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With Drone, Jet, Submarine Purchases, Navy Expands Arsenal as Threat from China Rises in Indian Ocean

With Drone, Jet, Submarine Purchases, Navy Expands Arsenal as Threat from China Rises in Indian Ocean
With Drone, Jet, Submarine Purchases, Navy Expands Arsenal as Threat from China Rises in Indian Ocean 5

India has recently issued the LoR for the substantial deal valued at $6 billion with France for procuring 26 Rafale Marine aircraft— 22 single-seater fighter jets and 4 twin-seater trainers

The Rafale Marines will boost the operational strength of INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya, Indian Navy’s prized aircraft carriers, which currently have the Russian Mikoyan MiG-29s deployed on them.

With the purchase of 26 marine Rafale fighter aircraft, India is gaining strategic edge in the Indian Ocean Region amid an increasing threat from China.

India has recently issued the LoR for the substantial deal valued at $6 billion with France for procuring 26 Rafale Marine aircraft— 22 single-seater fighter jets and 4 twin-seater trainers. The deal will mark India’s second major acquisition of fighter aircraft from France’s Dassault Aviation in recent years— the first being the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft for the Indian Air Force.

The marine Rafale is different from its land-based variant. Naval fighter jets are built to cater to the demands of operations on aircraft carriers. These challenges include high-impact landings, catapult or ramp launches, and exposure to corrosive saltwater environments.

Earlier, the Defence Acquisition Council had approved the purchase of marine Rafales shortly before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France to attend the Bastille Day parade in July.

The Rafale Marines will boost the operational strength of INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya, Indian Navy’s prized aircraft carriers, which currently have the Russian Mikoyan MiG-29s deployed on them.

This deal will boost India’s presence amid Chinese spying and increasing interest in the Indian Ocean Region. This is also a significant boost for the Navy’s Air Arm, which has been grappling with a shortage of fighter aircraft. In fact, the Navy has reported the need for more aircraft as well as submarines.

The government has been signing off on major purchases for submarines, drones and air defence systems over the past few years as part of modernisation of the military’s arsenal, with an eye on the combined threat of China and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean Region.

In July, the Defence Acquisition council had also cleared proposals to buy three additional Scorpene submarines, also from France, apart from the 26 Marine Rafale jets for the Navy.

India already has in service six of these Scorpene class, also known as the Kalvari-class, summaries. They are diesel-electric submarines which are designed to fast and stealthy predators against enemy submarines and surface ships.

As the P75(I) program in India, which focuses on the construction of six conventional submarines equipped with advanced air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems for extended underwater operations, the inclusion of these three submarines will play a pivotal role in strengthening the Navy’s underwater capabilities.

Under Project-75I, India is seeking six more submarines for purchase from prospective sellers including Germany and Spain. The submarines will be built in India and will involve a substantial transfer of technology.

India is also purchasing the 31 MQ-9B armed drones from the US worth $3 billion. Of these, 15 drones will be for the Navy, and eight each for the Army and the Air Force. The deal involves significant technology transfer as well.

The MQ-9B Predator will revolutionise India’s military surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The killer drone’s Sky Guardian variant can stay airborne for up to 40 hours and the Sea Guardian for unto 30 hours.

The Indian Navy has also been using two Predator drones from the US on lease.

China does not have a high altitude long endurance drone in its arsenal, and therefore India’s purchase of MQ9B predator will elevate its stature and predominance in the Indian Ocean Region by a mile.

The Navy will be buying more Poseidon-8I aircraft from the US after a billion-dollar deal in 2016. Seen as ‘India’s eye in the sky’, the P-8I can remain in the air for about 10 hours.

India is also in the process of domestically producing 97 drones for the Indian armed forces to meet the medium altitude long endurance requirements.

With the Malabar naval exercise with India’s QUAD peers US, Japan and Australia, and the Varuna exercise with France, Indian Navy is expanding formidably in the Indian Ocean Region to address a rising threat from China.

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