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Funds, dipping force levels stagnate Navy

For all its efforts to project a blue water capability, the Indian Navy’s maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities...

Written by SHIV AROOR | Dabolim (goa) |
April 4, 2005

For all its efforts to project a blue water capability, the Indian Navy’s maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities stagnate, with no comprehensive solution emerging for the massive coastal areas of jurisdiction on both seaboards. And while the Navy says its capabilities match its threat perceptions, Naval aviation officers here are worried about the dipping force levels.

The INS Hansa Naval air station here is the Navy’s premier air base. But with only one fly-worthy Russian Ilyushin-38 and finances constraining the Navy to a limited upgrade of eight Tupolev-142s, the Navy has upped dependence on a far less capable aircraft, the Dornier-228, for maritime patrolling.

Tuesday’s government approval for the purchase of 11 more Dorniers, while welcome to INS Hansa, is perceived as a stop-gap before definite delays for a more holistic solution like mid-life upgrades of existing force levels, or a potential American P-3C Orion fleet.

With the torpedo and anti-ship capable Ilyushin-38 almost out of action and the Tupolev-142 (which can carry depth charges and bombs) entering a limited upgrade phase, the Navy’s aerial anti-submarine warfare capability rests entirely with a fleet of Kamov-28 ASW choppers. Naval Sea King helicopters, crippled six years ago by US sanctions, are now expected to slowly make a comeback with ‘‘some of the spare parts’’ trickling in from the export market — though Sea Kings are also old and a full replacement is on the cards.

Two Ilyushin-38s are currently being upgraded in Russia, but the upgrade itself has caused worries for the Navy. The upgraded aircraft will replace those that crashed in 2002. The Arakonam-based Tupolev-142 strategic long-range maritime patrol planes are now of a particular vintage and Russia’s unwillingness to participate in a tripartite mid-life upgrade with Israel has compelled the Navy to look into a relatively inadequate limited upgrade.

Significantly, the Navy has identified 20 to 30 systems and major sub-systems that need to be changed immediately on the Tu-142, though delays in getting those systems together could increase downtime. ‘‘We would love to have a mid-life upgrade, but we need finances. So for now we’ll have a limited upgrade’’ an officer said, about the Tupolev-142s.

Navy to upgrade 14 Sea Harriers

NEW DELHI: There’s good news for the Navy’s Goa-based INAS 300 (White Tigers) Sea Harrier squadron. Earlier this week, the Government approved a complete upgradation of 14 of its 22 Sea Harriers, after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security. The vertical take-off Sea Harriers, bought from the UK in the early 1980s, will soon be upgraded by complementing their Matra Magic II missiles with Israeli Rafael Derby beyond visual air combat missiles, its Ferranti Blue Fox radar will be replaced with an Israeli Elta EL/M-2032 multi-mode pulse doppler fire control radar, and the platform will be fitted with a brand new avionics and mission capability suite. The Navy feels the upgrade will push the Harriers to live beyond their mothership, the INS Viraat, which retires in 2008. —ENS

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