India is embarking on a significant naval expansion effort in the Indian Ocean region to counter China’s growing presence. In line with India’s quest to build a stronger blue-water force, the Indian Navy has placed orders for 68 warships and vessels valued at approximately Rs 2 lakh crore.
The Indian Navy, currently boasting 132 warships, 143 aircraft, and 130 helicopters, has received preliminary approval, known as 'acceptance of necessity' (AoN), for the construction of eight next-generation corvettes, nine submarines, five survey vessels, and two multi-purpose vessels within India in the forthcoming years. These vessels will be manufactured domestically in the coming years, showcasing India’s commitment to self-reliance in defense production.
Based on current calculations, it is expected that the Indian Navy's fleet strength will reach around 155-160 warships by 2030.
"The figures are dynamic. But the aim now is to have at least 175 warships — if not 200 — by 2035 for credible strategic reach, mobility and flexibility in the IOR and beyond. There will have to be a concomitant increase in the number of fighters, aircraft, helicopters, and drones,” as per a source.
Expanding its naval capabilities also entails strengthening its aerial and maritime assets. The plan encompasses an augmentation of fighters, aircraft, helicopters, and drones, enhancing the Navy’s strategic reach, mobility, and operational flexibility in the IOR and beyond.
The Indian Navy is working on modernization while also filling up deficiencies in its underwater warfare capabilities. Delays in “Project-75-India,” which aimed to construct six advanced diesel-electric submarines, prompted the government to take action.Along with the initial procurement of six Scorpenesubmarines, they also acquired an extra three French-built Scorpene vessels.
It is noteworthy that Russia is building two frigates. Two other guided-missile destroyers, called "Imphal" and "Surat," are in readiness to join the ranks. These ships will augment the initial two destroyers. “INS Visakhapatnam” and “INS Mormugao,” were commissioned earlier under the Rs 35,000 crore Project-15B.
It is impossible to overlook China's increasing maritime menace. The People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) is actively exploring additional overseas sites following Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, Karachi and Gwadar in Pakistan, and now perhaps Ream in Cambodia, in order to extend its presence in the IOR and the larger Indo-Pacific.
“China has inducted as many as 150 warships over the last 10 years. Projections show the PLAN may well reach 555 warships in another five-six years. Chinese aircraft carriers will also begin to operate in the IOR by then,” an officer said.
The construction of a third aircraft carrier, which will take more than ten years to complete, for the Indian Navy, however, has not even received preliminary permission. The case is now being made for a smaller 45,000-tonne "repeat order" of INS Vikrant, which is still months away from being combat-ready after being commissioned a year ago, as opposed to a more potent and cost-effective 65,000-tonne carrier.
India’s ambitious naval expansion underscores its dedication to safeguarding maritime interests and ensuring security in the Indian Ocean region. It positions itself to respond effectively to evolving dynamics in this strategically vital area.
Image source: PTI