Indian Navy emerging as a major air force - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 6 November 2013

Indian Navy emerging as a major air force

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 7th Nov 13

The Indian Navy is on its way to becoming a major air force, with the fleet air arm having achieved several landmarks this year. In May, the first MiG-29K squadron was commissioned at INS Hansa in Goa, with twenty world-class Russian fighters. In August, the first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant was launched at Kochi. Later this month, Russia will hand over the INS Vikramaditya, formerly the Admiral Gorshkov, which will supplement the INS Viraat to become the navy’s second aircraft carrier.

Today the navy received its first Hawk-132 Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT), on which it will train the pilots that fly its MiG-29Ks and, when cleared to join the fleet, the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is building 17 Hawk AJTs for the navy.

The navy is on track to operate more than 300 fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. These including 45 MiG-29K/KUBs; over 50 Tejas LCAs; 8-12 Boeing P8 multi-mission aircraft; 36 Dornier 228 utility aircraft; 36 medium range maritime reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft; 5-10 long range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft; 90 medium helicopters; 59 naval utility helicopters; and more than 30 airborne early warning helicopters.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) currently gives naval pilots basic training on the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II, along with air force trainee pilots. After that, naval flyers branch off, doing Stage-2 training on the Kiran Mark I; and will now do Stage-3 training on the navy’s own Hawk fleet. Far-sighted naval planners say the day will come when the navy, emerging as a major operator of aircraft, will train all its pilots in-house.

“The induction of this highly capable (Hawk-132) aircraft will provide the much needed fillip to the training of combat pilots in the Navy by bridging the gap between basic flying training and advanced fighter flying,” said the navy today.

While Stage-1 and Stage-2 training mainly hone a pilot’s flying skills, Stage-3 training on the Hawk involves combat flying, which includes advanced navigation and the use of airborne weapons.

The Hawk 132 has an advanced navigation system and can carry air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground rockets, bombs and guns. The trainee pilot learns how to use a HOTAS (Hands on Throttle and Stick) system that allows him to select weapons without removing his hands from the flying controls.

Capable of carrying two extra fuel tanks under its wings to extend its operating range, the Hawk can even be used in a combat role as a light strike aircraft.

HAL will deliver five Hawks to the navy this fiscal year, with the remaining 12 delivered over three years. While naval pilots train on these 17 AJTs, the IAF will fly 106 Hawk AJTs, making India the largest operator of Hawks in the world. Currently 18 countries operate almost 1000 Hawk trainers. The US Air Force could soon buy several hundred more under its so-called T-X trainer acquisition programme.

Meanwhile, BAE Systems, which is the original equipment manufacturer of the Hawk, has bid to supply 20 more Hawks for the IAF’s aerobatics team, Surya Kiran. This contract is being processed as a “follow on” procurement from the large earlier tenders, since the aerobatics aircraft is identical to the trainer, except for the fitment of smoke generators to increase the visibility of the aerobatics aircraft. The apex Defence Acquisition Council is believed to have cleared this.

A BAE Systems release on Wednesday quoted Guy Griffiths, group managing director-international, as saying, “We have also submitted our response to HAL’s Request for Proposal for a potential order to supply products and services for the manufacture of 20 additional Hawk aircraft to the IAF, and are now looking forward to partnering with HAL in providing the Indian Air Force's display team this fantastic aircraft.”


  1. Good to see you writing so often....................

  2. when an air force... chickens out... 1962... have fall back... option now... excellent...

  3. Congratulations to the Navy. This is the reward to the NAvy for judicious use of indegenious technology and expertise.

    Navy has used Indian technology and manufacturing to reduce the build and manintain costs of its surface /underwater arms. That way they have money still left to import products like fighters and ASW a/c where Indian technology is clearly not yet up there with the best. That said, induction of the Naval Tejas will free up more money to purchase ever more fighters, ASM and possibly AEW&C.

    The army and AF could do better.

  4. And all this will remain unutilized in the next war, which will definitely be a land war, or the daily insurgency!
    All this expense, while the army makes do with third class weapons and fourth class combat equipment. The BSF and CRPF are even more badly off while facing even more fearful odds on a daily basis.

  5. Great that everyone is hailing the high profile, capital intensive purchases while completely oblivious of the mundane requirements like a good pair of combat shoes, a carbine, a assault rifle or even a good helmet.

  6. Alok:

    And the Indian Army will continue to use older equipment until the leadership learns to work with the DRDO and other organizations in developing indigenous equipment.

  7. Alok:

    If the Indian Army wants newer equipment, it can start with inducting more Arjuns (as opposed to upgrading the T72s).

  8. While what you write is correct in a way, but it is important for the Navy to focus on the other two dimensions, the sea and subsea operations. Our geography allows much of the Naval aviation tasks to be conducted from ashore , especially the carrier based ones, but the roles of the ships and submarines are unique. This is the area we need to focus on because it is here we are lagging. And too much is made of Navy's indigenisation efforts, we still only put together foreign equipment in an Indian public sector yard. Even this takes us 7 to 10 years. So we may have a great Indian Naval Air Force and a greater Indian Naval Foreign Service but what about a balanced Indian Navy

  9. IN should also get a squad of Pilatus trainers and have its own training programme. ICG can also be trained by them.

  10. It was told that with the induction of Hawk ' AJT." the accident rate of the fighter air-crafts will reduce. (IAF. off course) But after induction of so many Hawks and Swiss Pilatus PC 7 the accident rate is still very high !! That means the root cause is lying some where else.


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