Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Short supply of fleet haunts Navy

Just after the 1962 war with China, the centre zeroed in on the optimal level of naval fleet strength for securing India. Nearly half a century down the line, the navy still has not been able to achieve that level.

The emergency committee of the Union Cabinet had accepted a force level of 138 ships for navy in 1964. The current strength level is 129 ships including vintage submarines, which in any case are being phased out. The navy currently has 37 major war vessels (carrier, destroyers, frigates), 16 submarines, 59 minor war vessels and 17 auxiliary ships. Another minor vessel – an anti-submarine warfare corvette – was launched in the water from Kolkata on Monday. The vessel will be inducted after sea trials.

The submarine fleet is the worst lot among all warships. It is not only down in numbers but the serviceability of these is down to half. Navy officials admit that induction of submarines has not kept pace with the de-induction schedule.

Senior officers have told a Parliamentary panel that the Centre approved a 30 year long term submarine plan in 1999, which entails construction of 24 modern conventional diesel-electric submarines by 2030. Following the 1999 plan, the navy signed a Rs 15000 crore ($ 3 billion) deal in 2005 with French company DCNS to build six submarines at Mazgaon dock in Mumbai. The first submarine was to delivered by 2012.

This programme is lagging behind schedule due to protracted delay in supply. The delivery is now expected to commence in 2015 and the entire fleet should be available by 2018, a navy official told the committee. The Navy, meanwhile, is looking for a shipyard to start building the second line of six conventional submarines with foreign collaboration. The remaining 12 are likely to be completely indigenous.

The much awaited naval satellite is set to be launched between December 2010 and March 2011. The Rs 950 crore satellite, being developed by ISRO, will not only enhance connectivity between various ships and shore-based command units, but also improve navy’s surveillance capability.....link

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