With indigenisation growing in warship building, Navy chief asks for third aircraft carrier - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla

By Vikas Gupta

Defence News of India, 30 Apr 23

The Chief of the Defense Staff (CED), General Anil Chauhan, the chief of the three services, declared that the concept of Aatmanirbharta would make India a “major player” on the world stage, where it was already “uniquely placed in close proximity to west and east”, and was reflected in the national security strategies of most great powers.

The CDS said innovation plays a major role in this, with India having 84,000 start-ups, which have indigenized more than 96,000 defense products.

The three senior army, navy and air force officers were speaking at a seminar on Aatmanirbharta (autonomy) in New Delhi on Saturday.

Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar invoked Aatmanirbharta to make a strong case for building a third carrier, which would be the navy’s second indigenous carrier after INS Vikrant, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioned last September.

The third carrier was not intended to match the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) or PLA(N) – which had started building its third carrier. Instead, it was necessary to protect national interests, such as maritime lines of communication (SLOC) in the Indian Ocean, through which most global trade flows, Kumar said.

Against the IAF’s argument that SLOCs could be protected by land-based air power, such as the Sukhoi-30MKI squadron located in Thanjavur, Kumar pointed out that “land-based air power cannot provide a adequate persistence in the area of ​​interest”.

In contrast, carrier-based airpower not only provides indefinite persistence on the fleet, but is also a mobile airfield that can travel over 500 kilometers per day.

Hari Kumar dismissed the argument that equipping the navy with a number of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN) would eliminate the need for a third carrier. “It’s not a choice between aircraft carriers and nuclear (powered) submarines. The carrier is needed to deliver a diverse set of capabilities at any given time,” he said.

The Navy Chief gave a positive note by noting that the degree of indigenization of warships had increased. Of the three abilities of a warship – the float, move, and combat components – the latter two had increased significantly.

The float component, which mainly constituted the hull, had already been approximately 95% indigenized, with the development of indigenous warship grade steel by DRDO, Midhani and SAIL. The warships were all built now with indigenous DMR 249A and DMR 249B steel.

Kumar said the displacement component has increased from about 55% a few years ago to 65% today, thanks to the local development of control systems, trees, etc. The country still lacks diesel engines and gas turbines today, which continue to be imported.

Finally, the combat component has grown from around 35% a few years ago to 55% today, thanks to the local production of many key sensors and armaments – such as the BrahMos missile, the long-range surface-to-air missile scope (LR-SAM), torpedo tubes and naval guns.

Kumar pledged that just as the Prime Minister set out to transform India into a developed country by 2047, a century after independence, the Indian Navy would pledge to become a fully Aatmanirbhar force by this year. -there.

The head of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), Dr. Samir Kamath, added a note of reality, stressing that Aatmanirbharta involves developing control over the design of products – not just manufacturing them. in the country.

“We cannot devote only 5.5% of the defense budget to R&D (to become self-sufficient). Countries like the United States spend 10-15% of their defense budget on R&D,” Kamath said.

Kamath said DRDO was attracting private sector companies to participate as “design and production partners” (DCPP), working alongside DRDO from the start of the design process and continuing to manufacture the product for use by Services.

To strengthen R&D capacities, the DRDO has opened 15 centers of excellence. In addition, the DRDO has instituted five “young scientist laboratories”, which are staffed by scientists under the age of 35.

“These labs were chosen to work in areas that can create significant disruption,” Kamath said.