Over the past 75 years since Independence, India’s ‘Cinderella Service’ has emerged from its chrysalis, having pulled itself up by its bootstraps and gotten its act together a little better than its sister services. Much of this is because it believes in remaining compact in size, intensive training, and un-ambivalent decision-making. Over the years, the Navy has also reaped the benefits of exposure to foreign Navies and their technologies to ape from. It is the only service with an unclassified doctrine and an ambitious maritime strategy to guide its acquisition plan; as it is said, a vision without strategy is but an illusion.
India’s peninsular location juts into the Indian Ocean like a dagger. It favours India’s strategic dynamics in the region and the world. The realisation has come, that the proximity and position of India in the Indo-Pacific Ocean remain India’s trump card, and the Navy is its instrument to play the right hand. India’s Navy is accepted as a technology-adept Navy, and it has displayed its forte in the around 15 International exercises it has taken part in the year gone by.
The Navy is only 65,000 strong with only 15 per cent of the Defence Budget, which amount waxes and wanes, so looks always to solve its challenges with inputs of technology. The Indian Navy has an unclassified Strategy document to guide its geo-strategic outlook and a Maritime Doctrine to navigate how it is to proceed to acquire appropriate platforms and equipment to suit its doctrine for war, peace and humanitarian relief. Its modern technology journey began with the GPS Magnavox navigation position marker in the 1970s with the building of a modern Leander at Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL). Magnavox got called ‘Cdr Magnavox, and the Navy moved to Ring Laser Gyros, as its FPS 5 Gunnery systems migrated to computer systems, and Commodore Arogayaswami Paulraj Bharat Vibhushan currently in Stanford USA, introduced Panoramic sonars. WESEE fused combined Communications and Command systems, and Bharat Electronics Ltd did the manufacturing.
During Exercise Malabars, the US Navy personnel boarded participating ships as ‘Sea Riders’ to operate the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIX) space internet communications systems on loan with antennae to provide the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) picture. The journey picked up the pace with UA8/9, the latest Electronic Warfare (EW), and Searcher and Heron drones from Israel. Dr APJ Kalam (Ex ISRO) and Dr Aatre (Sonar Specialist), with the Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV), took the Navy forward with missiles and nuclear propulsion and Dr Pillai (Ex ISRO) gave the BRAHMOS missile from an Indian company. Reports from Defence Advisers after visits to the two RECAAP and the Changi Fusion centres in Singapore provided inputs to set up the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), at Gurgaon.
The Navy’s hallmark is it partnered with DRDO with the Navy’s Weapons and Electronics Systems Engineering Establishment (WESEE) observation for projects. The Navy gave impetus to the private sector and Universities for technology projects and cooperated with ISRO when it became the first service to move from VSAT communication to GSAT 7, a data satellite with varied frequencies with Orbit Technologies Ltd of Israel for the Rukmini and Rukmani systems.
The Navy already operates the Ministry of Earth Sciences ship. Since 2021 it has been operating the 15 000 ton INS Dhruv, India’s missile tracking ship, with powerful radars and the INS Anvesh A-41 to test track space, and the next vessel, A-42, is planned to have a ballistic missile interceptor AD-2. A big launcher for testing from shore is shown at DEFEXPOs. With a salute on Navy Day to men and women in white, a poem is offered.
“Sails there at sea, the Indian Sailor with a smile,
For always, he says, and reminds his shipmates,
This is my native Bharata, the land of my birth,
Its vast seas and interests are mine to protect.
He has faithfully done so for the last 75 years,
On a shoestring budget, digging into Technology,
So that his successors, men and now women,
Follow in his footsteps on the strong keel they laid,
And value education in the Navy.”
Shan No Varuna!
-The writer is an Indian Navy veteran and Curator of the IMF Maritime Museum at C-443 Defence Colony in Delhi. His book The Indian Navy@75: Reminiscing the Voyage (ISBN number: 978-93-81722-33- Variety Books) is being released during Navy Week.