Indian Navy: The CCS question



2/25/20232 min read

The Indian Navy has been working on expanding the number of capital ships in its fleet. Currently, there are 11 capital ships under construction. This includes two destroyers of the Visakhapatnam class (P-15B) with two other P-15Bs christened Visakhapatnam and Mormugao commissioned in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

The IN will have a fleet of around 33 capital ships by the end of this decade, just a few away from the sanctioned strength of 39 capital ships. This fleet will include 10 destroyers out of the 15 sanctioned and 23 frigates out of the 24 sanctioned. IN plans to add 5 more destroyers into the fleet in the coming years under the Next Generation Destroyer (NGD) project at a cost of ₹50,000cr.

The purpose of this article is to question what comes after the 5 NGDs.

As mentioned above, the sanctioned destroyer strength is 15. IN will have to get fresh sanctions from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to order more destroyers or frigates. And IN will indeed need a lot more than 15 destroyers to perform its duties in this period of great power competition.

The IN has approached the CCS several times before to get the number of sanctioned aircraft carriers increased from 2 to 3. CCS’s reluctance to increase the number of aircraft carriers casts doubts on if CCS will increase the number of sanctioned destroyers, which are meant to provide the fleet with a larger volume of AAW and AsuW missiles.

Destroyers are a key component of any Surface Action Group; they can’t be replaced with cruisers or frigates, which have a role of their own.

IN will have 15 destroyers after the delivery of 5 NGDs, only to retire the 3 ageing Delhi class destroyers a few years thereafter. This will again leave the Indian Navy with a fleet of <15 destroyers. We have witnessed from time to time that repeat orders placed after the delivery of a platform always results in slowing down the construction pace as the supply line has to play catch up again, idling after the delivery of subsystems for the last hull. A large order needs to be placed to avoid this, with a determined rate of commissioning of these key platforms. An IAC-1/Vikrant repeat order is destined to suffer from the same issue if an order isn’t placed soon enough.

IN won’t be retiring Kolkata (P-15A) until the late 40s/early 50s, which begs the question, what comes after NGD? Will the destroyer line go dry after 5-8 NGDs? Or will the CCS & IN go ahead with a large order before the supply line starts to dry up again? Sadly, we can’t predict the future, but we do hope that these mistakes are not repeated.

P-17A repeat order / P-17B

Chairman Managing Directors of MDL & GRSE disclosed in the Q1 FY23 earnings concall that IN has been contemplating a repeat order of P-17A (Nilgiri class) frigates, 7 in number, this is yet to be cleared by DAC or CCS, but would be appreciated by the industry if the order is placed before the line dries up. This will help IN to break the 30 frigate barrier before 2040.

Next Generation Corvette (NGC) and its development

DAC gave the green light to 8 NGCs last year; these will be multi-purpose corvettes capable of performing AAW, ASW, and ASuW. NGCs with their long legs will be able to perform duties like naval diplomacy and patrolling key Areas of Interest (AoI), freeing up the capital ships for other roles.

Bottom line:

CCS needs to accept and help IN implement a fleet-building strategy that keeps the production line wet and the commissioning of key platforms at a determined regular interval.