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Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans

(Published IndraStra Global, 17 Dec 2017; for complete interactive experience visit http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html )

“Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”  

 Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Over a period, Chinese analysts have zeroed upon various countries/islands, which they consider inimical by being under the influence of the United States of America due to trade, military or common political goals. These include; countries/islands in Central Asian Region, Mongolia, India, and Diego Garcia in the outer periphery; Hawaii, Singapore, & Vietnam in the next closer circle; followed by Guam, Australia and New Zealand due to vicinity of second island chain; and Philippines (now tilting in favor of China), ROK & Japan within or around the first island chain. The aim of this article is to provide a naval perspective into the Chinese maritime engagements with nations having seacoasts.

Western Pacific Stand-Off Defenses-Carrier Killer DF-21 D and Guam Killer DF-26

In 2010, The US DoD acknowledged that the Dong-Feng 21D (DF-21D) Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile with a range of 1450 km had attained an initial operating capability. This missile can target a moving aircraft carrier from land-based mobile launchers and has maneuverable re-entry vehicles (MaRVs) with a terminal guidance system. It is understood that this missile is capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with a single hit. The emergence of DF-21D has led the US Navy to rework the ‘carrier support’ warfare approach with respect to China and recommence building of its ballistic missile defense destroyers.

In 2015, China displayed The Dong-Feng 26 (DF-26). It is an intermediate-range ballistic missile produced by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The DF-26 has a range of 3,000–4,000 km, and is said to have nuclear, conventional, and anti-ship strike variants. It is capable of targeting  American military installations at Guam therefore, it has earned the tag of the “Guam Express” or “Guam Killer”. Guam provides the US a strategic base to target the Asian continent with B-52s, F-35s, and F-22s. It also provides basic operational turnaround facilities for carriers and submarines.

Security Concerns-East China Sea

“China’s long-term goal is to build a real ‘blue’ water navy with global reach” – Song Zhongping, Military Commentator

China has built a pier for warships near a military base site close to the disputed Senkaku Island [2] in the East China Sea. A new 70 to 80-meter long pier for warships has been constructed on one of the islands in the Nanji island chain. It lies close to Wenzhou and is nearer to China than the nearest base of Japan. It is understood that a Coast Guard base is being constructed at Wenzhou, which would lend effective support to vessels for monitoring the Senkaku islands.

Security Concerns-South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region

The naval strategy of countries with large coastlines and hostile maritime neighbors invariably factors in submarines and anti-submarine warfare. A modern submarine is a potent multi-role asset that can carry out ISR, special ops, offensive missions, sea denial, and SLOC protection among others. In case it carries strategic weapons, it acts as an important leg of the nuclear triad. Undersea warfare by deploying submarines and/or other unmanned underwater systems is considered crucial in anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) environments. Considering the offensive capability a submarine bestows upon the nation operating it, there is some merit in also examining the likely basing /sale by China of conventional submarines and its associated high technology in the IOR.

South China Sea (SCS) – In early 2016, Satellite photographs had revealed that China had deployed two batteries of eight HQ-9 surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system, on Woody Island.[3] HQ-9 is a new generation medium-to-long-range, active radar homing, track via missile SAM. Infrastructure for aircraft, runways, and missiles is visible on Subi reef, Fiery Cross reef, and Mischief reef as well. China has continued building a network of artificial islands and turning them into mini military bases.

Submarine Operations: It is understood that complete control of SCS is considered essential by China to provide its expanded submarine fleet unrestricted and unobserved access to the Pacific Ocean from their base in Yulin, Hainan. The underwater channels and straits in SCS facilitate clandestine movement of the submarines through the first and second island chains. It is also understood that China State Shipbuilding is likely to construct the “underwater great wall” a sonar surveillance system with ship and submarine sensors for effective monitoring of foreign vessels in the SCS.

Indian Ocean Region

Djibouti Naval Base – China’s support facility for PLA Navy at Djibouti about 8 km from the US military base is it’s most ambitious and first of its kind foray in having a military base outside of China. The facility would have ship and helicopter maintenance facilities, weapon stores, and support infrastructure for a small contingent of PLAN personnel [5]. This development is of prime importance for India in view of Djibouti’s vicinity to Gwadar as well as the fact that it has been placed under the Western Theatre Command [6] at Chengdu, which would have integral naval assets as well as assets from the PLA Rocket Force  (which controls strategic assets) of China.

Pakistan – In August this year, it was reported that Pakistan is likely to acquire eight attack submarines [8] from China. They are probably export versions of Type 039 and Type 039A/041 (with Air Independent Propulsion). Primary weapons for these submarines are the 533 mm Yu-4 torpedoes, it is also possible that they can fire the Yu-6 wire-guided torpedoes. The torpedo tubes are capable of firing the YJ-8 anti-ship cruise missile, AScM, with a range of 80 km. The submarine can carry a mix of torpedoes, missiles, and mines. The Type 041’s weapon package includes the YU-6 wire-guided torpedoes, mines, and the YJ-8 AScM. It could in the future field the supersonic YJ-18 missile.

Bangladesh –  First of the two Chinese submarines [9] was delivered to Bangladesh on 14 November 2016. The Type 035G diesel-electric submarines, carry torpedoes and mines and are capable of attacking enemy ships and submarines.

Thailand – The Royal Thai Navy is likely to finalize [10] the purchase of three Chinese submarines after dithering over it for some time.

Malaysia – The Royal Malaysian Navy, RMN is planning to buy up to ten littoral mission ships [11] (patrol craft) from China. It is also likely that Malaysia may consider Chinese submarines as a replacement for its HDW submarines in future. It is expanding the RMN Kota Kinabalu submarine base with workshops and air defense systems [12].

Berthing Facilities for PLA Navy in IOR

Myanmar– Construction of two deep-water ports at Kyaukphyu by a consortium headed by CITIC group of China [13] would provide China access to the Bay of Bengal and hence to the IOR. The government has earmarked 1708 hectares for the Kyaukphyu SEZ, with two deep-sea ports, industrial zone, and a housing project.

Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka is trying to breathe life into the Hambantota port and infrastructure project by handing over controlling interests to a Chinese consortium [14].

Maldives – There are indications that Maldives may let the China build a seaport at Gaadhoo Island [15 in the southern atoll. The location of the island is significant as it sits at the entrance to the one-and-a-half degree SLOC channel.

Pakistan – Gwadar port was inaugurated in November 2016 [16] with 250 containers carrying Chinese goods shipped on Chinese ships to the Middle East and African countries.

Tanzanian and Kenyan Ports – Bagamoyo port of Tanzania will be operated by China Merchant Holdings. Lamu port in Kenya is being developed by the China Communications Construction Company [17], and China Roads and Bridges Company is going to construct a modern port in Kisumu [18], Kenya (Lake Victoria).

Access to IOR of Chinese Mechanized Forces

Maj. Gen Bakshi, a strategic analyst has brought out the following two important facets of CPEC in his recent article [19].

The alignment of the CPEC corridor includes two major loops that come close to the Indian borders in Punjab and Rajasthan where major tank battles had been fought during the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. These loops in the CPEC grant a military bias to the otherwise proclaimed trade route.

The Chinese army in its thrust on rapid modernization has mechanized its formations to wheel/track based formations that make them very agile. It also allows them to bring their tremendous firepower to Indo-Pak borders through CPEC in the case of any conflict.

Needless to assert that the same firepower can be transshipped rapidly to Gulf, Europe and African coast if required.

Security Concerns-Elsewhere

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The following table accessed from SIPRI highlights the types of weapon systems exported by China during 2014 and 2015.

TIV of arms exports from China (Weapon Systems)-2014-2015
Generated: 10 December 2016
Figures are SIPRI Trend Indicator Values (TIVs) expressed in US$ m. at constant (1990) prices.
Figures may not add up due to the conventions of rounding.
A ‘0’ indicates that the value of deliveries is less than US$0.5m
For more information, see http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers/background
Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
2014 2015        Total           
Aircraft 215 409 624
Air defence systems 52 64 116
Armoured vehicles 302 384 686
Artillery 94 27 121
Engines 1 1
Missiles 197 206 403
Sensors 30 10 40
Ships 470 865 1335
Total 1360 1966 3326

The following table accessed from SIPRI provides arms export by China during 2014 and 2015.

TIV of arms exports from China to nations-2014-2015
Generated: 10 December 2016
Figures are SIPRI Trend Indicator Values (TIVs) expressed in US$ m at constant (1990) prices.
Figures may not add up due to the conventions of rounding.
A ‘0’ indicates that the value of deliveries is less than US$ 0.5 m
For more information, see http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers/background
Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
   2014 2015                     Total
Algeria 68 254 322
Angola 1 1
Bangladesh 245 474 719
Bolivia 20 20
Cameroon 74 74
Djibouti 8 7 14
Egypt 1 1
Ethiopia 2 2
Ghana 13 13
Indonesia 39 33 72
Iran 9 9 19
Iraq 17 17
Jordan 1 1
Kenya 7 10 16
Myanmar 267 288 554
Nigeria 57 58 115
Pakistan 394 565 959
Peru 13 13
Saudi Arabia 8 8
Seychelles 10 10
South Sudan 12 12
Sudan 32 27 59
Syria 5 5
Tanzania 26 20 46
Thailand 8 8
Trinidad and Tobago 16 16
Venezuela 77 147 223
Zambia 8 8
Total 1360 1966 3326

-It is interesting to note from the above table that 24 countries out of the 28 countries to which China has exported Arms and Ammunition have a maritime border!

-Further, the only four land locked countries that receive arms and ammunition from China have contiguous boundaries with Coastal nations, which in turn are beneficiaries of Chinese arms export. (Bolivia-Peru; Ethiopia-Kenya & Djibouti; South Sudan-Kenya; Zambia-Tanzania)

-it can be seen that the list covers nations in Asia, Gulf, both coasts of Africa, and Latin America. This intern implies ease of berthing facilities for Chinese Naval vessels in ports of these nations.

Gateway to Europe 

“The cooperation at Piraeus port is not just an economic collaboration but has strategic characteristics. Greece, via the Piraeus port, can indeed become China’s gateway into Europe to the benefit of China and Greece,”  Pitsiorlas, Chairman of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund privatization agency.

Greece – The ancient Greek port of Piraeus and one of the largest in Europe, located in the Mediterranean basin has been acquired by COSCO Shipping of China after purchasing 51 percent stake in the port [20]. COSCO Shipping is scheduled to construct a second container terminal for Chinese exports to Europe. The sale another Greek port Thessaloniki; which is being eyed by Chinese companies; is currently put on hold.

Turkey – In September 2015, Chinese state-owned shipping, and logistics company COSCO Pacific, along with China Merchants Holdings International and CIC Capital, had acquired a majority stake in one of the largest container terminals of Turkey, namely Kumport at Ambarli coast of Istanbul [21].

Thus, China has established a critical foothold in Europe by acquiring the Piraeus port as well as the Turkish container terminal in Kumport as part of its strategic One Belt One Road strategic initiative.

Chinese Foray into, Antarctica, and the Arctic (Bering Sea)  

“China’s rapid Antarctic…expansion reflects Beijing’s desire to become a maritime, and polar, great power” – Prof Anne-Marie Brady, Antarctic specialist

China is setting up its first Air Squadron [23] in Antarctica to support its ongoing scientific explorations. China is also a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty that bans the military activity in the region, but there are many dual capability missions, which can aid military research and operations in face of contingencies.

In September 2015, in a first of its kind mission five PLAN ships sailed in the Bering Sea off Alaska [24], interestingly, the PLAN ships were in the area during the visit of President Barack Obama to Alaska. With global warming likely to open the Northern Sea Route sooner than later, China is keen to utilize this opportunity as the route cuts down the distance and passage time to Europe. However, since Canada claims sovereignty over the said waterways, this could pose “the biggest direct challenge to Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Passage,” [25] according to Professor Rob Huebert, of University of Calgary.

Global Outlook of PLAN – Chinese Navy has undertaken modernization of its Naval fleet to meet its Global Navy focus as part of its geopolitical strategy. As analyzed in a Wikistrat report, “Chinese Navy ships have transited the Red Sea and Suez Canal, the Mediterranean, the Cape of Good Hope, the Bosporus, the Panama Canal, the Strait of Magellan, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and have made port calls all along both the east and west coasts of Africa, Bulgaria, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Australia. Chinese warships have sailed into American territorial waters near the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea” [26].


“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

A global strategic net has been cast by China by creating fundamental structures for sea trade and commerce. China has been carrying out calibrated development of its maritime capability in mercantile shipping, fishing, undersea exploration & exploitation, and the Navy. It is likely that by 2025 the world would have to come to terms with the global maritime status of China as also the blue water capability of PLAN. The attendant security issues and concerns would follow.

It is no longer a string of pearls in the IOR, it is a studded ‘Jade Necklace Across the Oceans’ that stares at the developed world in defiance today.


  • Preclude confrontation given the precarious global economic situation and nuclear deterrence
  • Preclude submission given the dispositions of the existing and emerging power centers
  • Preclude peaceful co-existence, as it is utopian under the existing circumstances where national interests have prevented even an internationally acceptable definition of terrorism
  • Could include rapid building up of a robust coalition to create two distinct power centers, provided the United States is able to synergize its economic might with those of the like-minded nations and tamper the perception that it is a global hegemon.

Time to act is now!

 “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”  – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  Publication Details:

Kulshrestha, Sanatan. “FEATURED | Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans” IndraStra Global 02, no. 12 (2016) 0032 | http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html | ISSN 2381-3652|



[2] https://sputniknews.com/world/201608201044449726-china-pier-for-warships/  

[3] http://www.news.com.au/world/ongoing-escalations-in-the-south-and-east-china-seas-has-some-analysts-daring-to-wonder-who-would-win-a-war/news-story/20da5034d2b32ff31d35242cee26b656  

[4] http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1993754/south-china-sea-air-strips-main-role-defend-hainan   

[5] http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-builds-first-overseas-military-outpost-1471622690   

[6] http://english.chinamil.com.cn/view/2016-02/02/content_7160686.htm   


[8] http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/pak-to-acquire-8-attack-submarines-from-china-for-4-billion-report-1452729   


[10] http://thediplomat.com/2016/07/is-thailand-now-serious-about-submarines-from-china/

[11] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-china-defence-idUSKCN12S0WA   


[13] http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-moves-to-revive-its-sway-in-myanmar-1456697644   

[14] http://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/10/28/sold-sri-lankas-hambantota-port-and-the-worlds-emptiest-airport-go-to-the-chinese/#1d473d1716d8    



[17] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36458946  


   [19] http://www.newindianexpress.com/magazine/voices/2016/nov/26/india-needs-to-seek-alliance-partners-who-are-prepared-to-contain-the-chinese-aggression-1542281–1.html   

[20] https://www.rt.com/business/355523-cosco-stake-greek-port/   


[22] https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/considering-chinas-strategic-interests-in-antarctica/   

[23] http://thediplomat.com/2016/02/china-to-establish-antarctic-air-squadron-in-2016/

[24] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-military-idUSKCN0R22DN20150902   

[25] http://time.com/4302882/china-arctic-shipping-northwest-passage/


Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs)- Navy’s Armed Patrol


(Published SP’s Naval Forces, Dec 2016-Jan 2017. Vol 11 No. 6 )

“It is not surprising that some OPVs are multirole and heavily armed, lighter scantling and faster, whereas others are larger, heavier, therefore slower, and equipped for the purposes of survey [and] pollution control. I think in the past some of the vessels which now come under the banner of OPV would have previously been called something else, such as corvette, light frigate or fishery protection vessel, but due to the current fad they fall under the generic term of OPV.”

Mike Stamford, Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB)

A modern navy operates various types of warships to meet its diverse roles from simple coastal patrols to power projection and war fighting. While the navy has aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, submarines, and missile boats for its offensive missions it also has different class of ships for patrol, presence and support roles.

The grant of 200 nm EEZ and the extension from three nm to 12 nm of the maritime boundary/territorial waters of a nation brought to fore requirement of naval ships that could fulfill the roles of extended coastal security as well as provide security cover to the EEZ. The other coastal roles that are needed for the naval craft include, pollution control, SAR, law enforcement, firefighting, towing etc. Larger naval ships cannot maneuver in the restricted and shallow coastal waters and would largely remain underutilized if deployed for EEZ patrols. This had given rise to the birth of Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Class of ships. The OPVs however, are being built to sizes and roles specific to a nation; they may range in size from a large attack craft to nearly a frigate size ship. They are proving economic for smaller nations because of their low cost and flexible roles. They are mainly being used for, extended coastal patrols, EEZ protection, maritime presence, law enforcement at sea, HADR, and if needed, for Arctic or Antarctic ice patrols. The primary roles for the combat OPVs are AAW and ASuW. They can be classified as combat OPVs and specific capability OPVs. The combat OPVs are faster and could be equipped with ASW, AAW, or ASuW weapon systems. These OPVs can take part in combat and meet the survivability standards of naval warships.

Weapons on Combat OPVs

While some nations have equipped their OPVs with Exocet and similar missiles, the majority of the combat role OPVs carry three types of weapons namely; a large/medium caliber main gun, a small caliber auxiliary gun, and a machine gun. The machine gun is also carried by the onboard helicopter.

Main Gun.  A warship’s main gun can be a large caliber gun or a medium caliber gun. Many navies prefer medium caliber guns like the Oto Melara 76 mm, for their OPVs. The main gun’s maximum effective range is substantially higher than the auxiliary and the machine gun’s maximum effective ranges. Firing from long range is particularly important in conventional warfare, but not necessarily when fighting with terrorists. In littoral areas, there could be many merchant vessels, which could make it almost impossible to classify a ship at long distances. The only way to classify an unknown vessel from a long distance is with a helicopter. Therefore, even though the maximum effective range of the main gun ranges from 7000 meters to 10000 meters, the OPV would not be able to fire its main gun until the enemy boat is classified as hostile. The probability of hit is about 80% at 500 m.

Auxiliary Gun. The auxiliary gun for the OPV is a small caliber gun for example a 30 mm CIWS naval gun. The auxiliary gun’s presence is important especially when the OPV is not able use its main gun for some reason. If the hit probability of the auxiliary gun is high, it can be a game changer.

Machine Guns. A machinegun, normally a 12.7 mm, is operated by OPV personnel, and it has a relatively short effective range when compared to the ranges of the main and the auxiliary guns. Its main purpose is to warn other ships and to protect its own ship from small targets. The machine guns are very useful in crowded areas, since it is very difficult to classify a small boat from a long distance. It is also impossible to use missiles or long-range guns at shorter distances. Further, rules of engagement may not allow firing at hostile craft unless it approaches within a certain threatening range. In this case, the OPV can use its machine guns both for warning the approaching craft and for protecting itself. The probability of hit at 500 m is about 50%; it increases as the distance to target decreases.

Onboard Helicopter and its weapon. The high-speed capability of the helicopter makes it one of the most valuable assets of an OPV. It can perform search, detection, and reconnaissance operations in relatively short amounts of time, and with high accuracy. Technological advances also allow the helicopters to use cameras that help them to classify the targets. When the helicopter detects an unknown vessel, it moves towards that target for classification at its maximum speed, which ranges from 50 knots to 180 knots. The friendly craft have AIS devices, which allow classification of almost all of the vessels in the area. However, there are could be some vessels that cannot be classified via AIS these could be identified by the helicopter. The classification distance may depend on weather conditions, capability of the camera, or the training of the operators. A 12.7 mm machine gun is normally used on the helicopter.

Combat OPVs

Larger combat OPVs, for example the UAE Baynunah class OPVs are combatants to meet the requirements of combat patrols in Strait of Hormuz. The Baynunah class are fitted with weapon systems including the MBDA Exocet MM40 Block 3 surface-to-surface missile (SSM) and the Raytheon Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) RIM-162 surface-to-air missile (SAM). They also have an Oto Melara 76 mm gun and two 27 mm cannons. They also carry an organic helicopter, mine-avoidance sonar system, MASS decoy system, 3-D radar and a full communications suite. These OPVs meet the AAW and ASuW requirements of the UAE for protection of its assets and merchant shipping in the region. With a displacement of ~ 640 tons, they can achieve speeds of up to 32 kt. The first of these OPVs was built in France by Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie, while the rest are being built in the UAE by Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB).

BVT of UK (now BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships) has built combat OPVs, for Oman that, have a length of 98.5 m with a displacement of 2500 tons. They carry Exocet anti-ship missile and Mica vertical-launch close-area air-defense systems.

Dutch shipbuilder Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) has built four OPVs for the Royal Netherlands Navy under Project Patrouilleschepen. These ships are 108 m long, displace 3750 tons and have a speed of up to 21.5 kt. They are to meet the requirement for patrol, surveillance and interdiction operations in the Netherlands EEZ. They carry a helicopter, a single 76 mm gun, a 20-30 mm gun and two machine guns.

Navantia of Spain has already constructed four Buque de Acción Maritima patrol ships for the Spanish Navy. These are built to a modular design for protection of maritime resources; maritime interdiction; port security; and counter-terrorism patrolling. These OPVs carry a helicopter and are armed with a single Oto Melara 76 mm gun and two 20 mm cannon, and fitted with the ‘Sistema de COMbate de los Buques de la Armada’ SCOMBA combat management system (CMS). Two more of the same OPVs are under construction.

Special Purpose OPVs

The specific capability OPVs are built to commercial standards and are equipped with lesser armament. They are rigged for specific role that they are designed for and may not be able to take part in battle at sea since they are bulkier and slower than the combat OPV. An area of developing role for OPVs are endurance and presence missions in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, which would necessitate changes in its design to meet operating conditions in broken ice. With the likely hood of opening up of Northwest Passage, it is expected that maritime trade from China and Japan would use this route for carting goods to Europe. Rolls Royce has been designing OPV type ships for meeting the Arctic/ Antarctic conditions. The Danish Arctic patrol ship, the Knud Rasmussen class is an example of such ships.

Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard had contracted BVT for building three presence OPVs for protection of oil and gas reserves, fishery protection, and for anti-drug operations however, the contract was cancelled and the OPVs were delivered to Brazil.

ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) of Germany has developed a series of 1,000-2,000 ton OPVs. These are: a 67 m fast OPV; an 81 m Guardian-class OPV displacing 1,800 tons; an 85 m, 1,900-ton Sentinel-class multimission OPV; and a larger 99 m version of the Sentinel OPV displacing 2,100 tons. They are built to commercial standards, the vessels are equipped with a helicopter and boat capability, have modest speed, sensors and weapons equipment.

BAE systems provides 90 m OPVs to Brazil, Thailand and UK.


As detailed in the website of IN, in its constabulary role, the IN is employed to enforce law of the land or to implement a regime established by an international mandate. The protection and promotion of India’s maritime security is one of the IN’s prime responsibilities. This encompasses a constabulary role, where it relates to threats that involve use of force at sea. The tasks that the IN has to undertake in the constabulary role ranges from Low Intensity Maritime Operations (LIMO) to maintaining good order at sea. It also includes coastal security, as part of India’s overall maritime security. With the establishment of the ICG in February 1978, law enforcement aspects of the constabulary role within the Maritime Zones of India (MZI) have been transferred to the ICG. Security in major harbors and ports are the purview of the port authorities, aided by customs and immigration agencies. Constabulary tasks beyond the MZI are vested with the Indian Navy. After the terrorist attacks on Mumbai on 26 November 2008, the overall responsibility for coastal security has been mandated to the Indian Navy, in close coordination with the ICG, State marine police and other central/state government and port authorities.

The Indian Coast Guard, ICG has been tasked to protect India’s maritime interests and enforce maritime law, with jurisdiction over the territorial waters of India, including its contiguous zone and exclusive economic zone. The ICG also operates Offshore Patrol Vessels. ICG deploys  Samar class Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessels having 2005 tons displacement, Vishwast class Offshore Patrol Vessels (1800 tons displacement) and Vikram class Offshore Patrol Vessels (displacement 1220 tons) . However, the number of OPVs appears insufficient to meet the requirement of patrolling and providing security to more than 7000 km of coastline and Island territories of Andaman-Nicobar and Lakshadweep.

The Indian Navy had started inducting the Offshore Patrol Vessels in the late eighties, but the numbers inducted appear to be far less than that required to effectively safeguard the maritime assets, sea lines of communications and tackle sea pirates.

Goa Shipyard Limited in India has been building a series of 105 m-long, 2,215 ton OPVs for the Indian Navy. They are fitted with a 76 mm naval gun and two 30 mm cannons, and are capable of operating a single Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Dhruv helicopter.

The Pipavav NOPV class are naval offshore patrol vessels being built by Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Company Limited. In June 2016, it was reported that the shipyard, which has been acquired by Reliance Defence, is now accelerating work on the delayed order where the first ship was supposed to be delivered in early 2015. As per the revised schedule, the first ship will now be delivered in early 2017 and all ships will be ready for induction by the end of 2017. The ships are being constructed in two batches of two and three ships with a shorter delivery schedule for the second batch.

Significantly, the IN OPVs can also be modified to accommodate Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit, (TEU) payloads, hence they can be considered as low cost warships with bigger roles.


OPVs have carved out a place for themselves mainly due to enhancement of territorial waters and the declaration of EEZ. The smaller nations too have equipped themselves with OPVs because of their versatility and low costs. The cost of the OPVs depend upon the combat systems and sensors required by a country to be put on board. To keep the costs low the combat system should therefore, be mission specific and limited to the low-intensity capabilities. While OPVs are not equipped for full-fledged, combat they should be able to accomplish the constabulary tasks they are assigned to do. The OPV arena is set to expand with the likely hood of the opening of the North West Passage to Europe.

50.Policy Level Intervention Imperative for Accelerating Indigenous Manufacture of Weapon Systems for Indian Navy

(Published in  IndraStra Global – Strategic Information & Intelligence Forecasting on 16 May 2015)

Weapon systems on a warship depend upon the assigned role and mission of the warship 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 defense systems (multi barrel guns, short-range missiles). For surface threats, ships have surface-to-surface missiles and guns. For anti submarine warfare (ASW) ships have torpedoes and ASW rockets. Warships carry decoys for deception of enemy torpedoes and oncoming missiles, these comprise of chaff dispensers, infrared (IR) decoys, acoustic decoys etc. The warships also have an extended weapon capability on the helicopters they house on board; this could be a lightweight torpedo, rockets, or small caliber guns. The advent of weaponised unmanned vehicles is introducing 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 stabilization 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 systems it desires are not available for purchase, alternates offered are exorbitantly priced, and those affordable are 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. 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 defense 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 is being regularly revised to cater for changing Indian conditions. It has been structured so that the Indian defense industrial base is progressively strengthened by offsets, transfer of technology, and joint venture regimes. ‘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 Defence Research and Development Organisation and industry claim are unrealistic, the armed forces justify it since 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. One of the suggested ways is by categorizing 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 requirements. 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 incentivize the P2 procurement by increasing the defense budget proportionately and set up an accountability mechanism for timely delivery, maintainability, and functionability of the same.

It suffices to state that weaponistaion of warships 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. It is imperative that policy level intervention be initiated in procurement of weapons to ensure that the Defense Industrial Base in India is strengthened to levels where it can sustain the requirements of the Armed forces.

49. A Tale of Two Ports; Gwadar versus Chahbahar

(Published in  World news report and Tazakhabarnews on 14 May 2015)

Two important declarations in the past few days have brought in to focus the importance of the Makaran Coast to Middle East as well as the Central Asian Region.
Firstly, the Chinese president Xi Jinping launched $46bn worth of infrastructure and energy projects in Pakistan during his recent visit. The main thrust of these is to strengthen the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor CPEC between the Pakistani port of Gwadar and the Chinese Xinjiang region. This also forms a part of the Chinese one belt one road and maritime silk route programmes. Chinese government and banks like, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd and China Development Bank will provide funds to Chinese companies investing in the projects. The likely Chinese companies are China Power International Development Ltd, Three Gorges Corp, ICBC Corporation, Zonergy Corporation, and Huaneng Group. The Chinese president has linked the investments to the safety and security of Chinese assets and workers since the projects involving railways, pipelines, and roads will cross through the insurgency infested areas of Balochistan.
The second important event has been the signing of MOU between Government of Iran and Government of India to develop the port of Chahbahar. The project will increase trade links between both countries. The Indian side has pledged to commit about $85 million to construct container and multi-purpose terminals.
Due to the geographical locations of Pakistan and Iran to the Caspian region and the fact that both provide the shortest routes to Arabian Sea ports, has led both the countries to progress developing infrastructure and connectivity of their ports with the Central Asian Region(CAR). Apart from oil and gas, the ports expect to harvest other trade commodities like cotton, which currently are routed through Russia to Middle East, East Asia and South Asia.
Just over 100 km apart, Gwadar the Pakistani port and Chabahar the Iranian port are competitors for accessing the CAR markets. Both Iran and Pakistan are wooing Afghanistan by giving trade and fees incentives to favour their respective port. Pakistan however fears that “Chabahar port would inflict a huge financial setback for Pakistan”.
As far as Afghanistan is concerned, its natural resources include, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 60 million tons of copper, and 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as cerium, neodymium, and lanthanum. It also has lodes of gold, silver, aluminium, zinc, lithium and mercury. The carbonite deposits in Helmand province itself are valued at $89 billion. The US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Central Asian Republics have shown interest in these deposits. Afghanistan being a land locked country is currently dependent upon Pakistani ports for its international trade. If Chahbahar port starts operating it would provide an alternate port to Afghanistan without encumbrance of insurgency. In view of the above, it makes sense to look at both the ports in some detail.
Gwadar lies in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan. A province, which is rich in natural resources like oil and gas. In fact, of Pakistan’s ~28tcf gas reserves, ~19tcf are in Baluchistan. The Baloch claim that, despite being the largest gas producer in Pakistan, they get only 20% of the royalty payments received by the other two gas producing provinces. They thus subsidise the rich provinces, even though they are in fact the poorest in the country and that nothing much has been done by the government for their development from the vast revenue generated from Baluchistan. No wonder that the Sui gas fields which lie in Bugti tribe controlled region, are the ones most affected by militancy. Baloch militants pose a credible threat to the vast span of gas pipelines, which are not possible to police or monitor effectively (for e.g. The Sui Southern Gas Company has a pipeline network of over 27,500 km covering Baluchistan and Sindh).
Current Phase of Insurgency. The Gwadar port development project was commenced in 2002.Millions of dollars poured in to the quiet village of Gwadar from Chinese and Pakistani investors (~$200mn was the Chinese investment for the first phase of the project completed in 2005). The premise was that Gwadar would be converted in to major port hub on the lines of Dubai and the locals would benefit most. The Baloch soon realised that this was not to be, and that once again their natural resources were being siphoned out by the Central government. In 2006, Pakistani Cobra helicopter gunships and F-16 fighter jets attacked Baloch areas suspected of insurgency; state organised disappearances and kidnappings culminated in killing of the Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. The Then President Musharraf told his core commanders “the writ of the Pakistani government will never be challenged. Let that be a warning… if anyone challenges the writ of the government, I will crush it.”
‘Great Land Robbery’ story was published in The Herald in Jun 2008, claiming that hundreds of thousands of acres of land had been illegally allotted to non resident military and civilian personnel and resold to builders for residential and industrial purposes. The Baloch realised that their illiterate poor had been deprived of a rightful share in Gwadar’s growth. The insurgent attacks spiralled to about 33 attacks per month in 2009 and continue to this day, Pakistan blames India and Afghanistan for fanning the tribal Baloch sentiments against military excesses and economic exploitation. Many foreign analysts have however not found any credible evidence actively linking India with the Baloch insurgency. Gwadar has thus become the lynch pin for the Baloch hatred of Punjabi elite. Towards the end of Xi’s, visit this April 2015, separatist Baluch rebels launched attacks on a coastal radar station near Gwadar, and on a security force convoy in the Awaran district of the province.
Gwadar Port. Gwadar had a population of about 5000 in 2001, mainly comprising of poor fishermen, once the Chinese assisted deep-water port development began, it has crossed a population of 125000. Apart from a network of roads, rail air and infrastructural projects, Pakistan plans include a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal, an international airport, a cement plant, an oil refinery, and a steel mill. China’s interests at Gwadar are very clear; China is looking for monitoring of its Gulf oil supply route as well as an opening for import/ export trade from its Muslim majority Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
The first phase of Gwadar port was completed on schedule by the Chinese in 2005. The running of the port was leased for 40 years to PSA International of Singapore in 2007 by the Pakistani government. The agreement however ran into problem with Pakistan blaming PSA of not keeping their end of contract with respect to the investments promised by them. The running of the port has now been handed over to the Chinese. With Gwadar port commencing operations it has given the Chinese an opening in to the Arabian Sea, a strategic depth to Pakistan navy and some cause for worry to India. In 2008 the then Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy Admiral Sureesh Mehta said Gwadar could be used by Pakistan to “take control over the world energy jugular.”
Importance for China. Oil tankers from Gulf transit about 6000 nm and those from the African coast transit about 10,000 nm before they discharge their energy cargo at Chinese ports. Both the tankers routes have to pass through Malacca Straits in addition to problem zones in their respective routes. If tankers can unload at Gwadar, they would have to travel only about 680 nm from the Gulf and about 3000 nm from African coast (Angola). Pak-China pipeline from Gwadar to Kashghar in Xinjiang is likely to run parallel to the Karakorum highway and cover a distance of about 1500 miles over tough mountainous terrain. It would also provide berthing facilities to PLA Navy. Indicators that China is seriously contemplating Pak-China energy corridor are evident from the following development projects:-
-Phase II of Gwadar port and International Airport at Gwadar by China Harbour Engineering Company.
-Petrochemical city (including oil refining capacity of 421,000 bpd) by Great United Petroleum Holdings Company Limited.
-Rail link up to Xingjian by Dong Fang Electric Supply Corp.
-Upgrading of Karakoram high way.
-Construction of Kazakhstan-China and Turkmenistan – China pipelines and their eventual augmentation by feed from Gwadar-Kashghar pipeline.
– Most important of all the recent pledge of nearly $38 bn (of a total of $46 bn) infrastructure and energy projects in the region by the Chinese President.
The Chabahar port project is very important for Afghanistan since it would enable shipping goods to Middle East and Europe as well as allow inflow of key goods to Afghanistan. Economically it would imply a significant boost to its trade and investment in much needed infrastructure. This has now become a distinct possibility with the US and Iran about to reach an understanding on Iran’s Nuclear program.
The port of Chabahar is located in the south of Baluchistan and Sistan Province and it is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean. It has historically been a trade centre because of its access Oman Sea and Persian Gulf. Chabahar port has an area of 11 sqkm and is interestingly located at the same latitude as the Miami port in the Florida. The weather at Chabahar port is quite similar to Miami port in that it is very pleasant in summer. It is also one of the coolest ports of the Middle East. The port has been under construction since 1973 but lack of resources has resulted in delays in its completion. Shahid-Kalantary and Shahid-Beheshti are two important ports in Chahbahar. Its location outside of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz has been very beneficial to Iran’s trade since the Iran – Iraq war. The port will be connected to the Trans-Iranian railway with the completion of the Kerman-Zahedan railway.
A trilateral agreement was signed between Iran, India, and Afghanistan In 2003. India was to build a road, known as Route 606, connecting Delaram, the border city of Afghanistan to Zaranj the Capital of Nimruz province in Afghanistan. Iran was to build a highway from Chabahar up to Delaram. Border Roads Organization of India constructed the Delaram – Zaranj highway and it was completed in 2009.
With the likelihood of West easing sanctions on Iran, India has once again stepped in with a modest investment to construct container and multipurpose terminals; this would make Chabahar operational in future. It would also provide India with ease of trade with Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan and Iran. Chahbahar does not lie in an insurgency-ridden area like Gwadar therefore, it is clear that nations would prefer Chahbahar.
India needs to keep promoting Chahbahar as a strategic port on the Makaran coast as it addresses both the ease of trading as well as India’s security needs in the region.