by Aritra Banerjee
New Delhi, 3 Dec 2021: India’s 25th and current Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. Hari Kumar, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, ADC addressed the media fraternity at the Annual Navy Day Press Conference. This instalment of the annual press conference coincides with the 50th year of the Indian Navy’s hair-raising operation in Karachi, which helped turn the tide of war during the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict. The event also coincided with the 75th year of India’s Independence.
The Navy Chief broached upon many operational, human resources and administrative developments that the Indian Navy has witnessed in the recent past and painted a roadmap for the journey ahead. Some critical aspects of the Navy Chief’s address shed light on modernisation efforts, incubation of defence startups, and digital initiatives undertaken by the Navy.
Past As Prelude
The Indian Navy partook in a series of maritime exercises like Varuna with the French Navy in April, INDRA with the Russian Navy in July, Konkan with Royal Navy in August, MALABAR with QUAD nations in August and October, AUSINDEX with Australian Navy in September, JIMEX with JMSDF in October and the most recent exercise, SITMEX, with Singapore and Thailand Navies, in November this year. ”These exercises have contributed immensely to enhanced cooperation and trust,” the Navy Chief asserted.
The Navy Chief spoke extensively about Indigenisation efforts and big-ticket procurements made by the Indian Navy recently: “As far as self-reliance in the defence sector is concerned, in building a future Navy, we remain committed to the vision of ‘Make-in-India’ and Aatmanirbharata across all domains – surface, sub-surface and air.”
He went on to say, “Indian Navy’s commitment to Aatmanirbharta is evident from the fact that all 28 ships and submarines commissioned into the Navy over the last seven years have been built in India. Further, of the 39 ships and submarines, currently under construction, 37 are being built at Indian shipyards. These include the Aircraft Carrier – Vikrant, P-15B Class Destroyers, P17A class stealth Frigates and Scorpene-class submarines.
“Amongst these projects, Vikrant has completed two sea sorties as part of her Contractor Sea Trials. The indigenous design and construction of an Aircraft Carrier by the Indian Navy and Cochin Shipyard Limited is a shining example of our quest for ‘AatmaNirbharta’ with more than 76% indigenous content,”
Adm. R. Hari Kumar added before saying, “Visakhapatnam, the first of the P 15B destroyers, was commissioned last month, and the remaining three ships of the class are likely to be delivered by 2024. ‘Himgiri’, the second of the seven ships of P17A frigates, was launched in December last year at GRSE, Kolkata.
“Modernisation of our submarine arm is also underway. We have commissioned four of the six boats of the indigenous Scorpene-class submarines. This year, we commissioned the third boat, Karanj, in March and the fourth boat, Vela, in November. The fifth boat Vagir has also been launched.”
Speaking about naval aviation, “we inducted nine ALH MK III, two Chetak, and two Dornier aircraft this year. The first ALH MK III squadron was commissioned at Goa as INAS 323 on 21 April.”
“Our Aatmanirbharta initiatives are not only focused on operational platforms but also extend to infrastructure development, which underpins our ability to undertake and support operations. The most critical Indian Navy’s infrastructure project is Project Seabird at Karwar, progressing on track. Construction of seven operational and two refit piers, creation of a full-fledged Naval Dockyard, upgrading of the hospital at Karwar and construction of a Naval Air Station are planned during this Phase.
Additionally, the Indian Navy’s infrastructure plans are also focussing on our island territories which are a springboard to our operations and enhance our sustenance and reach. Towards this end, phase II of the Jetty extension at Port Blair was completed in March this year.
He also informed present reporters that the “Acceptance of Necessity exists for 72 projects worth Rs 1,97,359 crores, of which 59 projects worth 1,74,027 crores, that is over 88%, are for indigenous development.”
Adm. R. Hari Kumar stressed the need to incubate the defence startup ecosystem in India and shed light on various institutional measures the Indian Navy is carrying out to facilitate public-private partnership to bolster India’s indigenous defence production.
Speaking about the StartUp India initiative, he said, “In the last year, we have supported, funded and hand-held more than 35 startups and MSMEs for various projects towards developing niche technologies or products for the Navy.”
He further elaborated, stating: “Indian Navy is actively participating in the Defence Indian Start-Up Challenge (DISC); is encouraging Indian defence industries and startups through iDEX. 19 problem statements are being progressed through 24 startups towards fostering an ecosystem for innovation and technology development for defence applications.”
He went on to add that “17 Technology Development Fund (TDF) projects are being pursued by the IN in partnership with DRDO for developing niche technologies that will form the kernel of equipment to be fitted onboard our platforms.”
“In order to enhance the Navy’s interactions with the industry, we are actively pursuing an ‘Industry Yatra’, through the recently established Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation, to match the existing industrial capabilities with our requirements and provide a fillip to innovation,” the Navy Chief explained about the novel NIIO initiative.
Making Technological Waves
Adm. R. Hari Kumar also spoke about the Digital India Initiative. He noted that the Indian Navy had made immense progress through the implementation of the Naval Communication Network Programme. This uber-sophisticated digital communication platform is slated for commission during the first quarter of the following year and would provide smooth communication and delivery of cyber services to naval bases struggling across the nation.
In a move aimed at ensuring the provision of a fair opportunity to the Indian citizenry, the Indian Navy has shifted to a computer-based assessment called Indian Naval Entrance Test (INET) in February 2018. Since then, we have endeavoured to conduct two examinations per year with the approximate participation of 6-8 lakhs candidates in every edition. The Indian Naval Civilian Entrance Test (INCET) has also been structured on similar lines to recruit defence civilians.
The Navy chief further spoke about the progress made in implementing the Government e-Market (GeM). “More than 26,000 orders worth Rs. 778 Crores have been placed on the GeM portal to date. IN has already achieved more than 80% of our annual target for the current Financial Year by placing orders worth Rs. 431.69 Crores against an allocated Rs. 532 Crores, within the first eight months. We intend to continue enhancing the use of GeM in our procurement processes,” said Adm. R. Hari Kumar.