India has kick-started an ambitious project to build six nuclear-powered attack submarines that are expected to boost the Navy’s overall strike capabilities in the face of Chinas naval build-up and increasing military manoeuvring in the Indo-Pacific region.
“It has kicked off and I will leave it at that. It is a classified project. The process has started,” Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said on Friday.
He said the Navy will play its role in the Indo-Pacific region when the much talked about quadrilateral coalition among India, Australia, Japan and the US takes shape, reflecting the Navy’s readiness to play a much more assertive role in the critical sea lanes.
“We are all aware of the prevailing security scenario in our maritime domain. The continued presence of both traditional and non-traditional threats in the maritime domain demand constant attention and robust mitigating measures,” he said.
He also spoke about possible security challenges in case of presence of Chinese warships in the strategically-important Gwadar port in Pakistan which is being developed by China.
“It will be a security challenge. We will have to look at it and mitigate,” he said.
The Navy Chief said eight ships of Chinese PLA Navy were deployed in the Indian Ocean region at any point of time and that there was a unique situation in August when the numbers had gone up to 14.
Additional deployment of Chinese warships and submarines were reported during the over two-month-long standoffs between Indian and Chinese armies in Dokalam.
On expanding the Indian Navy’s presence in critical sea lanes, Admiral Lanba said it was gradually increasing its deployment in Andaman seas, Malacca Strait, Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf, North Arabian and Sunda and Lumbok.
“In short, our ships and aircraft are deployed from the Gulf of Aden to the Western Pacific on an almost 24×7 basis,” he said.
Talking about the modernisation of the Navy, he said 34 ships are under construction and projects worth Rupees 40,000 crore have been identified for the participation of the private shipyards.
He said 23 Indian private sector shipyards have qualified for participation in indigenous shipbuilding projects on the basis of their capacity, capability and infrastructure.
The Navy chief said work on Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, IAC 1, is progressing well, adding he was hopeful that the ship would join the Navy by 2020.
“The Indian Navy is at the threshold of joining a select league of navies capable of providing Submarine Search and Rescue in the Indian Ocean Region with two Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel Systems scheduled for induction next year,” he said.