For the first time, India’s defense budget will allow the Navy to allocate funds specifically to upgrade state-owned shipyards so that shipbuilding rates can keep pace with service requirements.
A senior Navy official said March 9 this provision sets aside $110.6 million for shipbuilding facilities to build the service’s planned Air Defense Ship aircraft carrier, anti-submarine warfare corvettes and Scorpene submarines.
The Navy also decided that 50 percent of its 2005-06 acquisition budget of $2 billion will be earmarked for building the new warships so that the fleet can be kept at 140 ships.
The Navy official said these budget moves show continued support of local shipbuilding initiatives, noting 19 warships have been ordered from various shipyards in the country during the last two years.
The orders include four anti-submarine warfare corvettes, three Landing Ship Tanks (large), four fast-attack crafts and one Byas-class frigate from Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, (GRSE), Kolkata; three Shivalik-class stealth frigates and three Alpha-class destroyers from Mazagon Docks, Mumbai; and one Air Defense Ship from Cochin Shipyard, Kochi.
The Navy also plans to order three advanced offshore patrol vessels from Goa Shipyard, the official said.
However, Navy planners said they are not satisfied with the current shipbuilding schedule, which welcomes 2.5 vessels each year while retiring six.
“While we currently have government approval to maintain certain force levels, the number of ships with the Indian Navy will steadily keep reducing until 2012, because the ships being decommissioned will outnumber new entrants,” said Adm. Arun Prakash, Navy chief. He said this occurred because few orders were placed with local yards between 1985 and 1995.
Navy planners also noted that aging infrastructure at the yards has resulted in delivery delays. The service has suggested the yards outsource some of the auxiliary construction on these ship programs, such as the hull, so that the yards can concentrate on core ship systems, such as propulsion.
The Navy also has said the shipyards should focus on building offshore patrol vessels, missile boats and other smaller vessels for export to make the shipyards commercially profitable.
The Defence Ministry has assured the Navy it will have the ministry’s full support in creating a full-fledged blue-water force in the next decade.
“As the pre-eminent maritime power in the Indian Ocean, we must possess and maintain a capability for sustained operations in our area of interest. This implies an appropriate mix of small and large combatants, with an adequate fleet,” Prakash said.
The Navy also plans to employ new technologies in its future fleet, including new-generation diesel-electric propulsion in its frigates and destroyers; air-independent propulsion for the Scorpene submarines; catamaran hull technology for frigates and survey vessels; as well as composite materials for the hulls of mine countermeasure vessels.
The Navy for the next 10 to 15 years will focus on building and inducting large warships, because 75 percent of the current fleet is composed of small and medium-sized warships.