India to Expand Naval Arsenal in Response to Growing Maritime Threats
India is bolstering its naval capabilities with a significant order for 68 warships and vessels worth approximately Rs 2 lakh crore, as part of its ongoing efforts to strengthen its blue-water force. This expansion is aimed at safeguarding India’s substantial geostrategic interests and countering China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
The Indian Navy, currently comprising 132 warships, 143 aircraft, and 130 helicopters, has also received initial approval for eight next-generation corvettes, nine submarines, five survey vessels, and two multi-purpose vessels to be domestically manufactured in the coming years. However, challenges such as slow construction progress in Indian shipyards, the decommissioning of old ships, and budget constraints will limit the Navy’s force to around 155-160 warships by 2030.
To enhance its strategic reach, mobility, and flexibility in the IOR and beyond, India aims to eventually have at least 175 to 200 warships by 2035. This expansion will necessitate an increase in the number of fighters, aircraft, helicopters, and drones.
The rising maritime threat posed by China is a significant factor driving India’s naval expansion. The People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) has been aggressively seeking overseas bases, and it has significantly expanded its naval capabilities, with projections suggesting it may reach 555 warships within the next few years. China’s aircraft carriers are also expected to operate in the IOR in the near future.
Despite the pressing need to counter these developments, India is still awaiting preliminary approval for the construction of its third aircraft carrier, which could take over a decade to build. Instead of a more powerful and cost-effective 65,000-tonne carrier, plans are now being considered for a smaller 45,000-tonne “repeat order” of INS Vikrant.
The Indian Navy is also grappling with a reduction in its underwater combat capabilities. Delays in launching “Project-75-India” to build six advanced diesel-electric submarines have prompted the government to acquire three more French-origin Scorpene submarines, in addition to the initial six, to be built at Mazagon Docks.
Despite these challenges, there is some good news on the horizon. Seven 6,670-tonne stealth frigates are under construction, with delivery expected between 2024 and 2026. Additionally, contracts have been signed for fleet support ships, missile vessels, and offshore patrol vessels, which will further enhance India’s naval capabilities in the coming years.
The Indian Navy’s ambitious plans underscore its commitment to safeguarding its maritime interests and ensuring security in the strategically vital Indian Ocean Region.