Grey Eagle : Vice Adm KB Singh, AVSM, VCNS
Defstrat: Naval Aviation has a critical role to play in maritime security to ensure 24x7 ISR (Information, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) in the Indian Ocean. Are we fully geared to meet the challenges that these tasks pose?
VCNS: The Indian Navy is equipped with state-of-the-art platforms to carry out maritime ISR such as the P8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Anti Submarine Warfare (LRMRASW) aircraft, equipped with a sophisticated and comprehensive sensor suite capable of providing maritime domain information over extended ranges. The IL38SD aircraft have been refurbished with the Sea Dragon radar for extended maritime reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities. The Dornier aircraft carry out medium range surveillance and are equipped with a radar and data link, for real time monitoring of our littoral waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The Heron and Searcher Remotely Piloted Aircraft are fitted with optical and radar payloads, which are extensively utilised for gathering information, carrying out surveillance and shadowing of selected targets. The KM 31 helicopters are shipborne Air Early Warning (AEW) platforms, equipped with a modern radar. In addition, the Advanced Light Helicopters augment shipborne capabilities for maritime surveillance.
Considering the expanse of Indian maritime area of interest in the IOR (around 74 million square kilometers), providing maritime security by carrying out 24x7 ISR is an enormous task, which can only be achieved by deploying a multitude of platforms such as ships, submarines, aircraft and space based sensors. In future, space-based assets would acquire primacy in the role.
Defstrat: The CAG has reported that the MiG 29K faces operational deficiencies due to defects in engines, airframes and fly-by-wire systems. These are obviously critical issues. What are we doing to address the same?
VCNS: The issues affecting MiG 29K aircraft have been taken up with RAC MiG at the highest levels. RAC MiG has been deputing specialists at regular intervals for resolution of projected defects on aircraft. Most defects on fly-by-wire and structural issues have been resolved. The aircraft is being exploited towards meeting its full combat potential from the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya.
Defstrat: What are the future equipping and expansion plans for Naval Aviation?
VCNS: The plans for Naval aviation are incorporated in the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) and include both aircraft acquisition and airfield upgrades.
Fixed wing aircraft such as P8I, Dornier, Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft are at various stages of acquisition/ induction. Among rotary wing aircraft, Multi Role Helicopters, Naval Multi Role Helicopters, Naval Utility Helicopters and Advance
Light Helicopters are at various stages of acquisition/ induction. In addition, procurement of additional Chetak helicopters and Mid Life Upgrade of Kamov 28 are being pursued. Upgradation of infrastructure at existing Naval Air Stations, setting up of new Naval Air Stations and Air Enclaves are also being progressed to support of Naval Air Operations.
Defstrat: The logistics backup of the Air Force, the Navy and the Aviation Corps are different. It is felt that there is a need for jointmanship in this regard so that there is commonality as far as logistics is concerned. This would greatly help in reducing resources that need to be deployed. Is this feasible?
VCNS: Data for common stores related to procurement and indigenisation is being shared amongst Services, including Indian Coast Guard on a regular basis. The option of inter services transfer of stock of certain common spares and POLs is also exercised on as-required-basis. Naval liaison cells have been established at major Indian Air Force Base Repair Depots to share data related to repair/ indigenisation of common items.
Defstrat: There are plans to acquire two more aircraft carriers in the coming years through indigenous effort. Will we be able to achieve this in a suitable time frame?
VCNS: Indian Navy presently has two aircraft carriers, viz. INS Viraat and INS Vikramaditya. Viraat is scheduled to be de-commissioned in March 2017. There are plans to induct two more Indigenous Aircraft Carriers (IAC), IAC-1 and IAC-2. IAC-1 (Vikrant) is in the final stages of construction at Cochin Shipyard Limited and is likely to be inducted by December 2018.
The case for IAC-2 has been taken up with the Government for approval. Assuming that the approval is accorded in 2017, the IAC-2 should be ready for induction in 2030.
Defstrat: What are the challenges other than in questions already asked that Naval aviation will face in the next decade and the anticipatory action being taken to mitigate the same?
VCNS: Making good acute shortages of helicopters onboard our warships is likely to be a challenge. This can be mitigated by expeditious processing of cases for acquisition of 16 Multi Role Helicopters (MRH), Naval MRH (NMRH) and Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH).