Navy chief Adm. Sunil Lanba said that by 2050, India will have 200 ships, 500 aircraft.
The government has approved induction of 56 new ships and six submarines to augment Indian navy's overall prowess while the country's first indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant has entered its final phase of construction, navy chief Adm. Sunil Lanba said on Monday.
Addressing a press conference on the eve of Navy Day, Adm. Lanba said a "great deal of progress" has been made on ensuring synergy and "jointness" among the three services.
At the same time, he said the Indian Air Force is against theatre commands and noted that a higher defence organisation must be set up before starting actual work in that direction.
In his nearly 70-minute media briefing, the admiral listed various steps being taken to modernise his force including induction of a large fleet of military jets and choppers, adding the construction of a second indigenous aircraft carrier is expected to start within a period of three years.
On China fast expanding its naval prowess, the navy chief said, "By 2050, we will also have 200 ships, 500 aircraft and be a world-class navy."
He said 32 ships and submarines are presently under construction in Indian shipyards and in addition to them, government has accorded approval for 56 ships and six submarines.
Asked about the possibility of the navy having to deal with a two-front war, the admiral said his force is overwhelmingly ahead of Pakistan navy, while the balance of power in the Indian Ocean rests with India compared to China.
"As far as Indian navy is concerned, we don't have two fronts. We have one and that is the Indian Ocean," he said.
Asked about delay on the part of Reliance Naval Engineering Ltd in supplying five offshore patrol vehicle, he said the company is undergoing corporate debt restructuring and the bank guarantee for the deal has been encashed.
On whether the government was looking at cancelling the deal, the navy chief said the contract is being looked into.
About the long-pending proposal to appoint a chief of defence staff as head of the tri-services, he said there was a consensus among the the army, navy and air force on it and that a proposal on the matter was sent to the defence ministry.
Referring to overall security scenario in the region, Adm. Lanba said, "Our maritime security strategy is aimed at providing a maritime environment that is free from all forms of traditional and non-traditional threats to our national development."
He also talked about a "friendly" government coming to power in Maldives and hoped that maritime cooperation with the island nation will again pick up momentum under the new regime.
Asked about the status of the proposal to set up a naval base at Seychelles' Assumption Island, he said talks were on with the government of the island nation.
To queries on the state of coastal security 10 years after the 26/11 attack, he said the process for installing automated identification transponders on around 2.5 lakh fishing boats has been started and talked about various other measures.
Adm Lanba asserted that the Indian navy continued to remain "on watch 24 X 7" safeguarding the country's national interests in the maritime domain.
About the strategic nuclear submarine project, he said the Indian navy has successfully completed the first deterrence patrol of INS Arihant this year, adding, "with this, we have operationalised the third and the most survivable segment of the country's nuclear triad."
He said the second indigenous aircraft carrier has received the necessary impetus and it will be a CATOBAR, 65000 ton ship.
He said the first of the two Indigenous Aircraft Carriers, presently in its third and final Phase of construction at Kochi, will undergo sea trials in 2020.
"Induction of Vikrant will provide significant fillip to the navy's blue water capability, increasing the reach and impact of carrier borne strike forces, both as a means of deterrence as well as during combat operations," he said.
In Visakhapatnam, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, vice-admiral Karambir Singh said that a MiG-29 squadron would also be positioned at the ENC once the IAC-1 was inducted,
"In keeping with the country's maritime interests, the navy has a requirement of two operational aircraft carriers. The Maritime Capability Perspective Plan envisages a force level of three aircraft carriers to ensure availability of at least two Carrier Battle Groups at any given time," the vice-admiral said.
While INS Vikramaditya has already been inducted in line with this plan, IAC-1 was under construction, he said.
"The case for IAC-2 is being progressed to meet all future requirements without any degradation in force levels," he added.
The navy was building required infrastructure like berthing facilities and associated services at the ENC for IAC-1.
Plans were also afoot to build a 10,000-ton ship-lift facility at the naval dockyard in Visakhapatnam. Once commissioned, this would be the second such facility in the country after the one at Karwar, he said.
Singh said orders were issued for building 27 warships and submarines under the Make in India initiative that would aid the capability building programme of the navy.
"On an average, four to five warships, including submarines, are normally inducted in a year. So, the new ones are expected to be inducted in the next five or six years," he said, in reply to a question.
On the increasing positioning of rival warships in the Indian Ocean region, the ENC chief said they too enhanced deployment of ships, submarines and aircrafts.
"We have transitioned to mission-based deployments, aimed at maximising our time at sea with defined outcomes. We also have automatic identification systems in place, specially in 'choke points' like the Malabar Straits," he said.
"Having designated our role in the Indian Ocean Region as the net security provider, the aim of these deployments is to have presence in relevant areas so as to secure our maritime interests and also assure our friends in the region that we are available to assist in the event of a developing situation," the vice admiral said.
The navy chief said specific guidelines for construction of submarines as part of the P75I project under the strategic partnership model will be released soon.
To a separate question on Kulbhushan Jadhav, the former navy staffer who was given death sentence by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage, the navy chief said, "We are in touch with Kulbhushan Jadhav's family and are proving all support."
In Mumbai, Western Naval Command chief vice admiral Girish Luthra said that only "dignified activities" will be permitted on board the Indian navy's decommissioned aircraft carrier Viraat
Since its decommissioning, several states have expressed interest to convert the ship into a tourism hub or a museum.
The carrier, built and deployed by the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom in 1959, served the Indian Navy from 1987 till it was formally decommissioned in March, 2017.
The Centaur-class aircraft carrier operated for 56 years under British and Indian flags, earning itself a Guinness World Records mention for being the oldest serving warship.
"Proposals have been received from several states, including Maharashtra, to convert Viraat into a tourist destination. We will be permitting only dignified activities there," vice admiral Luthra told reporters in Mumbai.
He also said the proposal from Maharashtra had been forwarded to the defence ministry.
The vice admiral said the ship, in its future avatar, could be a public private partnership initiative.
"It is going to be a public private partnership (model) which means the state as well as a private company is going to be involved. Whether it will be a convention centre or a museum or a tourism destination will depend on the PPP," he said.
About the Maharashtra government's proposal for the decommissioned aircraft carrier, vice admiral Luthra said, "It is being examined actively at the highest level."
On the maintenance cost of the decommissioned aircraft carrier, he said about 225 people have been deployed to take care of the ship, but the navy did not "do any costing" of it.
The ship was commissioned into the Indian navy on May 12, 1987, and operated Sea Harrier fighter aircraft, Sea King 42B anti-submarine helicopters, Sea King 42C commando carrier helicopters and Chetaks as its main air elements.
The aircraft carrier is reputed for having been out at sea for over six years, covering the globe 27 times.