The three services are taking steps to improve ‘jointmanship’ and have agreed on the appointment of a Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba, said on Monday.
“The three services have finally agreed to a PCCoSC, what his roles and responsibilities will be,” Adm. Lanba said at a press conference ahead of Navy Day on December 4.
“This proposal has been forwarded to the Defence Ministry and it is being examined there.”
The PCCoSC is envisaged as a single-point military adviser to the government.
Adm. Lanba, who is the current Chairman, CoSC, said there were no differences among the service chiefs, and that the three of them generally agreed on “all issues among ourselves including overruling our individual headquarters to take jointman issues, forward”.
On the proposal for setting up theatre commands, he said there was need first for a higher defence organisation in New Delhi before creating them. “We need one operational commander to look after that theatre,” he said.
Asked about the long delay by Reliance Naval Engineering Ltd. (RNEL) in delivering Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPV), Adm. Lanba asserted that there was “no preferential treatment” for the company. While the contract had not been cancelled, the Navy was examining the issue to see what could be done.
“RNEL is undergoing corporate debt restructuring. They are being taken to court by their banker IDBI,” he said, adding that RNEL’s bank guarantee had been encashed and that punitive action was being taken.
In 2011, Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering was given a ₹2,500-crore order for five NOPVs but work never started as the shipyard got into debt and was subsequently taken over by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence. While the first NOPV was to have been delivered in early 2015, as per the original schedule, no deliveries have been made till date.
‘Only one front’
On a possible two-front war, Adm. Lanba observed that for the Navy, “Indian Ocean is the only front”, adding that on that front the balance of power remained with the Indian Navy, China’s increasing presence notwithstanding. However, in the South China Sea, China had a similar advantage, he said.
Stating that a total of three Carrier Battle Groups (CBG) would suffice for ensuring maritime security in the Indian Ocean region, the Naval chief made a strong pitch for a second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC).
India’s first IAC is presently in its third and final phase of construction at Kochi and is expected to commence sea trials by mid-2020.
A carrier’s substantial integral air power with rapid mobility would be a force multiplier giving India enhanced combat power to protect its maritime interests and sea lines of communication, Adm. Lanba said. “Case for a second IAC has received necessary impetus… spread over a period of 10 years, the expenditure would not only be feasible, but would also be ploughed back into our own economy.”
China has significantly scaled up construction of aircraft carriers with the first indigenous carrier undergoing trials and a second one under construction. With threat from China, Japan has recently announced that its intent to deploy F-35 fighter jets on its helicopter carriers.
The Navy envisages IAC-II having a displacement of 65,000 tonnes and featuring a Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery (CARTOBAR) for launching aircraft. “We will see the start of construction in three years,” Adm. Lanba added.
The tempo of overseas deployment and exercises was at an all-time high this year, he added. “Indian Navy conducted 20 exercises with friendly foreign navies.”