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India seeks submarine-launched nuke missile

August 10, 2008 20:09 IST

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With India's aspiration to operate a nuclear submarine likely to be fulfilled next year with Russian-made Akula set to join the fleet, the Indian Navy is pitching for a submarine-launched nuclear missile to boost the nation's deterrence capabilities.

"With nuclear proliferation posing a greater threat along with Weapons of Mass Destruction, our unilateral policy of no-first-use necessitates that India possesses a credible and survivable nuclear deterrent, including submarine-launched," Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said on Saturday while delivering a lecture on Navy's vision for the future.

India had in February this year tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile for the first time that would take another three years to be fully operational.

After a delay, Akula nuclear-powered submarine is likely to join service with Indian Navy next year, Mehta said, pointing out that the Navy would basically use the Russian-made submarine for training in personnel before they get to operate the indigenous nuclear-powered submarine that is under secret construction at the Mazagaon Docks in Mumbai.

"Though it is an operational submarine, Akula will be basically used for training Naval operators before they get to operate our indigenous nuclear-powered submarine," the Navy chief said.

A DRDO project, the indigenous nuclear-powered submarine project, codenamed Advanced Technology Vehicle, is said to be well set for sea trials two years from now.

India already has 16 diesel powered submarines and is building six more Scorpene submarines under a technology transfer contract from the French. The Scorpenes are scheduled to get into Indian naval service from 2012 to 2017.

Talking about the Navy's vision, Mehta said India wanted to create and sustain a three-dimensional, technology-enabled and networked force capable of safeguarding maritime interests in the high seas and projecting combat power across the littoral.

"Ensuring a secure and peaceful environment in the Indian Ocean Region and to further India's political, economic, diplomatic and military objectives are Navy's responsibilities. We will deter conflict through conventional and non-conventional strength. But if this fails, we will fight to achieve decisive victory over our adversaries," he said.

Noting that no one could ignore nuclear proliferation and threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Mehta said Navy's security concerns would span all forms of conflicts from low-end to nuclear threshold.

"The risk of conventional conflict also looms large over the sub-continent. Therefore, we expect our neighbour to operate on all spectrums of conflicts. Threats are many -- transient and dynamic," he said.

Pointing out that threat-specific planning would be rather complicated, Mehta said India needed to consciously embarked upon mission-dominant, capability-based approach, which envisaged force levels and a mix that will provide flexibility to confront any situation that may in the future based on our strategic assessment.

Stating that India's expanding maritime responsibilities and interests would necessitate enhancement in force levels too, Mehta said the Navy was looking at becoming a 160-plus ship force by 2022.

"By 2022, we plan to have 160-plus ship navy, including three aircraft carriers, 60 major combatants, including submarines and close to 400 aircraft of different types. This will be a formidable three dimensional force with satellite surveillance and networking to provide force multiplication," Mehta said.

In an unprecedented naval construction programme, Indian Navy already has an indigenous order to construct 38 vessels, which included an aircraft carrier, three destroyers and frigates each, six submarines, 10 waterjet-propelled fast attack craft, a landing ship, six survey vessels, four anti-submarine corvettes and four offshore patrol vessels, with many more orders on the anvil.

Also, to address capability gaps in surveillance and several airborne warfare disciplines, the coming decade would see the induction of several new air platforms and midlife upgrading of older ones.

Notable among the new acquisitions would be MiG-29 aircraft to operate on the INS Vikramaditya bought from the Russians, long and medium range maritime patrol aircraft, airborne early warning systems, multirole choppers and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Mehta said Indian Navy's perspective plan for the next 15 to 20 years would provide sustained business incentive to invest in naval systems, ships and aircraft for the Indian industry on their own or with overseas collaboration.

Asserting Navy's commitment in this regard, Mehta said his force would participate in and promote any government initiative to enhance indigenous defence and ship-building industry.




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