Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said the Indian Navy is focusing on procuring unmanned systems like Predator drones, UAVs, anti-drone systems to boost its overall combat capability to deal with any challenge, including that from China.
Admiral Singh disclosed that the Navy will soon take forward the process of acquiring six more submarines and several niche assets including P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft while addressing the media on the eve of Navy Day in the capital on Thursday. The P-8I has been a great force enabler, he said.
He said that Indian Navy is procuring Smash-2000 Rifles as anti-drone systems to protect against attacking drones and pursuing acquisition of 30 Predator drones which is in progress for the Navy, Army and Air Force as these drones are much more capable. We aim to get more of these Sea Guardians, he added.
Referring to the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh and deployment of P-8I, the Navy Chief said, “It’s a very potent platform which we are using for surveillance. It has certain equipment which can be used over the borders and based on the requirements of the Indian Army and Air Force, we’ve deployed P-8I on several occasions during this particular situation. We also deployed Heron in northern bases”.
The Naval Chief also informed that MQ-9B Sea Guardians have been taken by us on lease to overcome the capability gap that we had. These are very capable platforms with an endurance of over 30 hours and can undertake sustained surveillance over the large reaches of the Indian Ocean. It belongs to General Atomics, they are doing the maintenance for these platforms.
The Chief informed that the Navy’s indigenously built second aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, is set to begin sea trials next year and emphasised the need for a third carrier to project naval power. The Navy is working on collating technical information before formally approaching the government to clear the acquisition of a third carrier, he disclosed. “Air operations are integral to naval operations. Airpower at sea is required here and now. The Navy is all about reach and sustenance,” the Admiral said, adding, projecting power at sea dovetails with the government’s plans to make India a $5-trillion economy. “If you want to be a $5-trillion economy, you will have to go outwards. The Navy does not want to be tethered to the shore. For that, aircraft carriers are absolutely essential,” he said.
The Navy is working with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on a multi-role carrier-based combat jet to replace its MiG-29s. This work will build on the lessons learnt from the indigenously built light combat aircraft and the Navy is hoping the home-grown carrier-based fighters will join service in the 2030s, Naval Chief said.
Indigenisation is a key part of the Navy’s acquisition of warships and all 24 surface vessels and submarines inducted in the past six years were built in India, while 41 more vessels are being constructed at the country’s shipyards, he said. The Project 75I submarine programme too is on track, with the Navy having identified vendors and partners to build six submarines, he added.