New Delhi. The Indian Navy is set to have 100-plus combat jets, as part of an assortment of its own mostly ship-board capable air force of some 500 aircraft and helicopters.
Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Verma told India Strategic that air power is an integral component of the Indian Navy’s modernization programme with at least three aircraft carriers in the future.
The Naval Chief declined to mention the exact timelines but observed that each platform of the Navy would be equipped with progressively better technologies and newer generation systems as they evolve. The effort is on acquiring capabilities, and eventually indigenizing them with special emphasis on operational capabilities in the Electronic Warfare (EW) environment.
The Indian Navy has already ordered 45 Mig 29K combat jets from Russia, 16 of them in the first lot in 2004, and the remaining now. Incidentally, this is the first time that the Russians are supplying training simulators with their aircraft; the Indian Air Force never got any in the good old days from the Soviet Union or Russia.
These Mig 29K aircraft are specifically meant for INS Vikramaditya aka Admiral Gorshkov being acquired from Russia end-2012 before the Navy Day on Dec 4.
The 60 other combat jets being planned for acquisition may be different. Adm Verma did not elaborate.
All he said was that the Navy has planned for about 500 aircraft, helicopters, LRMR and MRMR included.
It may be noted however that various aircraft manufacturers, US Boeing (F/A 18 Super Hornet) and Lockheed Martin (F 35 JSF), French Dassault (Rafale) and Swedish Saab (Sea Gripen) have made presentations to the Navy.
At present, only the Boeing F/A 18 and Rafale operate from aircraft carriers while the JSF, the futuristic 5th Generation aircraft under development has demonstrated the capability to land and take off from ships in flight trials. There is also the naval version of the India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) being developed by HAL.
The choice should be known after a few years.
The Navy has already ordered 12 Boeing P8-I long Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft (LRMR) and another 12 LRMR and half a dozen Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft are under consideration.
Besides these, the Navy is looking for an assortment of aircraft to operate in the contemporary and futuristic Electronic Warfare (EW) environment with cutting edge technologies.
The US has offered Northrop Grumman's advance E-2D Hawkey shipboard aircraft for battle management but that is where it stands. There is no "Yes" or "No" from the Indian Navy.
Adm Verma said that what the Navy was looking at were just not numbers of aircraft, ships, submarines and other assets but their capabilities. Any equipment and system has to operate and last for years. New and newer technologies are emerging rapidly and whatever the Navy buys, has to be value for money and security for years to come.
As for ships and submarines, he said that by 2027, the Navy should have mostly new 150 ships and submarines to enable operations in both the western and eastern seaboards of India to protect the country’s maritime interests.
The Navy has also acquired two refueling vessels to enable its ships to stay far from the shores and for longer durations.
- India Strategic