Indian Navy gears for energy security role

By Indo Asian News Service | Saturday, December 02, 2006 | 7:58:36 PM IST (+05:30 GMT) Comment 0 Comment

New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) The Indian Navy is ramping its force and surveillance levels as it gears to protect the country's energy security assets in a wide swathe ranging from the Sakhalin Islands off Russia's east coast to South America.

New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) The Indian Navy is ramping its force and surveillance levels as it gears to protect the country's energy security assets in a wide swathe ranging from the Sakhalin Islands off Russia's east coast to South America.

Toward this end, it is in the process of acquiring 42 state-of-the-art ships, including two aircraft carriers and six submarines, eight maritime reconnaissance aircraft, a dozen rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as also enhanced radars and satellite-based technology, navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said here Saturday.

And, in shaping what in military parlance is termed a 'maritime battlefield' the navy is firming interoperability capabilities with its counterparts from the US, Britain, France, and Russia, as also neighbouring and Southeast Asian countries, Mehta told reporters ahead of the Navy Day celebrations here Monday.

Simultaneously, the navy has also evolved a joint war doctrine involving the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force to integrate the operations of all three wings, he added.

'We are an India-centric force. We are not only looking at countering threats but to protect the country's economic and energy interests,' Mehta explained.

'This task has extended our area of operations. This might necessitate our operating in distant waters, or in conjunction with other friendly navies. But we certainly do not intend to be an international policeman,' he added.

According to him, the navy envisaged playing military, diplomatic, constabulary and benign roles to 'enhance regional stability through the engagement of regional and extra-regional maritime states to build capacity and enhance regional capability amongst all the littorals of the Indian Ocean region'.

This, Mehta said, was necessary for protecting New Delhi's interests in its 2.02 million square km exclusive economic zone in the Indian Ocean, as also guarding the offshore oil blocks domestic companies had acquired in areas like the Sakhalin Islands and off the Venezuelan coast.

'As the Indian economy grows, the country is making increasing investments in distant places to ensure the availability of energy flow to maintain this growth. This is gradually defining what may be called our secondary area of maritime interest,' he said.

Thus, the navy aims to transform itself into a 'three-dimensional, technology enabled and fully networked force that can operate across the full spectrum of requirements', Mehta added.

To gear up for this role, the navy is in the process of augmenting its 136-vessel force by adding two aircraft carriers, nine destroyers and frigates, six submarines, four corvettes, one tanker, three offshore patrol vessels, 10 fast attack craft, and seven other vessels. These ships will be progressively commissioned till 2012.

Of these, 37 vessels, including six French-designed Scorpene submarines and one aircraft carrier, are being built in the country. One aircraft carrier and three frigates are being acquired from Russia.

This apart, the navy will also acquire the capability to effect an armed sea-borne assault when the landing platform dock USS Trenton that can carry 900 fully-armed troops joins the fleet by the middle of next year.

Mehta admitted that an area of concern was the navy's 'lack of surveillance capabilities for various reasons' that had spurred it to reduce the gap thro

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