India plans to further expand the size of its navy equipment in the next decade and to build 56 warships and 6 submarines, Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) of the Indian Navy, announced at the annual press conference in New Delhi on the eve of the Indian Navy Day, December 3. In fact, this is not the first time that the Indian Navy has announced its large-scale arms expansion.
According to Admiral Sunil Lanba, 23 out of the approved 56 new warships are presently under construction, and the construction of the second indigenous aircraft carrier will start within the next three years and is scheduled to be completed by 2028. Upon the completion of the new carrier, the Indian Navy will have three carriers to ensure two aircraft carrier battle groups (CVBG) available at all times in the Indian Ocean to achieve its "100%" control of the Indian Ocean.
The size of the Indian Navy is large enough. According to the report by India Times on December 4, the Indian Navy currently has 140 warships and 220 fighters. Among them, the main warships include: 1 INS Vikrant aircraft carrier with the capacity to carry 36 fighter planes, 11 Delhi-class and Kolkata-class destroyers, 14 Krivak-class and Godavari-class guided-missile frigates, 1 INS Arihant nuclear submarine, as well as 14 Russian Kilo-class and German Type 209 submarines. The main battle aircraft include: 9 Ka-31“Helix” airborne long-range early warning helicopters, 6 Ka-28 anti-submarine helicopters, 8 P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine surveillance aircraft, 45 Mikoyan MiG-29K carrier-based fighters and 30 Sea Harrier carrier-based fighters.
Nevertheless, the strength is still "seriously inadequate" for the Indian Navy. According to a statement published by the US Foreign Policy website, India is preparing to play a more active role as a "maritime security provider" in the eastern Indian Ocean. If India wants to become a regional naval power, it will need to continue to invest in the technology, manpower and force-readiness capabilities. The Indian Navy has always had the ambition of governing two oceans - "guarding the Indian Ocean and heading for the Pacific Ocean." India has long dominated the South Asia, and India’s maritime security strategy clearly regards the Indian Ocean region as India’s core interest.
In order to support the US Indo-Pacific Strategy, India has accelerated the implementation of the "Eastward Advancement" strategy in recent years. Since the beginning of this year, the Indian Navy has held joint exercises with the Vietnamese Navy and the Indonesian Navy one after another. The Indian Navy’s frequent interaction with the navies of Southeast Asian nations reflects its strategic intention to exert an effective influence on the Pacific region.
In order to support the "Eastward Advancement" strategy, India is in full preparation of strengthening the construction of naval infrastructure. India's newest large naval base was officially put into use in November 2017. Located in the middle of the east coast of India, the base is directly oriented to Southeast Asia and has become an important outpost for India's "Eastward Advancement" strategy.
Meanwhile, the Indian Navy has continued to strengthen the upgrade and expansion of Port Blair on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the station of the Far East Command. Some western experts predicted that the islands may become a strategic naval base capable of anchoring the main naval warships such as Indian naval aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, so as to greatly improve the Indian navy's ability to conduct combat missions in this area.
The Indian Navy has made great progress in the construction of weapons and equipment and the formation of combat capabilities in recent years. On August 19, India's indigenous K-15 Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missiles successfully carried out three test launches on the nuclear submarine INS Arihant. On November 5, the nuclear submarine INS Arihant made the first deterrence patrol. This means that India has officially become the third country with the "trinity" nuclear deterrent force after the United States and Russia. On the other hand, the Indian Navy spent huge sums of money to purchase advanced equipment for the upgrade and replacement. On August 25, the Indian Defense Acquisition Commission approved the purchase of 24 US MH-60R (Romeo) anti-submarine helicopters with US $1.922 billion, which will replace the Indian Navy’s aging fleets, that is, British Royal Navy's Sea King MK-42B that has been in service for more than 4 decades on the INS Vikrant aircraft carrier.
Nevertheless, the Indian Navy is also facing a series of unavoidable issues including a long-term shortage of fund. At the press conference, the Indian government also admitted that "this is a long-term goal requiring special capital investment, but India's military spending has not had any substantial increase for the past five years."
The India’s military industry suffers some major challenges which constrain the development of the Indian Navy. At present, India has five major shipbuilding factories, but this large-scale shipbuilding industry has developed chronic problems of low production and poor organization and management due to the serious bureaucratic structure, resulting in the much longer construction cycle of the main naval ships for the Indian Navy than the world average. However, the pace of the Indian Navy expansion can never be stopped. India's First Post reported of Indian Navy's expansion, "The Indian Navy in the 21st century is becoming a powerful force affecting the Indian Ocean region, and India will remain dominant!”