admiral Joshi: Well, you quite summed it up yourself. 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. Very soon Jalashwa is going to become the third largest ship from being the second currently. On the 16th we are commissioning, inducting Vikramaditya in Russia.

So all these acquisitions and procurement are proceeding apace. Majority of them are force multipliers. The air assets that you referred to is going to be here tomorrow when we induct the AJT hawk trainers, will be formally inducted into the Navy. We would also have the first P8 I that has already arrived and in the process of being accepted. 

Various acceptance trials are in progress and by the end of the year we will have 3 of them and others following in quick order next year. That brings into this region a capability that has not existed before. It's a brand new aircraft, apart from the platform, which in any case is a proven Boeing aircraft. The fit has been to the specification to currently to what US Navy has. So therefore the capabilities that are coming into our hands are absolutely state of the art.

The submarine projects, Arihanth you mentioned, achieved criticality in the month of August. I spent the entire forenoon there. The entire crew, the DAE teams, the BARC teams, the DRDO teams, our own ATV project personnel, as also the industry people. Every one is upbeat, full of dynamism and I think very, very enthusiastic and in a very short order we would again put her out for sea trials and operational towards the end of next year. 
NDTV: A lot of people talk about the Indian Navy now being not just the Indian Navy for the Indian ocean region but also for Indo Pacific. You know I'm talking about the western pacific and going right up to the coast of Africa. Do you see the Indian Navy's role expanding in the coming decade or so?
Admiral Joshi: Well, the Navy has great reach and sustenance and long sea legs so therefore 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. Therefore I would not reiterate them. And therefore for what tasking and into what areas the Navy is required to be committed, that is question for the government to determine.

They, Navy's, are meant to be committed to safeguard the sovereign national interests in the maritime domain and we have the capabilities. And all the capabilities being inducted are tailored in that direction as the spread would show you. 

 You also conduct Milan exercises every two years, and also have a lot of good co-operation with navies in South East Asia. How do you see Milan coming up now in 2014?

Admiral Joshi: Well Milan was launched on, I forget the exact year, sometime in the mid-90s actually 1995 it was, and it started with 7 or 8 participants. For next years edition we are expecting something like 20 navies.

There is frequent request from navies, which are not from this region for participation or participation only as an observer. So it has caught everybody's imagination. Basically it is a bringing together of young professionals, essentially the ship's crew, young officers, sailors, so that they get to interact with each other.

Understand each others point of view, so that any chance meeting at sea, is in a very harmonious sort of a fashion and in eventuality as well there is a common tasking or coordinated patrol that two navies are engaged in at a point in time, the confidence levels to begin with have been achieved. 
NDTV: Now looking at the India Navy, I mean I keep coming back to the future of the Indian Navy, in that sense technologically, the Indian Navy has always been a step ahead of most of the other navies in the region and a long tradition of having at least one aircraft carrier. Do you foresee yourself having carrier battle groups in the next 2-3 years when the IAC is inducted?
Admiral Joshi: Well 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. 
NDTV: As we pass near of one of your two submarines alongside, there is this concern that submarines are depleted in strength, conventional submarine strengths, how do plan to overcome the shortage?
Admiral Joshi: 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. So that should start happening.

Plus, we got our project 75 I on the anvil and we are hopeful of early CCS approval and that again would be, what the proposal is that we buy two outright and the rest with the transfer of technology would be built indigenously in India. That has been a thrust point in indigenous construction in Indian shipyards, both public sector and private sector.
NDTV: Yes I was going to come that, that indigenous construction shipbuilding, has been something that the Navy should be proud about although delays are there. And I think amongst the two services the Navy has indigenised faster than anybody else in that real sense. So how do see the indigenous shipbuilding coping up with the demands you have?
Admiral Joshi: 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. That's being commissioned on the 16th. And therefore the industry has risen to the occasion, we have constant interface with the industry through the mechanism of CII, FICCI, Assocham, and therefore we are quite enthused with the participation that they have. 

And we of course recognize that when you say indigenous, 100 per cent of a ship or a submarine, need not be and it is nowhere, so certain components, certain high end technology, you'll need to collaborate with somebody or the other and we are quite happy doing that.
NDTV: Talking about Sindhurakshak's accident, I mean it was a tragic accident, all of us agree about it, any way forward, have you drawn any lessons from there? 

Admiral Joshi:
 Of course was a tragedy, something that shouldn't have happened. But insofar as lessons to be learnt are concerned would happen only after we have concluded the enquiry process, which we're now awaiting really, the floating of the boat. Which has still not happened because the last bit of material, the forensic evidence would be found inside the boat.

As of now we have tendered out 7 globally, correction 5, globally acknowledged salvage firms. They have all submitted their bids. Commencing Monday we will open their commercial bits, short process, you'll know who the winner is. These are really renowned names, one of them was actually involved in lifting, I won't name the submarine but a submarine that had sunk about a decade ago.

Therefore, whosoever wins the contract has to be again done in a very transparent fashion, would prove the hardware and get on with it. And once we retrieve the submarine, we have the final sort of, we would have the final forensic evidence we were looking for and the board of enquiry would be able to complete its proceedings and point out at what went wrong. 
NDTV: The AJT's you are going to induct, the advance jet trainer Hawk, How is it going to change the training pattern or the training envelope of your pilots?
Admiral Joshi: Well it'll not really the pattern, but what it will change is the profile, you as compared to the basic trainers, which as the name implies, rather basic. The future requirement of the Navy is going to be for pilot, for young pilots, to fly big 29 K's, and hopefully as soon as possible the LCA Navy.

These are high performance jet aircrafts and therefore even the trainer has to be a high performance jet trainer. And that is the requirement that the AJT meets. It's a high performance jet trainer.

To begin with you are able to launch a person so when he gets on to carrier operations, which will be you know arrested recoveries, ski jump launches, on high profile uh high performance engine, it is a more suited aircraft. It will change the profile all together.

 You have also change the profile for training, young officers, everybody is now looking AT technology, intensive training, people you are mostly inducting are you know mostly engineers, Mostly or maybe a 100% I am not very sure whether they are 100% engineers. How has that changed as far as Navy is concerned?
Admiral Joshi: Yes in one of your earlier questions, you had remarked that technologically the Indian Navy is one of the most advanced in the region. I wouldn't comment on the competitive ranking aspect of it.

But we have long realized that the Navy is a technology intensive service and the future platform of the Navy be that ships, submarine or aircraft would require a person with a high degree of basic technological knowledge. And therefore a decision was taken that the basic qualification would be made B-Tech. Therefore our Naval academy in Ezhimala in June this year passed out the first batch of 100 per cent B-Tech candidates.

And every six months commencing with the next passing out in November now, the entire Navy would get converted with a basic B-Tech qualification. From there they would diversify to being ships' crew, submarines' crew, aircraft pilots, observers, everything else. Because we have felt it is the need of the hour.

You have to understand the machine before you start developing the man machine interface, and so far the indicators are brilliant and I think we are well on the right path.

 Talking about that initiative, similarly IONS, Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, was one of the initiatives the Navy was involved with other navies perhaps. How was IONS shaped up and how do you see the future of IONS?
Admiral Joshi: Well IONS was actually pioneered by the Indian Navy. It was a concept mooted by the India Navy and again, quite like Milan, it has snowballed in mass, in criticality and everyone wants to be a member.

And the number of requests we have received from front ranking navies to become a member, and of course we had again wanted it to be a sort of collaborative, cooperative process and we said we'll not retain the Chairmanship forever, every two years we will rotate it. So it rotated from us to the UAE and then on to South Africa, next year it is slated to go to Australia and only consensus decisions would be taken.

And on admittance of newer members the current decision is that, firstly, we let the charter of business become finalized, that has to match on and find acceptance with the regional navies      
NDTV: How has it helped in terms of cooperation amongst navies?
Admiral Joshi: Oh greatly, you know, because many of the activities listed there in for example, anti-piracy is one of the mandates of IONS. So if any 2 or 3 member navies of IONS end up fielding their assets together, in the Gulf of Aden for example, the basic work has happened, so the basic level of understanding amongst the three of them achieved already before they came on to station.

So that bit has facilitated a very smooth interface. On common tasks it's not a security forum. It is a benign forum for tasks like anti-piracy operations where everyone sees the picture in a similar fashion. 
NDTV: But you also cooperate with 2 other navies if I am not mistaken on the anti-piracy operations, the convoys going together in the Gulf of Eden with Chinese and Japanese navies. How is that working out?
Admiral Joshi: No, what we do is when we say coordinate, what we do is through a mechanism called SHARE. Shared awareness, we pass on our convoy schedules and other navies pass on their schedules, and its up to you to so adjust them so as to bring greater synergy.

That means the two of them should not be starting the convoy together. It's a waste of time. You stagger it up a little bit and then you provide coverage to a lager number of ships
NDTV: So, is it working?
Admiral Joshi: It's working, it's working quite well. 
NDTV: So what about anti-piracy? I mean piracy operations, actually the piracy incidents, have come down. Has it helped that the Indian Navy has been there for about 5 years now in the Gulf of Aden?
Admiral Joshi: Certainly, I would like to believe that the India Navy in particular had a major role to play along with many other world navies. The instances of piracy have come down. They indeed have come down and they havn't gone away.

Till the time that risk is sort of eliminated we cannot stand down on our presence. So far as we are concerned our commitment of assets continues to remain at the same level. Also piracy has now started popping up in other areas.

You hear of instances along the west coast of Africa. Of course we don't want to reach out there yet. But it has to remain a collaborative effort and there is great understanding among the world navies and the Indian Navy has played a significant role in the anti-piracy efforts.
NDTV: Right. Moving away from piracy, looking at nuclear triad, you know our nuclear doctrine. Navy will have a major role to play in that. How are you looking at the future, you know, being part of that doctrine?
Admiral Joshi: Globally if you study the most credible sort of resolution does come from SSBN's. I narrated to you how our first SSBN is poised. And then after depending on our experience with her and our experience of having operated Chakra, the second time around, we are well placed. 

 And Chakra is also giving you I mean your crews, a lot of experience?
Admiral Joshi: Of course, of course absolutely. The best sort of spin-off is that we are able to train our future crews in-house. You know through recycling them through Chakra. There is no need to send them abroad. The first crew is there which has been trained in great detail and as it hands over to the second crew, through a process of structured training and also OJT on your training, you have a second set of crew ready and a third. So therefore there are these crews available to manage any such assets. 
NDTV: What about the communication satellite that the Navy has now on its own. How has it stabilized, one, and how is going to help you or how is it helping you?
Admiral Joshi: It 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.

 And as we speak, I think the Exercise Malabar is also going to commence so do you foresee more and more joint exercises, bilateral exercises, between Indian Navy and other navies?
Admiral Joshi: We, you know, quite like the influence that is coming from the IONS and the Milans. There is a constant demand really from many navies to get into bilateral exercises.

We have to evaluate them closely, because we also don't want our effort on ground to be thinned out too much only in bilateral exercises, and therefore a very conscious decision is taken, in consult with MEA and the Ministry of Defence, as to whether to leave it for the time being as a sporadic on and off type of exercise, or to get it structured as a bilateral one. But there is a constant demand from navies who want a structured bilateral exercise
NDTV: That is a tribute to Indian Navy's professionalism I guess. 

Admiral Joshi:
 Well I don't know, I would imagine, I should hope that it is one of the factors. But this whole area, you know the dynamics of the area, are attracting everyone on to the area and therefore it could be a major factor. 
NDTV: Coastal security is one of your priorities?
Admiral Joshi: Coastal security?

 We are in the fifth year since the 26/11 attacks.
Admiral Joshi: Yes, Yes, at the end of this month you know, 26/11 Fifth Anniversary. It is one of the most critical considerations of today's operations. It is something that Navy, along with Coast Guard and all the state agencies, Coastal Maritime Police, and all that, remain engaged right through. Where lot of improvement has happened over 2008.

There are of course works still in progress with regard to registration of fishing boats, with regards to ID cards for fisherman, as regards AIS transponders, because if you see our contacts, the fishing traffic, it is into thousands upon thousands.

When we started off in 2009, really in the beginning, nobody had a count of how many of those are registered. There were boats not registered at all, there were boats registered in multiple states, all of that has been sort of streamlined now, A lot of improvement has taken place since that time.

 Admiral Joshi, thank you so much for your time, and it's been a delight to be on the ship. We always pay tribute to the Indian Navy's professionalism. Thank you so much
Admiral Joshi: Thank you I hope you enjoyed your journey here