Indian Navy will acquire eleven next-generation off-shore patrol vessels under its ‘Make in India’ initiative amid China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean Region.
The Defence Acquisition Council has approved the new proposal after scrapping the earlier tender for acquiring six naval offshore patrol vessels from Anil Ambani’s Reliance Naval and Engineering (RNaval) at its shipyard in Pipavav, Gujarat, owing to delays.
News agency ANI reported quoting a Defense Ministry statement that the approved acquisition proposals included “the DRDO designed and developed Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) Systems for the Indian Air Force, Next Generation Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Indian Navy and modular bridges for the Indian Army”.
Earlier, an order for six patrol vessels was placed in 2011 and the navy was to receive the first vessel by 2014 and all five by 2016. However, Reliance Naval and Engineering (RNaval) failed to deliver even one NGOPV by 2018.
According to the earlier RFI issued by the defense ministry, the NGOPVs should be capable of protection of offshore assets, besides carrying out maritime interception operations (MIO) and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations. It should be capable of conducting presence-cum-surveillance missions, mine warfare (through modular payload), helicopter operation, and support of special operations.
The acquisition of the advanced patrol vessels holds immense importance for the Indian Navy as there has been a steady rise in the deployment of Chinese research vessels in the IOR.
Chinese Presence in Indian Ocean
According to an official quoted by The Hindu, the general area of deployment has been observed in 90 degrees east ridge and south-west Indian ridge. Chinese research vessels — Xiang Yang Hong 01 and Xiang Yang Hong 03 — docked in the Colombo port along with HAI CE 3301 near the Strait of Malacca.
Indian Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh had said earlier this month there has been no infringement in the Indian maritime boundaries by the Chinese research vessels and fishing vessels but in case of any infringement, “the Navy is fully prepared with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to deal with such situations”.
To maintain its role in maritime security in the region, the Indian Navy has acknowledged the need of enhancing its capabilities, especially in the underwater domain, amid China’s rising footprint in the region. However, the Indian Navy has about 150 ships and submarines, as per the Ministry of Defense’s website. The navy is aiming for 200 warships by 2027.
The Print has reported how China is asserting itself as a major power in IOR when they played up PLA Navy’s action to escort an Indian oil tanker carrying 31 crew members to a designated sea area in the Gulf of Aden.
A source had told the news website that unlike China, the Indian Navy protects “maritime trade in the Indo-Pacific without consideration of Flag-State or nationality”. This is China’s projection about its ability and presence in the region, the source said.
In a bid to increase its presence in the region, the Indian Navy has recently leased two MQ-9B Sea Guardian UAVs (a variant of Predator B) from the United States.