A computer simulated imagery of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile striking an aircraft carrier

‘Indian Ocean dominance to continue; third aircraft carrier needed’

The Navy’s deployments to maintain dominance in the Indian Ocean would continue even as it wanted the Ministry of Defence to clear its project to have another aircraft carrier, said Admiral Sunil Lanba, the outgoing Indian Navy Chief, while talking to The Tribune on the penultimate day of his service.

Admiral Lanba, who retires on May 31, said the Navy had, over the past couple of years, started permanent deployments at all ingress routes of the Indian Ocean. “We maintain our dominance in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and will continue to do so. We monitor all Chinese warships,” said the Admiral when asked whether India’s dominance would continue despite China’s growing interests in the IOR.

India has been maintaining a permanent deployment in the Gulf of Aden near Yemen since 2008. In the past couple of years, the Navy has added patrolling in southern part of the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa and the island countries. In the past 24 months, it has added patrols at the Straits of Malacca — world’s busiest sea trade route lying a couple of hundred miles south east of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Referring to the Navy’s role after the February 14 Pulwama attack, the Admiral said: “The Navy terminated its ongoing exercise, made deployments towards the north of Arabian Sea (facing Pakistan) and maintained sustained surveillance (military parlance for maintaining pressure).” He side-stepped a question on the outcome if the Navy was asked to launch an attack saying “it is a hypothetical question”.

On the aircraft carrier, the Admiral said, “We have decided the form and fit of the carrier and its propulsion; an approval is awaited from MoD.” India has a goal of having a three-carrier Navy. It has INS Vikramaditya while the second carrier, INS Vikrant, is under construction and expected to go for trials in 2020. The Navy wants its third carrier to be a 65,000-tons warship with latest technology of EMALS, which enables Electro-magnetic launch of fighter aircraft from the deck.

Commenting upon the deployments of the Chinese, the Admiral said since 2008, the Chinese deployment in the IOR had been same — six to eight warships at any time — and was not decreased. “Only time will tell if they increase it,” he said.

“China is an energy-deficient nation and its economy depends on the sea lanes of communication,” he said, appreciating Beijing for its warship-building pace.

Asked if India would take sides in the South China Sea dispute, he said: “Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has made it clear that India is committed to the freedom of navigation at sea.”

We shifted Deployment In Arabian sea

The Navy (post-Pulwama attack) terminated its ongoing exercise and made deployments towards the north of Arabian Sea (facing Pakistan), besides maintaining sustained surveillance (military parlance for maintaining pressure).