By Alan Jai Kuriako and Bhagavan Hindustani
The Indian Navy has one of the world’s largest fleet of warships and been designated into three naval commands based on India’s geographical position. It consists of the Western Naval Command (overlooking the Arabian Sea and with combating Pakistan and other western threats as its main objective), Eastern Naval Command (overlooking the Bay of Bengal and the Straits of Malacca and with combating China and other eastern threats as its main objective), as well as a Southern Command (mainly used as a training command).
Western Naval Command of Indian navy
The Western naval command was formed on March 1st, 1989. This naval command is based in Mumbai, Maharashtra and is currently headed by a three star flag officer with the rank of Vice admiral. His official title is ‘Flag officer Commanding-in-chief Western command’ (FOC-in-C). Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar P, PVSM, AVSM, VSM is currently the commanding-in-chief officer of the western naval command which he took over in January, 2019.
The main roles of Western naval command are
- Persuasion and deterrence from a position of strength.
- Protecting the coastal and island territories.
- Safeguarding the western side of the sea from low-level maritime threats.
- Protecting the Indian trade (maritime) in international waters.
- Supporting the research teams of Marine sciences in Antarctica and IOR regions.
- Performing humanitarian assistance and disaster management roles.
We will now go through the state-of-the-art capital ships and other weapon systems Western command possesses:
INS Vikramaditya [Designation: R33]
INS Vikramaditya, the flagship carrier of Indian navy which is a modified Kiev class aircraft carrier which entered into service in 2013 comes under the Western naval command. This flagship carrier has a displacement of 45,400 tons. The motto of the carrier is “Strike far, strike sure”.
The armament of this flagship carrier includes; 4 x AK-630 CIWS, Barak 1 SAM system that was salvaged from INS Godavari (possibly already replaced by 48 x Barak 8 during the last refit). It can also carry a maximum of 36 aircrafts of which 26 are the Mig-29’K’ multi-role fighters and 10 x Kamov Ka-31 AWE&C and Westland Sea king ASW helicopters. Vikramaditya is a STOBAR carrier capable of operating both aircrafts and helicopters. It also operates HAL Chetak and HAL Dhruv helicopters under aircraft guard duties.
Project 15A Kolkata Class Destroyers [Designation: D63, D64, D65]
Western naval command also have 3 Kolkata Class destroyers. Kolkata Class destroyers are a class of stealth guided-missile destroyers which were constructed by Mazagon Docks Ltd. These are the first line of stealth destroyers ever built in India and a huge change in design philosophy from the Project 15 Delhi Class destroyers. They will also be the predecessors of future stealth destroyers of the Indian Navy such as the P15B Vishakhapatnam Class and Project 18 destroyers. These destroyers have a displacement of 7400 tons and have a maximum speed of 30 knots.
Armament of these destroyers include; 32 x Barak-8 missiles, 16 x BrahMos missiles, 1 x 76mm Oto Melara gun, 4 x AK-630 CIWS, 4 x 533 mm torpedo tubes and 2 x RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launchers along with 2 x Dhruv or Sea king helicopters.
Project 15 Delhi Class Destroyers [Designation: D60, D61, D62]
Delhi Class guided-missile destroyers precede the Kolkata class destroyers and western naval command have three of these destroyers. These are the largest vessels that were built in India at Mazagon Dock Ltd at that time. These destroyers have a displacement of 6,200 tons and have a top speed of 32 knots.
Armament of these class of destroyers include; 16 x KH-35E SSM, 16 x Barak-1 missiles, 2 x Shtil SAM systems (48 missiles total), 100mm AK-100 gun, 2 x AK-630 guns, 2 x RBU-600 rocket launchers, Quintuple 533mm torpedo tubes with two rails of depth charges and 2 x Sea King helicopters.
Project 16A Brahmaputra Class Frigates [Designation: F31, F37, F39]
Brahmaputra Class frigates are a class of guided-missile frigates which were designed and built in Indian by GSRE. These are an enhancement of Godavari Class frigates with a displacement of 3850 tons. Top speed of these frigates is more than 30 knots. Indian navy has 3 of these frigates and the western command operates all of them.
Armament of these frigates include; 16 x Kh-35 SSM, 24 x Barak 1 Sam units, 1 x Oto Melara 76 mm gun, 4 x Ak-630 30 mm Gatling gins, 2 x triple ILAS 3 324 mm torpedo tubes and 2 x Sea King or Chetak helicopters.
Talwar Class Frigates [Designation: F40, F43, F44, Future Batch IV]
Talwar class frigates are also a class of guided-missile frigates which were an improved version of Krivak II class frigates. These frigates were constructed by Goa Shipyard limited. These frigates have a displacement of 3850 tons with a maximum speed of 32 knots. Currently, 6 frigates have been inducted into the Indian Navy with a follow on order for 4 more Talwar (2 built in Russia and two more to be built by Goa Shipyard – the first time these frigates will be built in India).
Armament of these frigates include; 24 x Shtil-1 medium range missiles, 8 x Igla-1E systems, 8 x VLS launched Klub missiles [F40, F43, F44] or 8 x VLS BrahMos missiles [F45, F50, F51 – Eastern Armada], 1 x 100mm A-190E naval gun, 2 x AK-630 CIWS, 2 x Kashtan CIWS, 2 x twin 533 DTA-53-11356 torpedo tubes, 1 x RBU-6000 rocket launcher. It can also operate a Ka-28 or a Dhruv helicopter.
Veer Class Corvettes [Designation: K43, K45 – 48, K83, K91 – 92]
Veer class corvettes are a class of customized version of Russian Tarantul class corvettes built by both Mazagon and Goa shipyards. With a maximum speed of 36 knots, and a displacement of 455 tons, the corvettes of this class are meant for quick attacks on enemy ports and vessels. The vessels have served valiantly for 30+ years and operate under the 22nd killer missile vessel squadron.
Armament of these corvettes include; 4 x P-15 Termit missiles or 16 x Kh-35 missiles (only for K91 and K92), 1 x quad SA-N-5 Grail launcher (1 x Strela 2M MANPADS for K91 and K92), 1 x 76 mm 60-cal main gun, 62-cal Oto Melara 76 mm gun (only for K91 and K92) and 2 x Ak-630 30 mm gun. Only 8 Veer Class corvettes are currently in service from the original 13 units and almost of them are based under the Western command, with the exception of INS Nashak which is based at Port Blair.
Abhay Class Corvettes [Designation: P33, P34, P35]
Abhay class corvettes are the customized version of the Soviet era Pauk – Class corvettes. These corvettes mainly undertake the coastal patrol and anti-submarine warfare. In 2004, INS Agray, an Abhay class corvette was damaged due to a misfire from an RBU-1200 launcher. From then, the corvette was decommissioned and since then have been used as a patrol ship and an electronic-warfare testing platform. Displacement of these corvettes is 440 tons with a maximum speed of 28 knots.
Armaments include; 1 x Sterla-2M SAM, 1 x 76 mm AK-176 gun, 1 x 30 mm AK-630 gun, 4 x 533 mm torpedo tubes and 2 x RBU-1200 anti-submarine rocket launchers. Three out of the four Abhay Class corvettes are still active and part of the Western Command.
Project 75 Kalvari Class SSK [Designation: S21, S22, S23]
Kalvari class submarines are a class of diesel-electric attack submarines that are under licence production by Mazagon docks Ltd under TOT. These submarines have a maximum displacement of 1775 tonnes and a maximum speed of 20 knots. Under this programme, 6 vessels will be built with additional refits done to insert an indigenous AIP system. These submarines will also be complemented by the future submarine class (P75I) and the indigenous P76 class as well. It is presumed that the first three vessels of this programme will be based with the western fleet while the other three (Vela, Vagir and Vagsheer) will be based in the Eastern fleet.
Armaments of these submarines include; 18 x AEG-SUT Mod-1 torpedoes or 30 x mines and SM39 Exocet missiles.
Shishumar Class SSK [Designation: S44, S45, S46, S47]
Shishumar class submarines are a class of diesel-electric attack submarines which were originally manufactured by German company Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HWD) and later were manufactured in India by Mazagon docks limited under TOT. These sum-marines have a maximum displacement of 1660 tons and a maximum speed of 22 knots. A deal for the mid-life refit of these submarines was made between Indian navy and Mazagon docks in technical cooperation with ThyssenKrupp Marine systems was awarded and the deal is set to be completed by 2021.
Armaments of these submarines include; 14 x AEG-SUT Mod-1 torpedoes, 24 x external strap-on mines and UGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles.
Kilo (Sindhughosh) Class SSK [Designation: S55, S56, S57, S59]
Sindhughosh (Kilo) class submarines are a class of diesel-electric attack submarines which were manufactured by the Russian Sevmash shipyard. These submarines have a maximum displacement of 3076 tonnes and a maximum speed of 17 knots. Out of the original 10 kilo submarines, only 8 submarines are still active, with INS Sindhuvir transferred to Myanmar and INS Sindhurakshak scrapped after an explosion onboard that sank it in the Mumbai harbour.
Armaments of these submarines include; 18 x Type 53-65 torpedoes, 24 x DM-1 mines and Club-S missiles (for the final unit).
Current and Potential Fleet Deployment
This is an amalgamation of current vessels (capital ships) in the Indian Navy and their current deployed commands as well as future vessels (currently being build at shipyards, does not include planned vessels). There is a clear bias in strength towards the Eastern Fleet as it has to assert power against an ever-expanding Chinese navy (PLAN). The Western Fleet is more poised towards quick action against the most prominent threat in the Arabian Sea; the Pakistan Navy. This section includes types of capital ships, their quantities as well an estimated count of the weapon systems (mainly missiles) that they possess. SFC assets such as SSBNs are not included as their weapon systems are not fully disclosed and they do not support operations of the western or eastern fleets but the Indian Navy as a whole.
• INS Vikramaditya
• 3 x Kolkata Class Destroyers
• 3 x Delhi Class Destroyers
• 3 x Brahmaputra Class Frigates
• 5 x Talwar Class Frigates (Batch I & Batch IV)
• 8 x Veer Class Corvettes
• 3 x Abhay Class Corvettes
• 3 x P75 SSK
• 4 x Shishumar Class SSK
• 4 x Sindhughosh (Kilo) Class SSK
Associated Weapon Systems:
• BrahMos x 64
• P15 Termit (Styx) x 24
• Harpoon x 12
• Kh-35 x 128
• Klub x 24
• Exocet x 18
• Barak-8 x 144
• Barak-1 x 120
• Shtil-1 x 264
Part 2 will discuss the Eastern Armada as well as its weapon systems inventory.