(Published in Defence and Security Alert; Dec 2014)
The modernization plan of the Indian Navy has been provided a great impetus under the new government as is evident from two major decisions taken recently. One is the construction of six submarines in India at a cost of Rs. 50,000/- crores at Indian shipyards and the other is the decision that that only private sector shipyards, including Pipavav, ABG and L and T, along with their foreign partners, would be allowed to take part in the Rs 25,000/- crore project for building the four Landing Platform Docks (LPDs). These steps are a clear indication of the Government’s intent to build capabilities of Indian private sector and make them integral to the modernization plans of the Indian Navy.
Indian Navy’s expansion plan in the coming decade includes acquisition of over 80 new warships, 2 aircraft carriers, 2 nuclear submarines, and 12 conventional submarines (6 Scorpene class already under construction at MDL). Major warship building program of the IN include:-
-Project 75I submarines. Indian Navy now plans to build all the six submarines in India.
-Landing Platform Docks (LPD). Four LPDs are to be built by private shipyards in India. To be able to bid for building the LPDs in India, Pipavav Defence has partnered with France’s DCNS, ABG Shipyard has teamed with Alion of the US.Larsen & Toubro has tied up with Navantia of Spain.
-Project 15 A and 15 B Guided Missile Destroyers: Mazagaon Docks Ltd. is building Project 15A 6800 tonne destroyers at a cost of USD 622 mn each. First of its class INS Kolkata has already been delivered. The follow-on project 15B gave the Navy the option of placing orders for 4 more vessels in the same class.
-Project 17A: The successor of the Shivalik class frigates is planned under project 17A involving seven vessels, at a cost of USD 578 mn each.
-Project 28 Anti Submarine Warfare Corvettes: The four corvettes under Project 28 have been conceived as the Indian Navy’s Anti-submarine Warfare vessels for the 21st century as well as being aimed at encouraging private participation in shipbuilding. One of the ships INS Kamorta has already been delivered.
-Apart from the above, there is a large requirement of helicopters, boats and other craft for the Navy majority of them would be built indigenously by private enterprises. The warships would also require a plethora of weapons, sensors, and communication system packages, many of them would be indigenous.
The Indian Navy is a builder’s navy with strong preference for indigenous capability builds-up in warship construction as well as sophisticated weapons, sensors and armament. Indian Navy has become adept at interfacing equipment sourced from very diverse origins and philosophies on its in house designed versatile ships. The Indian Navy, an ardent exponent of indigenization, has proactively collaborated with industry to accommodate Indian products, and has resorted to import only on operational or unavailability grounds. At times ships have been commissioned without the necessary equipment to enable fitment later. In fact, this approach is very much in resonance with the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Defence in their 9th Report to the XIIIth Lok Sabha. The report states, “The Committee, therefore, recommends the Government to chalk out a National Defence Production policy to synergise the capabilities of public and private sector and DRDO in defence production with greater emphasis on indigenous content. The Committee also recommends the Government to explore the possibility of promoting defence R&D by involving private sector in selective R&D projects.” A brief perspective in to the role of private players is necessary to appreciate the extended reach of the private industry in modernization of the Indian Navy.
The Indian Naval fleet consists of ships of both eastern and western origin, which use different grades of structural steel, leading to import of various grades of steel for maintenance and repair. This had led to obvious problems in timely procurement, inventory management, and non-availability with foreign vendors etc. Further, even for the ships under construction in Indian shipyards, a large component of steel used had to be imported. The Indian Navy felt compelled to seek indigenous development of Warship Building Steel if it wanted to remain a builders navy and ensure timely induction of warships without depleting its operational fleet. The Indian Navy partnered with DRDO in development of DMR 249A steel plates, bulb structural sections etc. for ships and submarines. M/s Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and M/s Essar Steel have been successful productionising rolling DMR 249A steel plates and M/s Krishna Industries, in the production of the bulb bars. The raw material for the same is supplied by Shri Bajrang Alloys Limited. The Indian Navy has also actively associated with developing and productionising indigenous weld consumables, in various weld categories for welding of DMR 249A steel. The Indian Navy has decided to use DMR 249A grade steel for all its warship building / repair activities. Further, this indigenously produced DMR 249A grade steel will largely replace all other steels in use in the Indian Navy.
L&T has been a noteworthy participant in the construction of the first nuclear submarine. In fact the L&T launchers for the DRDO developed submarine missile Sagarika, have become the standard outfit for sister submarines of Arihant. The Indian Industry has produced components and subassemblies in a large spectrum of equipment ranging from Radars, Sonars, Electronic Warfare systems, Communication systems, Diesel engines, various types of pumps and motors, hydraulics, electro mechanical components, avionics, sensors, electro optics, aircraft parts and so on. Further, in respect of network centric warfare, the Indian Navy has stated that it is “… seeking industry partners to implement next generation networks to enhance its net centric warfare and operational capabilities. It is already in the process of implementing concepts like net centric warfare, Integrated Command and Control, System of Systems and Global Information Grid in consultation with industry leaders in the field of networking and high-end sensor integration. The Navy is seeking to learn from the industry about data warehousing, next generation networks, network security, ERP and Encryption technology among other things.”
As far as armament is concerned, non-availability of certain critical technologies has been an area of concern for the Indian Navy. To overcome this, the Indian Navy and DRDO have commenced joint design development, and production with reputed international manufacturers, the Long Range Surface to Air missile project is one such example, which would significantly increase participation by Indian industry. A word about the Brahmos supersonic missile would not be out of place here, as it is a unique joint venture between the Indian and Russian governments. The basic reasons for its success can be pegged to mutual sharing of core competencies, continued support of both governments, special arrangements in the JV for its management and functioning, integration of public-private industries as a consortium and most importantly involvement of the Indian Navy from the very first trial launch onwards. This approach of the Indian Navy has also led to design, development and production of various types of mines, propulsion batteries, torpedo decoys, and a spectrum of explosive stores such as boosters, sustainers, pyrotechnics, and pyro-charges as import substitution and for use in indigenous armament. Indian Navy has also directly developed various vendors for its requirement of fast moving armament components by providing direct design and engineering solutions. Notable amongst these are hi-tech silver zinc and seawater activated batteries for torpedoes and missiles through indigenous battery manufactures like M/s HBL and M/s High energy Batteries. These are no ordinary batteries. They are complex systems propelling torpedoes weighing above 1.5 tons underwater at very high speeds and endurance.
There are a large number of industries and ancillaries which are engaged in the manufacture of different types of display systems, software services, pumps & motors, switchboards & panels, anchors & cables, winches and davits, oils & lubricants, paints, electrical cable harnesses etc. Whereas a more detailed, but by no means complete, list of private industries involved with modernization projects of the Navy is placed at appendix 1, some of the major Indian Navy specific private sector production industries are:-
L&T- Shafting Systems Helo Landing Grid & Traversing Systems Missile Launchers and Torpedo, Tubes, Winches & Handling Systems.
Pipavav Shipyard- Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels.
ABG Shipyards- Ship Building, Training Ships, Tugs and workboats.
Allen Reinforced Plastics- Advanced Composites.
Bharat Forge- Forged and Machined Components.
Bharati Shipyard – Ship Manufacturing, crafts tugs and boats.
Exide, HBL and HE – Submarine and torpedo batteries.
Heavy Engineering Corporation- Capital equipment, machine tools and spares.
Magnum Aviation- Maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) activities.
Mahindra Group- Mines, Torpedoes, crafts.
Nova Integrated Systems Limited- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Electronic Warfare Systems, Missiles, Radar Systems and Homeland Security Systems.
SEC Industries- Aircraft & Aerospace Machining Services.
Shri Bajrang Alloys Limited- Supply of raw materials to SAIL.
Essar Steel- Suppliers of AB grade steel required for the production of naval ships.
Kirloskar Diesel engines- Power Generation.
Walchandnagar Industries Ltd- Design, manufacture and supply of Gear Boxes for warships.
Wartsila India- DG sets and other ship power solutions with related services.
From the above discussion it would be apparent that the private sector is reasonably strong as far as manufacturing components and small sub systems are concerned, it lacks the wherewithal for design, development and production of complete systems. Private sector has been a small but a worthy and necessary partner in modernizing Indian Navy. For increased participation of the private industry, there is a requirement of a more a broad‐based transformation by the government. That is, by improving business practices, streamlining bureaucracy, broadening incentives for the work force, improving quality control, and incentivizing and facilitating integral research & development in the private sector.
In the past, the Indian Navy has suffered because of inordinate delays due to the non-supply of components, spares, closing down of companies etc. This has also been because of the complexity of the naval systems. The naval systems turn complex due to variety of underlying technologies, the vast number of components covering a multitude of engineering disciplines, the large number of vendors located in different nations, and the high costs, this leads to inevitable collaborations and subcontractors. This in turn raises the question of unhindered supply of components and subassemblies during the lifetime of the system and contingencies in future. If the role of private sector were to be exponentially increased, the government would also need to bring in suitable safe guards for the armed forces against this type of incapacitations.
Some of the companies in private sector which continue to contribute to modernization of the Indian Navy are :-
Alligators Design Pvt Ltd, Bangalore
Alpha Design Technologies Pvt. Ltd, Bangalore
Alpha Electronics Defence Systems Pvt Ltd, Bangalore
Alpha Phazotron Radar Equipment & Systems Pvt. Ltd, Bangalore
Armet Armored Vehicles(India) Ltd
Alpha-ITL Electro Optics Pvt Ltd Bangalore
Astra Microwave Products, Hyderabad
Automotive Coaches & Components ltd.
Aurora Integrated Systems Pvt Ltd
Allen Reinforced Plastics (P) Ltd
Airborne Components Repairs & Services Pvt. Ltd
Anjani Technoplast Ltd., NOIDA
Avantel Softtech Ltd, Hyderabad
Bridport Defence Systems Pvt. Ltd
B.F. Utilities Ltd.
Dynamatic Technologie s Ltd.
Data Patterns (India) Pvt. Ltd, Chennai
EON Infotech Ltd, Ropar
Flic Microwave Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad
Godrej & Boyce Mfg Co. Ltd, Mumbai
HBL Elta Avionics Systems Ltd. (HELA)
HBL Nife Power Systems Ltd, Hyderabad
HBL Power Systems Ltd, Hyderabad
High Energy Batteries (India) Ltd.
ICOMM Tele Ltd, Hyderabad
Indtech Construction Pvt. Ltd
IST Ltd Gurgaon
Jupiter Strategic Technologies Pvt. Ltd,Bangalore
Max Aerospace and Aviation Ltd
Magnum Aviation Pvt. Ltd
Mahindra Defence Land Systems Pvt Ltd.
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.
Micron Instruments Pvt. Ltd
Meltronics Systemtech Pvt. Ltd, Bangalore
Miltech Industries Pvt. Ltd
Memory Electronics Pvt Ltd, Bangalore
NOVA Integrated Systems
Punj Lloyd Ltd, Morena
Quest Machining & Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd.,
Ramoss India , New Delhi
Rolta India Ltd, Mumbai
Sandeep Metalcraft Pvt. Ltd
SAMTELHAL Display Systems Ltd
SEC Industries Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad
Southern Group Industries (P) Ltd
SM Pulp Packaging Pvt. Ltd
Shobha and Prints Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad
Specks Systems Ltd, Hyderabad
Tata Advanced Systems Ltd
Tata Power Company Ltd
Tata Power SED
TSL Technologies Pvt. Ltd,Bangalore
VEM Technologies Pvt. Ltd
VXL Technologies Ltd
Vectra Engineering Materials Pvt Ltd, Delhi
ZEN Technologies Ltd