Refubrishment And Operationalization Of Indian Super Unsinkable Aircraft Carriers
By Colonel Awadhesh Kumar , Veteran Special Forces
The Indian Navy is on a Commissioning Spree of indigenous Naval Ships varying in size from tugs to destroyers and in the foreseeable future an indigenous aircraft carrier. These are certainly required to patrol and safeguard the busiest shipping lanes of the World passing through the Indian Ocean. Ensuring the safety and security of the entire Indian Ocean and its friendly littoral states is not only a duty for India but also essential in her own national interest. We as Indians must always keep three things in mind . Firstly Indian Ocean is India’s Ocean ( let the Chinese or any one else rave and rant ) . Secondly that India got subjugated finally by foreigners coming through not via the land frontiers but through the sea routes ( British, Portuguese and the French). Thirdly that when the Indians( Mauryas /Cholas ) had RULED THE WAVES then there was total peace from the African Coast right up to South of China Sea.
In spite of the fumbling, stumbling and the bumbling of the Ministry of Defence , Indian Navy is carrying on resolutely in its move forward , though the pace desired needs to be speeded up. The lost decade due to a Saint of a Defence Minister which nearly decimated the Navy needs to be made up .Thus a second conventional submarine line must come up fast at Mazagaon to churn out more submarines and the first to make a few more . Similarly a second nuclear submarine line must make the SSGNs at Vishakhapatnam along with the one making the ARIHANT SSBN Series. The Destroyer line at Mazagaon must be supplemented with another one a GRSTE , Kolkatta. Similarly additional Frigates and Corvettes lines must come up at Mazagaon, Kolkatta and Goa. Where as for smaller Corvettes OPVs , LSTs , LCUs , Patrol Boats etc both L&T and Reliance Pipavav Shipyards must be engaged to the hilt. Meanwhile Goa Shipyard should also redouble its effort on the Mine Counter Measure Vessels. Of course Cochin Shipyard has to now concentrate fully on timely delivery of INS VIKRANT and then get cracking on VISHAL and the follow on series.
Apart from all the above activities , the Indian Navy must focus on refurbishing and operationalization of its most vital asset …..the three unsinkable Super Aircraft Carriers INS ANDAMAN DWEEP , INS NICOBAR DWEEP and INS LAKSHA DWEEP. It must go full steam to augment its infrastructure on these islands , in order to bolster its presence in the vicinity of strategically significant waterways in the Indian Ocean. India as part of a pact with ASEAN countries is already under taking patrolling of the Seas around Malacca Strait and Six Degree Channel on permanent basis in an institutionalized manner. Therefore build up of permanent infrastructure on both Andaman and Nicobar is inevitable.
The Navy is already modernizing the existing runway at INS BAAZ, the Naval Air Station at Campbell Bay extending it to 10,000 ft from existing 3500 ft. By 2022 we must plan to station a Squadron of P8I for which orders need to be placed now . Building of requisite infrastructure therefore should commence at once. These surveillance and strike aircrafts then can dominate the entire area from Andaman to Malacca and beyond in all directions. The current P8I squadron stationed at INS Rajali at Arakonam in Tamil Nadu can then concentrate towards Srilanka, Maldives and westward . Later , on similar lines a third P8I base needs to be planned on one of the islands of Lakshadweep to dominate the Arabian Sea and the Gulf region .
The Andaman & Nicobar Command is a tri Service integrated Command and even includes the Coast Guard . Thus all Services have to focus their attention to turn this Command into a Super Sized unsinkable pair of Air Craft Carriers. Due to its geographic location boosting effort required by the Component Services will have to be in the following priority …….Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Army.
The Navy has rightly decided to also move the second floating dry dock to the islands to service the large number of ships which will be operating in that area in the future . It already has one such dry dock there. These docks are capable of docking warships of up to 8,000 tonnes displacement and have high capacity ballast pumps along with advanced automated ballast control system. These docks, manufactured by Larsen & Toubro, will further facilitate repair and refit activities even in inclement weather conditions. The Navy is also rightly modernizing three forward operating bases INS KARDIP at Kamorta (Nicobar) and constructing new ones at Diglipur and Campbell Bay (Andaman) to reduce the turnaround time for various ships already operating in that region and those which will be operating in future. INS JARAWA the Support Base at Port Blair may need further expansion both in manpower and infrastructure. Similarly INS UTKROSH ( joint Navy Air Force base) at Port Blair and INS SHIBPUR at Diglipur needs to be expanded and modernized. By 2030 the Naval Component needs to be at least as under:
(d) One Amphibious Squadron comprising 1×LPD, 1xLST (large), 3× LST ( medium) & 12xLCU
(e) 2x submarines
(e) 8x Missile Boats
(f) 8xPatrol Boats
( g) Oil Tankers and other support vessels
( h) 1xP8I squadron
( j) 1xAmphibious Aircraft Squadron
(k) 1xDornier ( or the next version) Squadron
(l) 1x Navalized Tejas Squadron ( hopefully )
(m) Adequate No of helicopters for various roles including S& R
(n) 1x Sagar Prahari Battalion
( o) 1x MARCOS unit
The Naval Component will need full support of the IAF component so that these Islands actually turn into an unsinkable aircraft carrier. For this the Car Nicobar Air Force Station needs to be upgraded to a full fledged airbase . Apart from this at least two more airbases have to come up in Andaman / Greater Nicobar areas . The IAF force level at the minimum needs to be beefed up as under:-
( a) 1xSukhoi MKI squadron
( b) 1x Jaguar Squadron( Navalized)
( c) 2xTejas Squadron
( d) 1x Transport Squadron ( 12 ton capability)
( e ) 1xTransport Squadron ( 20 ton capability)
(f) 1xFlight Air Re Fuellers
( g) 1xFlight AWACS
( h) 1x MI-17 Hepter Squadron
( j) 2x Attack hepter squadron
(l) 2x Dhruv heptr squadron
(m) 3 x Akash SAM squadron
( n) 3 x QR SAM squadron
(o) Misc …..Long / Medium/ Short Range Radar squadrons etc
Next comes the Army . Presently it has one brigade group . This need not be upgraded to a full division , instead we need to have two tailor made Amphibious Brigades , a composite Artillery brigade , a composite Air Defence brigade , a composite Aviation Brigade , a composite Engineers Brigade and a composite Logistic Brigade other communication and supporting units. This fighting Force to be commanded by a Lt General. Two integrated tri Service Sub Areas need to be raised to command all static support units like Coastal Missile / Gun batteries , Coastal Radar chains , Communication Centres , Third line transport units, Ammunition Depots, Ordnance Depots, Fuel Depots ,Ration Depots , Military Hospitals, MES , GREF etc
Finally the Coast Guard too needs to be upgraded with enough Ships , Fast Intercept Crafts , Hover crafts , Pollution Control Ships , helicopters and surveillance aircrafts to police the coastal areas and even the EEZ with special emphasis on anti poaching. No foreign fishing trawlers , boats of any country should be permitted to operate in our waters. Only the right to passage as per International law to be permitted.
Recently the new Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, was in Andaman in mid october and was given a briefing on the Navy’s future plans on infrastructure development in the island. May be by design or by default the new Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is the former Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi. Further as decided the Commander-in-Chief of Andaman and Nicobar Command, will always be from the Navy.