THE GROWTH OF THE NAVY BETWEEN 1965 AND 1975
If one takes a bird's eye view of thirty years of naval planning from 1947 to 1977, three landmarks stand out very prominently. These are:
(a) 1957 to 1959 when the Navy took several measures to cope with American aid to the Pakistan Navy
(b) 1963 to 1965 when the Defence Plan 1964 - 1969 was formulated after the Chinese attack in 1962 and the Navy turned to Russia for its acquisitions.
(c) 1973 to 1975 when the Defence Plan 1974 - 1979 was formulated after the 1971 Indo - Pak war and Indo Russian naval cooperation moved to a higher threshold.
Both the 1964 - 1969 and the 1974 - 1979 Defence Plans were approved after detailed consideration of the threats, the inter service priorities, the scarcity of foreign exchange, the likelihood of deferred credit being available for the requirements which had to be imported and the capabilities and limitations of Defence R & D and Defence Production.
From the outset, three realities affected Defence budgets generally and the Navy's budget in particular:
(a) The resources required for national development necessarily receive higher priority than the resources required for defence.
(b) The paucity of Free Foreign Exchange (FFE).
(c) Until 1962, defence preparedness was mainly against attack by Pakistan. After 1962, defence had to cater for threats both from China and from Pakistan.
HIGHLIGHTS OF DEVELOPMENTS BETWEEN 1965 AND 1975
The details of the major developments during the period 1965 to 1975 have been discussed in the respective chapters on:
(a) The Russian Acquisitions 1965 to 1971 and 1972 to 1975.
(b) The Leander Frigate Project and Indigenous Warship Design.
(c) The creation of Submarine Arm in 1968.
(d) The augmentation of the Air Arm with additional aircraft and helicopters.
The highlights are summarised below.
The arrival of the submarines from mid 1968 onwards gave the anti submarine frigates and the anti submarine Alize aircraft their long awaited exercise time with submarines. The increase in anti submarine effectiveness was however short of expectations. There were several reasons:
- For the first time, the Navy came face to face with the unusual hydrological conditions in Indian waters. These conditions favoured the submarines, who could lurk in shadow zones below sea layers where ships sonars could not penetrate. This highlighted the need for ships to have variable depth sonars and for helicopters to have dunking sonars.
- The submariners were eager not only to demonstrate their offensive potential in pro-sub exercises but also to work out their capabilities and limitations for operational patrols during war. Submarine time had therefore to be shared between anti submarine exercises, pro-sub exercises and training more submarine personnel to enable the fledgling Submarine Arm to grow.
- The annual rotation of ships crews meant that personnel who had acquired precious anti submarine proficiency had to be replaced by others who needed to acquire this proficiency. This retarded the build up of anti submarine expertise.
- The time lag in the setting up of specialised workshops and test facilities resulted in the sonars themselves not being in top condition.
All these factors contributed to the sinking of the KHUKRI in the 1971 War. KHUKRI's disastrous loss awakened the Navy at large to the lethality of the modern submarine and led to extensive measures to increase anti submarine capability.
Meanwhile, four new improved submarines entered service from mid 1973 onwards. These helped sustain the numerous evaluations to improve anti submarine effectiveness.
The Seaking Anti Submarine Helicopters
The Pakistan Navy's acquisition from America of their first submarine GHAZI and its subsequent programme for acquiring Daphne class submarines from France made it clear by 1968 that it intended to concentrate its offensive potential in submarines and use its surface fleet defensively. At this time, Western navies were developing anti submarine helicopters equipped with a sonar which could be lowered into the sea while hovering and armed with an air-dropped, anti-submarine homing torpedo. This innovation was meant to overcome two of the major handicaps which afflicted surface ships. The helicopter, being airborne, could not be hit by the submarines lethal torpedoes. Secondly, by having a sonar whose depth could be adjusted, the helicopter deprived the submarine of its ability to hide below the temperature layers of the sea. The latest Seaking helicopters were being developed for the British Navy. In 1969, orders were placed for six helicopters and their homing torpedoes. These arrived just in time before war broke out in December 1971.
Due to their newness and shortages of technical equipment, they were not utilised to their full potential during the 1971 War. It took another two years for the Seakings potential to be fully realised. By 1975, six new improved Seakings arrived and it become possible to combine the Seaking's potential with that of new anti submarine ships that had entered service.
The Advent of Anti Ship Missiles
The Pakistan Navy's bombardment of Dwarka in 1965 and the International Court's award in 1967, which gave Pakistan a portion of the territory it claimed in Kutch, led the Navy to propose a plan for the Defence of Kutch. In 1969, an agreement was signed for the acquisition of the Russian missile boats which had first been offered in 1964 and whose efficacy had been demonstrated in the 1967 Arab Israel war when an Egyptian missile boat summarily sank an Israeli frigate. By end 1971, the missile boats had arrived and their support facilities had been located in and around Bombay.
The effectiveness of the missile attacks on Karachi led to withdrawal of the Pakistan Navy's ships into Karachi harbour and to merchant ships seeking from the Government of India in New Delhi assurance of safe passage. This triggered the Navy's efforts to increase the number of vessels fitted with anti ship missiles. To start with, a squadron of new improved missile boats were acquired from Russia. Missile launchers and their fire control systems were cannibalised from the older boats which were non operational, and transplanted into two frigates and a missile coast battery. The frigates which followed the Leanders and the corvettes all had anti ship missiles. In due course, the new improved Seakings and the new Sea Harriers were equipped with anti ship missiles.
The Russian Acquisitions
By 1971, four submarines, a submarine depot ship, a submarine rescue vessel, two landing ships, five submarine chasers and four patrol boats had arrived and were based in Visakhapatnam. Though they had been acquired for the Bay of Bengal and the A&N Islands, they had started being utilised in the Arabian Sea as well.
To support these acquisitions, work had commenced in Visakhapatnam on the construction of a new Dockyard, of submarine support facilities, of torpedo preparation facilities and of training facilities. The progress of Dockyard construction was seriously retarded however by the sinking of the floors of the new workshops, due to the inability of the local soil to bear their heavy weight. These delays in setting up maintenance and refit facilities progressively afflicted the operational availability of the Russian acquisitions.
The Leander Frigate Project
The construction of the first three frigates had commenced but was behind schedule due to the teething problems of start up, the changes in radars, fire control systems and AIO from the second frigate onwards and the problems of indigenising major items like the propulsion and auxiliary machinery systems.
Aircraft for VIKRANT
The only aircraft which could replace the ageing Seahawks were the American naval A4 Skyhawks. Efforts to acquire the A4's had not been successful. It was decided therefore to avail of the opportunity to acquire the Seahawks being disposed of by the German Navy. These aircraft arrived in 1968 and were to prove very useful in 1971.
VIKRANT underwent a refit from 1972 to 1975 during which facilities were installed for operating the Seaking helicopters.
The Seahawks phased out in the late 1970s and the Alizes were refurbished to extend their life into the 1980s.
The Defence Reviews of 1973 and 1975
In 1973, a national security analysis was completed by a high level APEX committee. In view of the prevailing maritime situation, the Committee recommended special consideration for naval development and cleared the Navy's proposals for replacing old ships and the development of support facilities.
Unfortunately, the sharp rise in international oil prices after the Arab Israel war of October 1973 seriously dislocated national budgeting and decelerated almost all defence projects. The Navy's discussions with Russia however continued and it was possible to finalise the programme for the next series of Russian acquisitions.
The debilitating impact of spiraling inflation on the non Russian defence projects made it necessary to appoint another high level APEX Committee in 1975. It reviewed defence needs in the light of the strategic developments which had taken place after 1973 and the compulsions of the economic situation. It recommended enhanced allocation of funds to support core naval schemes which otherwise would have languished.
DEVELOPMENTS AFTER 1975
The Government's acceptance of the recommendations of the APEX Committees of 1973 and 1975 enabled the Navy to progress the following major schemes in the years after 1975.
|Russian Acquisitions||Guided missile frigates, ocean going rocket boats and coastal minesweepers.|
|Indigenous Construction||Improvements to the 5th Leander (TARAGIRI) and 6th Leander (VINDHYAGIRI). Missile frigates of the GODAVARI class. Missile Corvettes of the KHUKRI Class. Survey Ships. Seaward Defence Boats. Landing Craft.|
|Modernisations||TALWAR and TRISHUL were fitted with surface to surface missiles. VIKRANT was fitted with new radars, AIO and facilities to operate the Seaking helicopters and Sea Harrier aircraft.|
|Conversions||The anti aircraft frigates BRAHMAPUTRA, BETWA and BEAS were converted to the Training Role to replace CAUVERY, KRISHNA and TIR.|
|Acquisitions||Improved submarines from Russia and Germany.|
|Modernisations||The improvements in the VELA class were retrofitted in the earlier submarines.|
|Acquisitions||Second aircraft carrier VIRAAT from Britain. Russian IL 38 MRASW aircraft. Transferfrom the Air Force of Super Constellation MR aircraft. British Sea Harriers to replace the Seahawks. British Islander and indigenous Kiran aircraft for training aircrew. TU 142s from Russia for LRMP|
|Modernisation||Refurbishment of Alizes.|
|Helicopters||Acquisition of British Seakings, Russian Kamovs and indigenous MATCH and SAR Chetak helicopters.|
Overview of Ships and Submarines Acquired Between 1965 and 1975
The following table provides an overview of the ships and submarines acquired by the Navy between 1965 and 1975:
|ACQUISITION||STANDARD DISPLACEMENT (Tons)||NAME||VINTAGE||YEAR ORDERED||YEAR DELIVERED||SUPPLIER|
|Landing Ship Tank (Medium)||730||GHARIAL GULDAR||NewW||1965||1966||Russia|
|Inshore Mine sweepers||170||BHATKAL BULSAR||New||1961||1968-70||MDL|
|Coastal Mine sweepers||360||KARWAR CANNANORE CUDDALORE KAKINADA||New||1952||1956||Britain|
|Leander Class Frigates||2950||NILGIRI||New||1966||1972||MDL|
|Anti Submarine Vessels||1000||KAMOTRA KADMATT KAVARATTI KILTAN KATCHHAN||New||1965||1968 to 1969||RUSSIA|
|Submarine||1975||KALVARI KHANDERI KARANJ KURSURA||New||1965||1967 to 1969||RUSSIA|
|Submarine Depot Ship||5900||AMBA||New||1965||1968||RUSSIA|
|Seaward Defence Boats||150||AMAR AJIT ATUL||New||1963||1969||GRW|
|Patrol Boats||80||PAMBAN PANAJI PURI PULICAT||New PANVEL||1965||1967||RUSSIA|
|Missile Boats||180||VINASH VIDYUT VIJETA VEER NIRGHAT NIRBHIK NASHAK NIPAT||New||1969||1971||Russia|
|Submarine Rescue Vessels||800||NISTAR||Reserve Stock||1969||1971||RUSSIA|
|Anti Submarine Vessels||1000||ARNALA ANDROTH ANJAJIP||Reserve Stock 1968/69||1971||1972||RUSSIA|
|Anti Submarine Vessels||1000||ANDAMAN AMINI||New||1971||1973-74||RUSSIA|
|Submarine||1975||VELA VAGIR VAGLI VAGHSHEER||New Improved||1971||1973-74||RUSSIA|
|Leander Class Frigates||2950||HIMGIRI||New Improved||1968||1974||MDL|
|Landing Ship Tank (Medium)||1120||GHORPAD KESARI SHARDUL SHARABH||New Improved||1972||1975-76||Poland|