NEW DELHI: The self-reliance on equipment, platforms, and systems has become a strategic necessity. The same concern has resonated in the indigenisation and “Make in India’ schemes of the Narendra Modi Government for defence preparedness of the country’s armed forces.
Notwithstanding the natural focus on the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force due to the ongoing boundary crisis between India and China, the Indian Navy is playing a key role in the Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission through the development and up-gradation of the its weapon systems and platforms. In alignment with the modernisation of the Indian Navy under a rejuvenated national focus on self-reliance, a 10- year Integrated Capability Development Plan (ICDP) has been adopted. The ICDP has replaced the earlier 15- year Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MPCC).
The major change in planning will cater to the development of maritime theatre command and will provide more flexibility in modernisation given rapid changes in technology. As part of the capital budget expenditure for 2022-23, the most awaited indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant constituted a major share of the total indigenous content. In terms of anti-submarine warfare measures, the Indian Navy has plans to acquire Garden Reach and Shipbuilders and Engineers’ (GRSE) indigenously-built ASW vessels aimed to replace Russian Abhay-class corvettes.
The Nilgiri-class advanced stealth frigate of Project 17A, which includes seven ships, is being built at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. (MDSL) and GRSE. The indigenous content in this project is around 75 per cent, giving a boost to the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign in attaining self-reliance in the defence sector. The MoD has unveiled acquisition plans to procure items worth Rs 76,390 crore under the ‘Buy (Indian)’, ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’ and ‘Buy (Indian-IDDM)’ categories. Out of this, an amount of roughly Rs 36,000 crore has been allocated for the development of eight indigenous New Generation Corvettes (NGCs) for the Indian Navy.
The top leadership in the Indian Navy is also keen on pursuing the long-term modernisation plan of acquiring an indigenously developed twin-engine deck-based fighter (a naval variant of Tejas) to be developed in partnership with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).
Further, to engage domestic players like industry, academia, and startups, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) and Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO) to work out project ‘SPRINT’ (Supporting PoleVaulting in R&D through iDEX (Innovations for Defence Excellence), NIIO (Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation) and TDAC (Technology Development Acceleration Cell). The initiative is aimed at promoting a culture of defence indigenisation and innovation within the country.
The Indian Navy has to cater to the operational preparedness and compete against the Pakistani Navy and the larger Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Additionally, India has to keep pace with rapid technological changes under budgetary constraints.
The Indian Navy, being a technology-savvy force, requires additional resources to meet its operational and modernisation plans. Though its capital outlay share has increased in comparison to the previous year, there still exists a gap between the projected amount and the allocated amount in the budget.
The Indian naval shipbuilding industry is monopolised by public sectorled companies. Even the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) devotes a section to the acquisition of naval ships and submarines with the indigenous design through MoD and Services Headquarters (SHQ) and selection of Indian shipyard(s) based on the existing infrastructure for a given project.
The recent budget and major structural reforms are a progressive step towards breaking such a limited understanding of the shipbuilding sector and represent a push towards unshackling the potential of the private sector towards better and holistic indigenisation.