17. Warship Design and Weaponisation

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(Published article in Defence and Security of India Feb/Mar 2013)

“We Shall Build Good Ships Here; At A Profit If We Can, At A Loss If We Must, But Always Good Ships.”
Collis Potter Huntington.

In 1886 Collis Potter Huntington decided to build a shipyard which would be known in the world for the quality of its ships. He founded the largest privately owned shipyard in the world, the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry dock Company (now Northrop Grumman) in Virginia. Warship design and construction is an iterative and tedious process involving various interconnected and overlapping agencies. Designing for maximum survivability and constructing it in a cost effective manner puts constraints which are not easily surmountable. It is imperative that ‘quality’ be embedded at every stage of design, construction, trials and training for a warship to carry out its tasks far away from its home port, in a hostile sea environment and against an unforgiving enemy. It is against this background that Huttington had stated ‘But always good ships’.

Warships today have to be designed such that they operate at high speeds, with low fuel consumption, manoeuvre & remain stable in extreme weather at sea, and keep firing weapons till their last moment. Survivability requires that a ship’s infra red, acoustic and radar cross section be minimised to avoid detection by the enemy. The primary offensive weapon suit is decided by the role of the warship, say anti submarine, anti surface or strategic. For its defence it would have anti aircraft, anti submarine and anti surface weapons along with dispensers for decoys and electronic warfare packages against the anticipated threats. Larger warships also carry a secondary weapon outfit for a support role if required. The warship has to navigate, communicate and also detect the adversary, this requires placement of large radar, sonar and communication antennae above as well as below the water line, and all these increase the complexities of war ship design.

A warship is generally built to last three to four decades if not more, so the weapon and equipment packages (propulsion, power, sensors, communication etc) have to be so placed that there removal for up-gradation is easy, to match the rapid pace of technology.

A warship to day does not operate independently, in a network centric environment it has to form part of a designated group of ships, which in turn form part of a bigger system of war effort. Thus design of a warship has to take into account the fact that it is capable of operating with other warships and that its protocols are compatible with the other group ships.
Keeping all the above complexities in forefront and to ensure ‘building good ships’ new design approaches need to be studied.

“You are not going to find the ideal boat. You are not even going to have it if you design it from scratch.”
Carl Lane

Systems engineering approach to warship design has shown a way ahead because it is fundamentally an interdisciplinary engineering management process covering all aspects of hardware, software and the human component. It caters for life cycle requirements, and economically beneficial integrated design. A NATO specialist team constituted for setting up systems engineering guidelines for cost effectiveness of new technology in warships has indicated the essential steps of stake holder requirement definition, requirement analysis, synthesis architectural design, verification and validation prior to finalising of design. DARPA is also researching in to novel methods for design and verification of complex systems in its META program. Under this program attempt is being made to devise a model based system engineering framework which can then enable architectural analysis of complex systems during conceptual design itself, leading to a much more robust and reliable system.

Designing for survivability approach advocates, warship design of relatively smaller ships with much higher survivability and better weapons suit .It caters for a more dangerous battle environment, while reducing manpower requirements. This approach brings out a flaw of the reduction of armour plating thickness in the current designs of warships, which has been resorted to for keeping the structural weight low.

Armour plating thickness reduction had taken place earlier as the war at high seas no longer involved close combat and had evolved in to a larger and larger standoff distance battles. However to accommodate more sensors and weapon suits the armour plating thickness is being further compromised, resulting in lesser survivability of the warship in case of a hit. Survivability in war at sea implies ability of a warship to continue carrying out its mission, which in turn implies preventing enemy from detecting and attacking it. Thus requiring reduction of all types of detectible signatures, (Radar, IR, acoustic, magnetic, electronic etc) at the early design stage itself. Further measures of survivability include enhancing floatability after an attack by the enemy; therefore studies at early design stage must assess the anticipated explosive damages, redundancy for systems and requirements of damage control etc. A warship based upon survivability in design, while enhancing firepower and reducing human component, may therefore result in a better option for the future.

Axiomatic design approach puts forth the argument that, currently the design process is an iterative process, in that, several individual attributes are first designed and then integrated, often leading to re-design and finally to a compromise solution. In order to design a warship with much less manpower, some functions would have to be transferred to automation and some functions to the remaining manpower. This needs to be accomplished in a scientific manner such that neither the man nor the machine is over tasked. Axiomatic design consists of four domains namely, the customer domain, the functional domain, the physical domain and the process domain. The axiomatic process requires determining ‘what’ is required in each domain and then specifying ’how’ these requirements are satisfied in the successive domain. This leads to a much better design definition at initial stage itself.

Indian Navy and Warship Design
A major impetus to the Indian Naval Design organisation was given by the then prime minister Mrs Indira Gandhi after her return from the launch of INS Nilgiri at MDL Mumbai in 1968.She directed that the Naval Design Office should design frigates, submarines and other fast craft with futuristic propulsion options including nuclear propulsion. She emphasised the need for synergy between the ship designers and the ship builders and this led to prominence of self reliance in warship design and production in the 1969-74 Defence Plan. The result of this, were the indigenous Godavari Class Type 16 frigates, whose design was accepted in 1975 and the commissioning of the first ship Godavari took place in 1983. The Naval Design team has not looked back since! The latest indigenous ship to join the Indian Navy is the formidable Kolkata class destroyer (project 15A) commissioned in Sept 2012.

Stages of Warship Design in India
The fundamental steps in warship building in India commence with the drafting of the Preliminary Staff Requirements (PSR). This is the result of deliberations between the Naval Staff and the naval designers, taking into account the needs of the Navy based on future threat perceptions and the availability of technologies and industrial capabilities. The PSR includes role, armament, sensors, overall dimensions, speed and endurance etc. There after conceptual design work is undertaken; it includes sifting through various technical alternatives and selecting the most feasible one for the preliminary design. This has detailed schematics and calculations to provide the best design option as per the PSR. It is presented to Naval Staff highlighting areas of give and take with respect to the PSR. A desired preliminary design is arrived at after detailed deliberations. The detailed design work is undertaken thereafter. This involves detailed drawings, hydrodynamic modelling, modifications if required based on modelling studies, layout plans, detailing of specifications and commencement of dialogue with the building shipyard. The shipyard prepares for construction of the warship by making production drawings, procuring jigs, fixtures and equipment that may be required during production.

Modular Ship Construction
“Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made, for somewhere deep in their oaken hearts the soul of a song is laid.”
Robert N. Rose
On 2nd Nov 2009, the then Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma said “We need to revisit the building strategies of the (Defence) shipyards. There is a need to do much more. Construction schedule is where our shipyards lag. The reason for delays is the basic method of construction (adopted by the shipyards),” With respect to modular ship construction being followed by foreign shipyards, he said “This is found to be the most efficient means of ship construction by which time taken for delivery of the platform is minimised and the work at the dry dock is optimised.”
Currently the Defence Shipyards build ships by launching the hull in water after welding it and there after the shipyard’s craftsmen install machinery and equipment in highly cramped spaces. This has also contributed to inordinate delays in delivery of warships to the Navy as ships have taken nearly ten years to build. However the major shipyards like MDL and GRSE are already in process of modernising by moving to modular ship building wherein 300ton blocks are manufactured independently along with their equipment, electrical wiring, pipelines etc and then fitted to neighbouring blocks precisely, to finally form the warship. It is expected that MDL’s modular shipyard costing Rs. 824cr would be commissioned by June 2013, there after it is expected that destroyers would be constructed in 72 months and frigates in 60 months.
One of the areas defence shipyards need to study is outsourcing while retaining essential technical manpower for critical defence related work. With the Indian industry maturing rapidly, many of the tasks like crew accommodation, painting, wiring, piping etc may be totally outsourced, however, with a mechanism to ensure that quality of work is ensured. Both, cost benefits and better quality, should form the basis of outsourcing in warship building endeavours. Shipyards would have to identify and involve major contractors from ship design stage itself and have the production designs ready prior to commencing construction. Fundamentally Indian shipyards should ‘Build good ships’.
Indian Naval Ships and Craft on Order on Indian Shipyards
MDL: 3 Project-15A Kolkata class destroyers, follow on four Project-15B destroyers, one Project-17 Shivalik class frigate and 6 Project-75 Scorpene submarines.

GRSE: 4 ASW Corvettes of Project-28, 6 Inshore Patrol Vessel of the Rajshree class and 8 Landing Craft Utility.

GSL: 4 Offshore Patrol Vessels, 6 of 105-metre Offshore Patrol Vessels and one 90-metre Offshore Patrol Vessel.

HSL: 12 Inshore Patrol Vessels of two different classes, 3 of 50-ton Bollard Pull Tugs and one 25-ton Bollard Pull Tug.

CSL: Indigenous Aircraft Carrier IAC.
Pipav Shipyard: 5 NOPVs
ABG Shipyard: Cadet Training Ship.

Weapon Systems
Weapon systems on a warship depend upon its assigned role and mission in war. Generally warships carry weapons to cater for threats emanating from the air, surface and underwater. For air threats like sea skimming missiles and air attacks, ships have surface to air missiles, guns in dual role, and close in weapon systems/point defence systems (multi barrel guns, short range missiles). For surface threats ships have surface to surface missiles and guns. For anti submarine warfare ships have torpedoes and ASW rockets. Warships carry decoys for deception of enemy torpedoes and oncoming missiles, these comprise of chaff dispensers, IR decoys, acoustic decoys etc. The warships also have an extended weapon capability on the helicopters they house on board; this could be a light weight torpedo, rockets or small calibre guns. The advent of unmanned vehicles will introduce another facet of weaponisation.

Naval weapons are complex in design due to the corrosive sea environment in which they have to operate, severe space and weight restrictions, and problems of stabilisation as the ship rolls, pitches and yaws. Further, as with all weapons, they cannot be procured just by paying the currency required by the manufacturers. The pricing of weapons is based upon the need of the country, its relations with the producing country, its position in the world at large and other considerations like, foreign policy issues, type of technology, availability of similar systems for sale in other countries etc.
In case of India it has been the experience that the weapon system it desires is not available for purchase, alternate offered is exorbitantly priced, and what is affordable is invariably not required by India. The ideal solution is local availability of weapon systems which will ensure maintainability, timely upgrades and modularity for warship design. The indigenous effort has still not matured to provide viable weapon system or even subsystem solution within the time frame and the budgeted costs. Economic viability, arms export policy and non availability of technological prowess, appear to be the main reasons. Thus India is left with no alternative but to import and also prolong use of existing armament by process of life extension, constrained with improper/insufficient spares, inadequate documentation and testing methods. Weapons thus continue to be deployed well beyond their useful life without ascertaining if or at all, or to what extent they meet the designed parameters.

The defence procurement procedure (DPP) has been promulgated to enable the Armed forces to timely procure the desired equipment with least drain on national resources. The DPP has been regularly revised to cater for Indian conditions. It has been structured so that the Indian defence industrial base is progressively strengthened by offsets, TOT and JV regimes. However ‘The Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan’, LTIPP, of the armed forces, is an indicative acquisition plan for the next 15 years but without any commitment of funds or frozen requirements.

The weapon procurement procedure commences with drawing the staff requirements, which the DRDO and industry claim are unrealistic, the armed forces justify it, as weapons are used over decades and therefore once procured they should remain current and amenable to technological upgrades as long as possible. Perhaps the only way the Government of India can resolve this issue is through policy level intervention by firstly categorising external threats at two levels depending upon their severity & extent and thereafter specifying two types of procurement, one (say P1) to the staff requirements of the Armed Forces and the other to a level (say P2 through local sources only) which meets at least 75% of the staff requirement. Killability studies may be carried out to assess the numbers (with sufficient redundancies) of P1 and P2 types required to meet the threats in their entirety. Further it can incentivise the P2 procurement by increasing the defence budget proportionately and set up an accountability mechanism for timely delivery, maintainability and functionability of the same.
In conclusion, it suffices to state that warship design is undergoing a change today forced by factors like economic slowdown, emergence of littoral threats, reduction in blue water engagements, development of powerful sensors and weapons as well as advent of unmanned vehicles on the horizon. There is a need to look into newer design methods like systems engineering design approach, designing for survivability and axiomatic design principles etc. rather than adhering to the telescopic iterative methodology in use in India. The shipyards need to switch over to modular construction to ensure timely and cost effective deliveries. The shipyards also need to carry out a periodic review of outsourcing, leveraging upon the increasing technological capabilities of the Indian industry, this will help in reducing the long term costs and assure quality of equipment & fittings. Lastly there may be a need for policy level intervention into weapon procurement to ensure that the Defence Industrial Base in India is strengthened to levels where it can sustain the requirements of the Armed forces.
The shipyards, then, would be able to ‘Build better and better Ships’ for the Indian Navy.

16. Munitions for Anti-Submarine and Anti-Shipping

(Published article in SP’s Naval Forces Feb-Mar 2013)


“Everywhere on the surface . . . extending as far as the circular horizon was mute evidence of the effectiveness of Germany’s unrestricted submarine campaign. We were constantly shifting our zigzag course to avoid smashed lifeboats, drifting hatch gratings, and the odd clutter of gear that rises to the surface from a sunken ship. Occasionally a shapeless undulating mass buoyed by a cork life jacket would drift by, and a brine bleached face would stare with empty eye sockets at the glaring sun.”

Attributed to an American sailor, Ray Mulholland, on the wreckage left behind by sinking’s in the Mediterranean in 1918 by German submarines.


The devastation caused by the German submarines in WWI led to evolving a standoff anti submarine warfare solution involving use of aircraft in detecting a submarine at sea and attacking it with depth charges, bombs and guns. In 1914, the Royal navy converted an old ocean liner in to a seaplane tender ship and christened it HMS Campania, for this ship, specially designed seaplanes were ordered. The first of such seaplanes, F.22, accepted in to the Royal Navy, had Sunbeam Maori engine of 260 hp, for armament it carried a 7.7mmLewis machine gun and a bomb load of up to 6x116lb bombs. Towards end of the WWI when the US joined the war effort, the US Navy in 1917 asked for a long range flying boat which could patrol and provide security cover to the supply ships crossing the Atlantic. The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company constructed the Curtiss NC-1 to stringent US Naval standards and the first flight of the same took place on 4th of Oct 1918. Despite the fact that Armistice was signed in Nov 1918, US Navy went ahead with its order of 10 Curtiss NC air craft and utilised them.

During WW II, lot of scientific work was being done for detecting the hostile submarines, notable amongst them were the Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) and the use of sono buoys.  Interestingly since the MAD detects a submarine only after the aircraft has flown over it, a retro rocket system was developed (to fly backwards) to release the depth charge over the submarine.

The armament carried today by maritime aircraft and helicopters includes, anti ship cruise missiles, lightweight torpedoes, depth charges and bombs. The aim of this article is to focus on anti submarine and anti shipping air armament currently in use by major navies.

Air Dropped Depth Charges and Bombs. Finland was the first to use air dropped depth charges from its Tupolev SB aircraft in 1942. Subsequently the methodology was adopted by RAF Coastal Command. Later depth charges were designed for aerial deployment and have recently once again come into focus because of the ASW threat in littorals. These can be very effectively utilised for flushing out the lurking diesel submarines. Two depth charges are worthy of mention, these are the MK11 depth charge of UK and the BDC 204 depth charge of Sweden.

The Mk 11 depth charge was developed by British Aerospace(now BAE Systems) for air delivery from maritime aircraft and helicopters. The Mk 11 depth charge was designed for shallow water operations against submarines on the surface or at periscope depths. It is fully compatible for carriage and release from a wide range of ASW helicopters and fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft. The Mod 3 version incorporates a 4 mm mild steel outer case and nose section, which is designed to withstand entry into the water at high velocities without distortion. It has been cleared for carriage on Lynx, Merlin, NH90, Sea King, and Wasp helicopters.

The BDC 204 depth charge was developed by Bofors Underwater Systems (now Saab Dynamics) for air delivery from maritime aircraft and helicopters of the Swedish Navy. It was designed for use against submarines operating in shallow waters or at periscope depth, and in order to cover a wide range of applications was produced in four different weight categories and with different sinking speeds ranging between 5.2 and 6.8 m/s. The depth charge can be deployed in patterns, with different depth charges set to detonate at different depths to achieve profound shock and damage to submarines. The BDC 204 family of depth charges is fitted with standard NATO suspension lugs and their design allows them to be carried as a high drag general purpose bomb or torpedo. They have been cleared for carriage on the Boeing Vertol 107 helicopter and CASA C-212 Aviocar maritime patrol aircraft.

Two air dropped bomb upgrade kits worth mentioning are Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) by Boeing Corporation and the Dual Mode Laser Guided Bomb (DMLGB) by Lockheed Martin. The JDAM upgrades unguided bombs to all weather smart bombs. These bombs  then acquire GPS aided inertial navigation system with a range of up to 24km.The DMLGB kit, upgrades existing laser guided bombs,LGBs and is used for precision bombing against non-hardened targets, it provides LGBs with a semi active laser, GPS/INS guidance.

Air Launched Torpedoes Few of the prominent air launched torpedoes are described below.

Stingray is a LWT manufactured by BAE Systems. It has a diameter of 324mm, weight of 267kg, and length of 2.6m. Its speed is 45kts with a range of 8km and its warhead is 45kg of Torpex. It can dive up to 800m.Stingray is fed with target data and other associated information prior to its launch, after entering water it searches for target autonomously in active mode and on acquiring the same, attacks it. It is carried by Nimrod aircraft. Stingray Mod1 is reported to have a shaped charge warhead and improved shallow water performance.

Mk46 Mod5 torpedo is the mainstay of US Navy’s air launched lightweight torpedoes. It is manufactured by Alliant Tech systems. It has a diameter of 324mm, length of 2.59m, with a weight of 231kg.It runs on Otto fuel, has a range of 11km with a speed of 40kts and can dive upto365m. It has a PBXN-103 warhead of 44kg. It has an advanced digital computer control system with a built in logic and tactics for search and re-attack. It has effectively performed in both deep and shallow waters and can attack both the nuclear as well as the smaller diesel submarine. Over 25000 MK46 torpedoes have been supplied to customers till date. Interestingly the Chinese YU-7 torpedo is said to have been developed from the MK46 Mod2.

The Mk 54 Lightweight Torpedo is a hybrid of technologies taken from MK 46, MK48 and MK50 torpedoes.  It is supposed to have homing and warhead of the MK50 and propulsion package of the MK46 torpedo. It has incorporated COTS processing technologies for an advanced guidance and control system. It is stated to have sophisticated shallow water capabilities for littoral threats. It is understood that the MK54 torpedo has been requested for P8i aircraft by India.

The A244/S developed by WAAS and currently manufactured by the Euro Torp consortium is a 324mm diameter, 2.8m long, and 244kg weight torpedo. It has a cruise/surge speed of 30/39kts, with a range of 6km and depth up to 600m. Its Homing head can function in mixed, active or passive modes. It has special signal processing to distinguish target from decoys.

A244/S Mod.3 is the latest upgrade of the A244/S. It has more powerful propulsion battery, with an increased number of cells, which ensures a 50% increase in the endurance of the weapon to13.5 km. It has an Advanced Digital Signal Processor module to counter sophisticated torpedo countermeasures .The homing head has preformed multiple transmission and reception beams and multi-frequency operating capability. It can classify and track several targets simultaneously, and discriminate between the target and countermeasures.

MU90/Impact is in mass production for 6 major NATO and Allied Countries. The MU90/IMPACT torpedo is 323.7mm ‘NATO Standard’ calibre, 2.85 mm long with a weight of 304 kg.   It is powered by an Aluminium-Silver Oxide sea water battery

using dissolved sodium-dioxide powder as electrolyte with a closed-loop electrolyte re-circulation system, the torpedo is propelled by an electronically controlled high-RPM brush-less motor driving a skewed multi-blade pump jet propulsor allowing a continuously variable torpedo speed automatically selected by in built logic of the torpedo. The control and guidance electronics, has embedded operational and tactical software including the signal processing, the data processing and the torpedo guidance algorithms, which enable the MU90 to continuously self-adapt its configuration and tactics. The inertial system is based on ‘strap-down’ technology enabling all-attitudes capability including bottom following capability. The warhead consists of V350 explosive, fully insensitive, shaped charge warhead, with an impact type exploder incorporating two mechanical and six electrical independent safety devices.

Low Cost Anti Submarine Weapon (LCAW) A200/A is a miniature torpedo developed by WASS. LCAW has been developed as an intermediary between air launched torpedoes and conventional depth charges. It is a low cost option which provides propulsion and guidance to a depth charge without the costs of a torpedo. The air dropped version A200/A is deployed from aerial sonar buoy dispensers. The weapon is primarily designed to engage targets in shallow water, like midget submarines. The A200/A version has a length of 914.4mm, weight of 12kg, and a diameter of 123.8 mm. The warhead is a 2.5kg PBX shaped charge and the LCAW has an operating depth from 15m to300m. It has a speed of about 18kts with a range of 2km.

Anti Ship Missiles. Some of the note worthy anti ship missiles are described in the succeeding paragraphs in a random order.

Sea Skua manufactured by MBDA (UK) is a 145 kg, 2.5m long ASM primarily launched from helicopters like Westland Lynx. It uses solid fuel and has a 30 kg SAP, RDX war head and has range of 25 kms. It utilises semi-active radar guidance system. FASGW-ANL; being developed by MBDA; is a 100kg, 2.5m long, high subsonic, over the horizon helicopter launched missile.  It will have an IR seeker with two way data link and selectable target aim point.

RBS-15 is a long range ASM manufactured by Saab Bofors Dynamics. It is an 800kg, 4.33m long turbojet missile with a range of 250kms and has a 200kg HE warhead. It is a sub sonic sea skimmer using, GPS, inertial and active radar guidance. The MKIV version under development is likely to have a range of over 1000kms, dual seekers and warheads which can be changed depending upon the mission.

KH 35 is a Russian subsonic missile manufactured by Tactical Missiles Corporation. It has a weight of 520kg-610kg and a length of 3.85m-4.40m depending upon the launch platform. It has a turbo fan engine, a 145 kg HE warhead and a range of 130km.It flies at 0.8 Mach and uses inertial and ARGS-35E X band active Radar.

Yingji-82 (YJ-82) is a Chinese ASM manufactured by the China Haiying Electromechanical Technology Academy. It is a 715kg, 6.4m long missile with 165kg SAP warhead. It flies at .9Mach and uses inertial and terminal active radar guidance. It has range of ~500km to 120km depending upon the variant. This missile is in use by PLA Navy, Pakistan Air Force and Bangladesh Navy amongst others.

EXOCET AM 39 is from the EXOCET family being manufactured by MBDA. It is a 670kg, 4.69m long high subsonic missile with a range of 70 km. It uses solid propellant turbo jet engine and has inertial and terminal active radar guidance with a165 kg insensitive warhead.

AGM-84 Harpoon Block II being manufactured by Boeing is an 1160lb, 151.5in missile with a range of 67 nm. It has turbo jet cruise engine with a solid booster and uses GPS aided inertial guidance with terminal active guidance .It has a 500lb last warhead. Indian Navy has ordered this missile as a weapon outfit for its P-8i aircraft on order. Boeing also has an export permit for its Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER). It has a range of ~250km with a 500lb Tomahawk derivative warhead. SLAM-ER is a high subsonic, 674.5 kg 4.4m long missile with Teledyne turbojet propulsion. The guidance system is Ring Laser Gyro Inertial Navigation System (INS) with multi-channel GPS. It has infrared seeker for terminal guidance with Man-in-the-Loop control data link from the controlling aircraft.

The quest for ultimate weapon against the lurking submarine and longer range ship attack appears unending as the advances in airborne sensors and weapons spur a similar trend in stealth, speed and lethality of the submarine and the ship, this in turn leads to further advances in airborne systems.



15. Air Sea Battle Concept in Indian Context

(Published article in Defence and Security Analysis Feb 2013)

Air Sea Battle Concept in Indian Context


“JOAC describes in broad terms my vision for how joint forces will operate in response to emerging anti-access and area-denial security challenges. Its central thesis is Cross-Domain Synergy—the complementary vice merely additive employment of capabilities in different domains such that each enhances the effectiveness and compensates for the vulnerabilities of the others—to establish superiority in some combination of domains that will provide the freedom of action required by the mission.”   General Martin E. Dempsey, in Joint Operational Access Concept (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2012) Jan 2012[1].

China and Pakistan constitute two adversaries of India whose capabilities need to be periodically assessed keeping in view the changing maritime environment in the IOR and the Pacific region. Both the countries do not operate credible aircraft carriers, (China is rapidly catching up with commissioning of its lone aircraft carrier the Liaoning last year) and therefore are unable to project formidable power across the seas. But both appear to have greatly strengthened their offensive capabilities by acquiring potent submarine fleets which can easily deter any opportunistic foray in their waters and also force the adversaries to chart their courses only after factoring in the lurking submarine threat.

 Anti Access and Area Denial (A2/AD) Capabilities of India’s Neighbours

Pakistan Navy has fortified its helicopters and MR aircraft with Exocet anti ship missiles and has procured 70, C802 Chinese anti ship cruise missiles from China for its Zulfikar class frigates and Zalalat II Class FACs. Further the PAF has ordered 50 C802s for JF-17s. The C802 missile is 6.9m long, weighs 715kg, has a range of ~200km and a 165kg time delayed SAP warhead. It is supposed to have a very low RCS with a speed of 0.9Mach and has credible anti jamming capabilities. The cruise altitude is 10-20m with terminal altitude at 3-5m. It has inertial guidance in cruise phase with active radar homing in the terminal phase. This missile is also fielded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Pakistan navy already has AIP Augusta submarines which can fire Harpoon missiles without having to surface. It is acquiring 3 Type 214 submarines with AIP from Germany, and also 3 Song Class submarines from China. Both of these diesel electric types of submarines can fire torpedoes and missiles.

“China is faced with the superiority of the developed countries in economy, science and technology, as well as military affairs. It also faces strategic manoeuvres and containment from the outside while having to face disruption and sabotage by separatist and hostile forces from the inside.” China’s National Defense in 2008[2]

China has come to accept that a maritime route is imperative for the growth of its economy, and the only power that can make it stumble if not cripple, is the U.S. Accordingly, China has progressed adding capabilities not only to its navy but also to its shore based assets such that it can deter the blockade at sea or make it very expensive for the US to do so.

Neutralising Dong Feng 21 D anti carrier ballistic missile continues to be a severe irritant in countering A2/AD strategies by the US. Chinese writings have carefully articulated that Dong Feng 21D is not only meant to target the Carriers but also the Aegis class Cruisers and Destroyers which protect the carrier! Since these missiles are road mobile it would be time consuming and very difficult to neutralise their batteries without sailing in to harm’s way. The US response has been to revert to constructing blue water BMD destroyers and relocate BMD capable ships to the Pacific. BMD is being extended to all Aegis cruisers along with increased procurement of SM-3 BMD missiles.[3] Admiral Willard has said that the new Chinese weapon was not fully operational and would probably undergo testing “for several more years.” The key remaining step is a test of the entire system at sea.[4] This also implies that the US has some time on its hands to put up its act together for countering the Dong Feng 21 D threat.

China has a good submarine fleet with Russian as well as home built diesel electric submarines capable of firing Klub ASCMs. In addition it has nuclear attack and nuclear missile submarines. China has maritime strike aircraft (SU-30 MK2, FB-7 etc) which can carry ASCMs, it has a large number of patrol craft which carry C-803 SSMs with a range of ~350km, and it has Russian destroyers which carry ASCM (Moskit). Apart from the above China has a formidable air defence capability on shore as well as on ships. As far as other areas directly affecting ISR and targeting at sea concerned  the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2010 Annual Report to Congress on the Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China notes: PLA writings emphasize the necessity of “destroying, damaging, and interfering with the enemy’s reconnaissance … and communications satellites,” suggesting that such systems, as well as navigation and early warning satellites, could be among initial targets of attack to “blind and deafen the enemy.”

The A2/AD capabilities of China have been assessed and accordingly the US 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review announced Air-Sea Battle (ASB) initiative to support the mission of “Deter and Defeat Aggression in Anti-Access Environments”. “The concept will address how air and naval forces will integrate capabilities across all operational domains—air, sea, land, space, and cyberspace—to counter growing challenges to U.S. freedom of action.”

The ASB has yet to be embedded in US national strategy and indoctrinated and practiced by the US Navy and the USAF before it can be completely implemented. This may take some time as the other components, like additional and modernised space and ISR capabilities, long range strike aircraft and UCAVs, UUVs etc are still under development.

Contra views about ASB have been expressed in blogs and seminars. It has been said that ASB treads a razor’s edge, as on one hand ‘cooperative engagement’ with China has to be vigorously pursued and on the other hand, think tanks like Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments bring out their outline of ASB replete with maps of target locations; which would be required to be bombed across interior of mainland China. Thomas P.M. Barnett in his article “TIME on PACOM versus WAPO on PRC’s DF-21D,” [5] has brought out that “I don’t think it’s particularly “provocative” for the Chinese to develop weaponry (which they most certainly are, even if it’s taking them time) to prevent our carriers from sitting off their coast with the capability of launching attacks across the breadth and depth of their mainland. I don’t find that counter odd at all. I would find it odd if a rising power sat idly by while another nation (that wants a different political system for it) has the capability of unleashing such military strikes and routinely floats that capability along its shoreline–especially when that same country has a record of toppling regimes.”

Ever since this concept has been articulated and the Asia-Pacific shift has been announced China has taken it as an eventual threat to its energy life lines.

The Indian Context

It may be worthwhile for India to examine and analyse the changing nature of neighbouring maritime environment and assess the extent of synergies that may be required to maintain a significant presence in waters of India’s interest. This is a required preparatory step, as once ASB starts playing out in the Pacific, India would have to, at least ensure the safety of the SLOCs leading to its shores, and may also be required to contribute in an international ASB effort west of Malacca.

India’s areas of concern are freedom of operation in the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. Large swathes of which, even currently, lie under the Chinese missile umbrella and may prompt Pakistan to pre-empt misadventure in the areas which would critically affect oil supplies/oil production. The Indian ASB battle zone involves; Space (ISR satellites and BMD), cyberspace (e.g. Networking nodes), Island territories and inland areas (launch pads, AD systems, airfields etc), littorals in case of amphibious operations (may even include own areas which may need clearing in case of clandestine ingress), surface and sub surface for naval operations of ships, submarines and unmanned vehicles, and air space for aerial operations (both for IN and the IAF).

A glance at the battle zone reveals existence of overlapping capability areas between IN , IAF and to a lesser extent the Indian Army, even in acquiring preliminary ‘awareness’ prior to launching in to the preparatory and operations phase. As operations will progress, requirement for integrated effort will keep on increasing with the levels of networked forces being brought to bear on the adversary. The need for joint training, joint doctrines, joint preparedness exercises and ‘awareness’ sharing in the future are thus an imperative. Space, air, surface, and subsurface have to be secured for the duration of operation by both the IN and the IAF for the potent Indian Army to carry out the ground operations if required.

While it is for each service to build up its capabilities and doctrines for tackling the unfolding scenarios- closer to Indian shores in the Bay of Bengal or further away in the Arabian Sea/ Indian Ocean- as far as the ASB is concerned, the need to share the capability plans and integrate them doctrinally is as integral to the success of ASB missions as the setting up of an effective joint command and control structure. The HQIDS is ideally placed to come out with guidelines and time frames for achieving the same.

Specific to the IN two aspects- other then the emergent need for joint operations and training with IAF- which need attention at the highest echelons are the gaps in defences of own littorals and overarching domain awareness.

Strengthening Defences of Own Littorals.  There is an apparent   gap in the defences of India’s own littorals, ports and harbours which needs to be plugged[6]. It can be done by procurement of, midget/ miniature submarines, UAVs/USVs for operations as swarms, Unmanned Underwater Sensor and Weapon Carriers (UUSWC), cable controlled mines, extended reach coastal ASCM and gun batteries.

Overarching Domain Awareness.  The coast and Open Ocean are critical domains for the security of a nation with sea as boundaries, both at home and abroad. National-security operations in the oceans take place globally and often require continuous, near-real-time monitoring of environmental conditions using tools such as autonomous sensors, targeted observations, and adaptive modelling. The core of Marine Domain Awareness, however, is applying the vessel tracking process to a layered defence model centred on the coastline of India, the ultimate goal of which is to detect potential threats early and as far away from the Indian coastline as possible. In order to derive a comprehensive MDA picture, information needs to be fused, correlated, and analysed and for it to be relevant to national security it must be designed to operate cohesively at tactical, regional and strategic levels. The MDA capabilities, synergised with improved understanding of the ocean environment, enabled by other ocean science research activities, will support accurate ocean-state assessments and allow future forces to conduct joint and combined operations in near shore and deep-ocean operating environments, anywhere and at anytime.[7]

India has to evaluate the ASB with reference to its own geo-strategic position, threats and resources; however enhancing IN-IAF jointness would accrue gains to both the services and increase preparedness for an ASB like operation in Indian waters.


[1] Gen Martin Dempsey, Joint Operational Access Concept (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2012), www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/JOAC_Jan%202012_Signed.pdf 

[2] China’s National Defense in 2008, Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2009).

[3] Ronald O’Rourke, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress    26 Aug 2010. http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/RL33153_20100826.pdf

[4]Thomas P. M. Barnett, “TIME on PACOM versus WAPO on PRC’s DF-21D,” Thomas P. M. Barnett’s Globlogization, entry posted December 29, 2010 http://thomaspmbarnett.com/globlogization/2010/12/29/time-on-pacom-versus-wapo-on-prcs-df-21d.html#ixzz2ILir2djK

[5] Ibid.

[6] Kulshrestha S, Matters Littoral Defence, Defence and Security Alert, Dec 2012.

[7] Kulshrestha S, ODA: An Imperative, Geo Intelligence Nov-Dec 2012.