There are apparent sign of thrust to the nation’s ongoing endeavour on indigenization; need of the hour is involvement of all stake holders.
A sure sign of thrust to the nation's ongoing endeavour on indigenization is apparent with the recent commissioning of two Naval platforms INS Kolkata and INS Kamorta have been commissioned recently. It is matter of pride for a nation which has been importing almost everything till now that it has develop the capability in producing wholly constructed ship in the country itself. Incidentally, INS Kolkata belongs to the Destroyer Class and is the first of three ships currently under construction. Indigenously built stealth anti-submarine warfare corvette INS Kamorta is the first of the four ASW stealth corvettes designed by Directorate of Naval Design. The development provides credence to India's defence capabilities in a geo-politically unstable region.
However, the skeptics do always have some cribs fuelled by interested segment to make an issue out of known facts, which the Govt had considered before inauguration. Reportedly these elements raised issues on absence of the Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM) and the Advanced Towed Array Sonar (ATAS). These are issues of concern and are being attended to. The question that comes up in one's mind is that is it worth to hold up the whole project for such fitments? A knowledgeable person expressed it as the right approach to commission a ship pending installation sub-systems, as a ship takes time to evolve as a cohesive unit and this training needs to start forth with. This will also allow the machinery to settle down. Existing sub-systems can be carried on deck, till a suitable substitute is identified.
The development of LR-SAM project, a Indo-Israeli joint project, the development began in 2006 and was to be completed in 2012. The INS Kolkata project itself delayed by four years. It would not worth delaying the commissioning of the ship for LRSAM any further, which is likely to be ready for fitment within 8-9 months or may be more.
NAGAN Active Towed Array Sonar developed by DRDO's Naval Science and Technological Laboratory (NSTL), NPOL (National Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory, Cochin) in conjunction with BEL. The initial trials of the system re-engineered NAGAN, were conducted in early 2012 with user participation and showed encouraging results. However, the shift in wish list of user due to rapid advancements in technologies available made the system no more desirable. Hence, NAGAN project was officially wrapped up as a technology demonstrator. While, the time delay and cost over run is a concern, there is a need to resolve differences in percieved qualitative requirements during the project between the DRDO and Users which leads to non-acceptance of the developed systems, at a later stage.
In 2008, DRDO had given go ahead for import of the system; however the import could not materialize due to various reasons. Incidentally, German company, Atlas Elektronic emerged as frontrunner in a global tender to supply cutting edge ATAS to the navy. Predictably, allegations of corruption were raised against Atlas and the import was put on hold.
In April 2012, a fresh project 'Advanced Light Towed Array Sonar' (ALTAS) was sanctioned by Ministry of Defence based on the revised NSQR with PDC of April 2016. Project ALTAS a Low-Frequency had enhanced performance parameters incorporated in NSQR to meet present and futuristic requirement of the Navy. The development and Laboratory tests were completed by the concerned DRDO Lab in record time by 2014, almost two year ahead of schedule. DRDO requested the availability of trial platform ship (INS Sharda) for installing the equipment for sea trials in early 2014. The ship was made available in mid 2014 and DRDO installed one complete system on the ship. However, the trials could not proceed due to onset of rainy season. DRDO Scientists are confident of the performance during sea trials. It is to the credit of DRDO that the system has been realized with production grade systems and sub-systems produced by the Indian industry. Once accepted by Users the production can go ahead and equip all the platforms needing the systems. To me it seems like major achievement and sure signs the way the things to come. The India's warships built since 1997 shares the vulnerability as none of which have an ATAS and remain reliant on its less capable hull-mounted sonar, the indigenous HUMSA-NG. Hopefully, both the systems are likely to be operational in about years time.
We need to acknowledge that development projects take time and such hick-ups do come up due to the process of design, production or procurement. These projects are on learning curve of our defence industry for concurrent development. The Prime Minister has been reminding the stakeholders to speed up projects and advance delivery schedules. Waiting for one system or upgrade, we should not lose opportunity on the overall realization. All stakeholders rather than pointing finger should support the developmental efforts.
Let us face the fact that the Indian defence development and production industry is improving on their shortcomings & capabilities and need some
hand holding and encouragement by all the stakeholders. These fighting vessels are from our shipyards and not imported and so will be the two systems which are likely to be fitted within a year's time. The emphasis of government's policy on indigenization is evident, as it is immensely benefiting the country in the present situation.