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To counter its adversaries in IOR, India plans 175-warship Navy by 2035

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Apr 9, 2023
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NEW DELHI: The Indian Navy now has 68 warships and vessels on order, collectively worth an estimated $25 billion, in line with India’s continuing quest to build a stronger blue-water force to protect its huge geostrategic interests as well as counter China’s ever-expanding footprint in Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The 132-warship Navy, with 143 aircraft and 130 helicopters, also has the initial approval or ‘acceptance of necessity’ (AoN) for another eight next-generation corvettes, nine submarines, five survey vessels and two multi-purpose vessels to be built in India in the coming years.

Faced with the slow pace of construction in Indian shipyards, progressive decommissioning of old ships and budgetary constraints, the Indian Navy will however reach a force-level of just about 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,” a source said.

The growing maritime threat from China cannot be ignored. The People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) is aggressively hunting for more overseas bases after Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, Karachi and Gwadar in Pakistan and now possibly Ream in Cambodia to overcome its existing logistical challenge in the IOR and the larger Indo-Pacific.

China, of course, is also building vessels at a furious rate to further add to what is the world’s largest Navy with 355 warships and submarines. “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 Indian Navy, however, is yet to even get the preliminary nod for the construction of a third aircraft carrier that will take over a decade to build. The case for a smaller 45,000-tonne “repeat order” of INS Vikrant is now being finalised instead of a more potent and cost-effective 65,000-tonne carrier.

The depleting underwater combat arm is another major worry. With the continuing delay in kicking off the long-pending ‘Project-75-India’ to build six advanced diesel-electric submarines for over $5.5 billion, the government is now going in for three more French-origin Scorpene submarines to be built at Mazagon Docks (MDL). They will follow the first six such submarines built for over $2.5 billion there.

The good news is that the seven 6,670-tonne stealth frigates being constructed under Project-17A — four at MDL and three at GRSE in Kolkata at an overall cost of $5.5 billion — are slated for delivery in the 2024-2026 timeframe.

Of the other 68 ships on order, all also being constructed in India except for two frigates in Russia, two more guided-missile destroyers (Imphal and Surat) will also soon follow the first two, INS Visakhapatnam and INS Mormugao, commissioned earlier under the $4 billion Project-15B at MDL.

Then there is the recently-inked over $2.5 billion contract with Hindustan Shipyard (HSL) for five 44,000-tonne fleet support ships, whose deliveries will begin after four years.

There are also six next-generation missile vessels to be built by the Cochin Shipyard for $1.3 billion, with the deliveries to begin from March 2027. The deliveries of the 11 next-generation offshore patrol vessels — seven at Goa Shipyard and four at GRSE — in turn will commence from September 2026 for an overall cost of Rs $1.2 billion.
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