The Indian Navy plans to create, and sustain, a three-dimensional, technology-enabled and networked force capable of safeguarding maritime interests in the high seas and projecting combat power across the littoral region. Presenting the Navy's vision, Adm Mehta said that the force's security concerns would span all forms of conflicts, from low-end to nuclear threshold.
Adm Mehta was delivering a talk on the Navy's vision for the future.
"The risk of conventional conflict also looms large over the sub-continent. Therefore, we expect our neighbour to operate on all spectrum of conflicts. Threats are many -- transient and dynamic," he said.
With Russian-made nuclear powered Akula II-class (Russian designation-Schuka B) submarine set to join the fleet next year, the Indian Navy is pitching for a submarine-launched nuclear missile to boost the nation's deterrence capabilities.
"With nuclear proliferation posing a greater threat along with Weapons of Mass Destruction, our unilateral policy of no-first-use necessitates that India possesses a credible and survivable nuclear deterrent, including submarine-launched," Adm Sureesh Mehta said.
India had in February this year tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile for the first time that would take another three years to be fully operational. After a delay, the Akula II is likely to join the Indian Navy next year.
Adm Mehta said the Navy would basically use the Akula for training its personnel before they began operating the indigenous nuclear-powered submarine currently under construction. "Though it is an operational submarine, Akula will be basically used for training naval operators before they get to operate our indigenous nuclear-powered submarine," the chief said.
A DRDO project, the indigenous nuclear submarine, referred to as the Advanced Technology Vehicle, is likely to head for sea trials two years from now. India reportedly operates 16 diesel-powered submarines and has six French Scorpene submarines on order under a technology transfer contract.
The Scorpenes are scheduled to enter service in the period 2012-2017.
"Ensuring a secure and peaceful environment in the Indian Ocean Region and to further India's political, economic, diplomatic and military objectives are Navy's responsibilities. We will deter conflict through conventional and non-conventional strength. But if this fails, we will fight to achieve decisive victory over our adversaries," Adm Mehta said.
Stating that India's expanding maritime responsibilities and interests would necessitate enhancement in force levels, Mehta said the Navy was looking at becoming a 160-plus ship force by 2022. "By 2022, we plan to have 160-plus ship navy, including three aircraft carriers, 60 major combatants, including submarines and close to 400 aircraft of different types. This will be a formidable three dimensional force with satellite surveillance and networking to provide force multiplication," Mehta said.
In an unprecedented indigenous naval construction programme, the Indian Navy already has on order an aircraft carrier, three destroyers and frigates each, six submarines, 10 waterjet-propelled fast attack craft, a landing ship, six survey vessels, four anti-submarine corvettes and four offshore patrol vessels, and has many others on the anvil.
In order to address capability gaps in surveillance and other airborne warfare disciplines, Adm Mehta said the coming decade would see the induction of several new air platforms and the mid-life up-gradation of older platforms.
Notable among the new acquisitions would be MiG-29 aircraft which would operate from the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (ex-Adm Gorshkov) bought from the Russians, long and medium range maritime patrol aircraft, airborne early warning systems, multi-role choppers and unmanned aerial vehicles.
According to Adm Mehta, the Indian Navy's perspective plan for the next 15-20 years would provide sustained incentives for businesses to invest in naval systems, ships and aircraft for the Indian industry on their own, or through overseas collaboration. Asserting the Navy's commitment in this regard, Adm Mehta said his force would participate in and promote any government initiative to enhance the indigenous defence and ship-building industry.