Navy to ask Centre for 18% of defence budget
Navy Vice Chief Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar said for the current financial year, the Navy’s share of the defence budget is 13.66%.
The navy’s Vice Chief, Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar, said that for the current financial year the navy’s share of the defence budget is 13.66 percent and hinted that this was low. While adding that the navy wants its share to be increased to 18 percent as was the case in 2012-13, he added that it would ask the government for additional funds during the revised estimates later this year.
“We will certainly seek more money. One of the challenges is meeting our aspirations. Our endeavour is to ask for a higher share of the capital budget within the defence services budget, which has also dropped in the last six to seven years. The navy’s share was about 18 percent of the defence budget in 2012-13. Today it stands at about 13.66 percent and would want it to go back to 18 percent...We will ask for additional budget during the revised estimates,” said Kumar.
The current state of the navy’s budget comes in the backdrop of three major acquisitions. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on September 28 will be in Mumbai to commission the second Scorpene class submarine, Khanderi, of the Project 75 into the navy, besides launching ‘Nilgiri, the first frigate of the Project 17A class and inaugurating an aircraft carrier dry dock which can accommodate the navy’s sole carrier, INS Vikramaditya, for repair and servicing. The cost of the three projects is about Rs 74,320 crore. Officials explained that the six P75 submarines cost about Rs 25,000 crore, while the Project 17A comprising seven ships are worth about Rs 48,000 crore and the dry dock located at the naval dockyard in Mumbai is Rs 1,320 crore. The initial cost of the P75 project when it began in early 2000s was about Rs 18,000 crore, became Rs 22,000 crore and later Rs 25,000 crore.
Kumar also said that the next level of submarines under Project 75 (India), also comprising of six vessels, worth about Rs 45,000 crore is on track and it is receiving responses to the Expression of Interest issued by it earlier this year. “We will be going to the government next month with a list of Indian strategic partners and Original Equipment Manufacturers. The selection process will include the technology of the foreign shipyard. Then we will issue the RFP (Request for Proposal), which will be issued to the strategic partners, asking them to tie up with the manufacturers,” he said.
The officer also said that the navy is keen on the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Navy. On being asked about the previous Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba’s comments in the past on the LCA not being up to the mark, Kumar said that the ‘whole issue is being misunderstood’. “The navy is in support of the LCA and we are meeting the obligations as far as stage payments (made when milestones are achieved) are concerned,” he said.
He added that the achievement of the first arrested landing (as done on an aircraft carrier) of the LCA at the Shore Based Test Facility in Goa last week will help the manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, to take the step towards the twin-engine deck-based Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), which will be inducted into the navy. “Depending on the timeline of that, we will be procuring 57 fighter aircraft for the INS Vikramaditya and the IAC-1 (read as Indigenous Aircraft Carrier),” he said, adding that more arrested landings will be done on the LCA’s naval version.
The need for the navy to build its combat potential comes in the backdrop of a constant Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean Region. Kumar said that recently a Chinese research vessel carried out research on wave heights and wind speed in the maritime domain, adding that this is permitted under the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “But, if he enters our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), one of our ships will tag along. He can’t do research, but only pass through,” Kumar said, that if it wants to conduct research here it will have to take India’s permission.
Since 2008, PLA Navy ships have been deployed in the Indian Ocean Region as part of its anti-piracy escort in the Gulf of Aden. Each escort has three ships. Recently, the 33rd group of this escort relieved the 32nd group. Another ship which was a landing platform dock was spotted. It had come to the Chinese base in Djibouti and was last seen heading for China from Malacca.
“With the three events planned for September 28, the Indian Navy’s combat potential, reach and sustenance will go up manifold,” said Kumar. He, however, admitted that there have been certain delays in the construction of the Scorpene submarines, adding that they were acceptable as long as ‘combat ready’ vessels were given. On being asked about certain issues in the Khanderi, he added, “All issues of Khanderi have been resolved. Its sea acceptance trials are ongoing and we hope to complete it before the ceremony on September 28,” he said adding the Project 17A ships will be ready for induction by 2022-25.