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Fresh Wind In The Sails For The Indian Navy

India has managed to steer clear of a choppy geostrategic environment by concluding military logistics agreements.



India has signed four military logistics support agreements with partner countries and is in the process of finalising the fifth with Russia. The issue came up for discussion during the recent visit of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to Russia from November 05-07, 2019.

When signed, the agreement with Russia, termed the Reciprocal Logistics Support Agreement (RLSA), will be an important milestone in bilateral relations.

As the name signifies, the Agreement will facilitate reciprocal usage of logistics facilities by the militaries of both nations during visits to each other’s ports, bases and military installations.

This Agreement is similar to the four other logistics agreements India has signed with partner countries, viz., Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the United States (US) in August 2016, Implementing Arrangement Concerning Mutual Coordination, Logistics and Services Support with Singapore in June 2018, Agreement for the Provision of Reciprocal Logistics Support between the Armed Forces with France in March 2018, and, most recently, Agreement to Extend Logistical Support to each other’s navies with the Republic of Korea (ROK) in September 2019. Similar agreements are in the pipeline to be signed with Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Logistics agreements are administrative arrangements which help to facilitate the replenishment of fuel, rations, spares (where required), and berthing and maintenance for the other nations’ warships, military aircraft and troops during routine port calls, joint exercises and training carried out in each other’s countries as well as during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).

These agreements simplify the bookkeeping during such events and ensure that the forces of the visiting countries are benefitted by using the host nation’s existing logistics network, which additionally reduces overall costs and saves on time.

These agreements feed into the Indian Navy’s requirement to maintain a round-the-clock and round-the-year presence in its primary areas of interest, the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and, going forward, the Indo-Pacific.

The Indian Navy has been maintaining a presence through its concept of mission-based deployments, wherein over a dozen major surface combatants are deployed across the length and breadth of the IOR.

These deployments have contributed, among other things, to significantly enhance India’s maritime domain awareness (MDA) picture, facilitate tracking of vessels of interest and also to be the first responder in case of a developing HADR scenario.

Prior to these agreements, the mission-deployed Indian warships were constrained to periodically replenish their fuel and logistics supplies from either an Indian naval fleet tanker deployed in the area or by entering the nearest Indian or foreign port.

With the signing of these agreements, Indian warships have been able to extend their ‘sea-legs’ on station by taking fuel from naval fleet tankers of partner countries deployed in the region or by entering their ports.

For instance, since the signing of LEMOA with the US in 2016, Indian warships deployed near the Gulf of Aden have been fuelling from the US Navy tankers in the region and similarly have the flexibility to fuel from the US naval tankers worldwide or enter ports under their control when required. The versatility and reach of this arrangement were highlighted recently when INS Kiltan, an Indian Navy anti-submarine warfare corvette, conducted replenishment-at-sea (RAS) with US Merchant Marine vessel USNS Richard E. Byrd, a Clark-class dry cargo and ammunition ship, in the South China Sea.

Also, having signed the logistics agreement with France in 2018, Indian warships and military aircraft can utilise the French base of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa or the French territory of Reunion Islands in the Indian Ocean for a quick ‘turn-around’ of its assets.

A logistics agreement with Russia would give the Indian Navy access to the Arctic seaports, which are likely to be ice-free for longer periods in the future due to global warming.

In addition to extending the range of Indian warships, such agreements provide for added operational flexibility of the Indian Navy’s long-range maritime patrol (LRMP) aircraft. The Indian Navy has in its inventory the extremely potent Boeing P8I acquired in 2013. The aircraft carries a variety of state-of-the-art weapons and sensors that are capable of engaging both surface and subsurface targets. With an operational range of 1200 nm (with four hours on the station) and speed of 789 kmph, the aircraft forms India’s maritime ‘first line of defence’.

The logistics agreements with partner countries thus facilitate the landing and refuelling of these aircraft at reciprocal bases, as agreed, thereby extending their operational envelope by a substantial degree.

The logistics agreements in certain ways also divests the need for a nation to invest in overseas bases or dual-use infrastructure. This is because the efficacy of overseas bases would have to be measured vis-à-vis installation, maintenance and manpower costs. Therefore, depending on a nation’s strategic interests in a region, the development of overseas bases has to be assessed against the relative flexibility that a logistics agreement provides for expanding a nation’s operational footprint and diversifying its international presence at the same time at a much lesser cost.

The signing of these agreements has been in consonance with India’s growing maritime engagement with navies of the Indo-Pacific. The Indian Navy presently carries out bilateral naval exercises with fourteen navies and coordinated patrols with four, most of which are in the Indo-Pacific. The recent India-Singapore-Thailand Joint Maritime Exercise, conducted at Port Blair on September 16, 2019, has further added to the Indian Navy’s repertoire of joint exercises conducted in the region.

Such operational engagements, coupled with the signing of logistics agreements, indicate maturing of strategic trust between nations.

The timing of India’s aforementioned logistics agreements with respect to the then prevalent geostrategic calculus is also interesting. US President Barack Obama had announced his ‘Rebalance to Asia’ strategy in 2011. In September-October 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping had proposed the ambitious ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ and ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ or ‘One Belt, One Road’, later renamed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was preceded by more than a decade of aggressive maritime infrastructure development by China in most of the IOR littoral countries surrounding India. This included the development of islands in the South China Sea, constant forays of Chinese warships into the Indian Ocean and acquisition of a military base at Djibouti. China’s increasing economic and military heft thus required an effective counterbalance. As can be inferred, all the four logistics agreements India signed were after 2016, the first being LEMOA with the US.

India has managed to steer a straight course through the choppy geostrategic environment by concluding military logistics agreements with the US, France, Singapore and South Korea, and is looking forward to signing a similar agreement with Russia shortly and more to follow. The endeavour has been to increase cooperation in the field of maritime security, joint exercise, HADR and interoperability between navies.

Though Indian warships can always extend their operational reach by using their fleet tankers, the availability of logistics support facilities with other countries will further enhance the ability of the Indian Navy to maintain appropriate ‘presence’ for extended periods in its areas of interest in the wider Indo-Pacific.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Originally published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.inhere.

Cmde. Roby Thomas

An alumni of the first three-year Naval Academy Course and Naval War College, Cmde. Roby Thomas was Commodore, Foreign Cooperation II at the Naval Headquarters prior to joining IDSA. He has specialised in Anti-Submarine Warfare and is a qualified Ships Diver. He is also an External Pilot Instructor on Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), of which he was part of the team that inducted RPAs into the Indian Navy.

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India Successfully Test-Fires Nuclear-Capable K-4 Ballistic Missile

K-4 is one of the two underwater missiles that are being developed by India for its submarine force.



VISHAKHAPATNAM (Andhra Pradesh): India has successfully test-fired a 3,500-kilometre range nuclear-capable missile that can be launched from a submarine. The test of the K-4 ballistic missile was conducted off the Vizag coast in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday.

With this test, India has moved one more step towards the induction of this ballistic missile on the INS Arihant class of nuclear submarines. The missile was developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Only the US, Russia and China have submarine-launched ballistic missiles of 3,500-kilometre range.

The three-metre-tall missile carries a nuclear warhead of over one tonne with a circular error probability far lower than that of Chinese ballistic missiles.

The K-4’s circular error of probability (the radius of the missile’s point of impact which is also a measure of the efficacy of its guidance systems) was 40 meters or less. This makes it ideal to strike targets from stand-off ranges.

The submarine-launched ballistic missile is the most important part of the air, land and sea nuclear triad and is at the front of India’s second-strike capability.

In November 2018, India had announced that its first nuclear-armed submarine Arihant had successfully completed its first deterrence patrol, heralding India’s entry into an exclusive club of powers with land, air and sea-based nuclear weapons delivery platforms.

Though dubbed the technology demonstrator, analysts had been of the view that the 6,000-tonne Arihant with a range of about 750km nevertheless sent a powerful signal to Pakistan and China that New Delhi’s underwater nuclear deterrence was “credible”, potent and functional.

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Russia To Deliver S-400 Air Defence Systems To India By 2025

The S-400, an upgraded version of the S-300, had previously only been available to the Russian defence forces.



NEW DELHI: Russia said it has started production of S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile systems for India, and all five units will be delivered by 2025.

Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Roman Babushkin also said that a contract will be finalised shortly for joint production of Kamov lightweight multi-role military helicopters for India. He was addressing a joint press conference with Russian Ambassador Nikolai Kudashev in New Delhi yesterday.

Babushkin said that the Indian Armed forces will receive the first batch of 5,000 Kalashnikov rifles this year as well. These will be produced in India under a joint venture.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will visit Russia on March 22 and March 23 to attend a meeting of the Russia-Indian-China trilateral, Kudashev said.

“Those having doubts over India’s approach on Kashmir can go there, we don’t have any doubt,” he said on not being invited to visit Jammu and Kashmir.

Asserting that the S-400 air defence missile systems are among best in the world, the diplomat said they will significantly bolster India’s air defence mechanism.

The S-400, an upgraded version of the S-300, had previously only been available to the Russian defence forces.

It is manufactured by Almaz-Antey and has been in service in Russia since 2007.

In October 2018, India signed a USD 5 billion deal to buy the air defence missile systems.

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Rajnath Singh Dedicates 51st K9 Vajra-T Guns To Nation

The L&T officials showed the minister the different manoeuvres of the K-9 Vajra-T, a tracked self-propelled howitzer.



HAZIRA (Gujarat): Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today dedicated to the nation the 51st K9 Vajra self-propelled Howitzer gun made by L&T at Hazira in Gujarat.

Also Read: MUSCLE RELOADED: Indian Army Inducts K9 Vajra (Thunder), M777 Howitzer

Rajnath Singh put ‘tilak’ and drew the auspicious ‘Swastik’ symbol with kumkum on the new artillery. During the puja, he also offered flowers to the gun and broke a coconut.

L&T had in 2017 won the Rs 4,500-crore contract from the Ministry of Defence to supply 100 units of K9 Vajra-T 155 mm/52 calibre tracked self-propelled gun systems to the Indian Army under the Centre’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.

The K9 Vajra contract involves the delivery of 100 such systems in 42 months, which is the largest contract awarded to a private company by the Ministry of Defence.

The gun weighs 50 tonnes and can fire 47-kilogram bombs at targets up to a distance of 43 kilometres. It can also turn around at zero radius.

Speaking on this occasion at Hazira in Surat, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has said that K9 Vajra-T guns dedicated to the nation today are indeed future-ready combat vehicles.

Singh said in his speech that he salutes the commitment and hard work of employees of L&T as the company’s Hazira complex is a sign of “new thinking of new India”.

“I see this complex has a new and astonishing achievement…There were many sectors in India where the private sector’s participation was almost nil.

Defence sector was one such example,” he said.

He said that L&T’s Armoured Systems Complex (ASC) has a state of art complex to manufacture and integrate advanced armoured platforms.

He said, these future-ready combat vehicles meet the requirement of 21st-century warfare including deep fire support to the longer firing range.

He said that under the Make in India programme, India will be not only a manufacturing hub, but also a net defence exporter.

J D Patil, senior executive vice-president for the company’s defence segment, as well as A M Naik, chairman of the company, were present at the event.

“L&T has always been at the forefront for all the national causes…We collaborate with the DRDO and the armed forces to understand their requirement,” Naik said in his speech.

K9 Vajra-T gun dedicated today has been delivered ahead of the schedule. L&T’s Armoured System Complex at Hazira in Surat had been dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January Last year.

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a brief video of himself standing in a tank on his Twitter handle. “Checking out the tanks at L&T’s Armoured Systems Complex in Hazira,” Modi said in the tweet.

I congratulate the entire team of Larsen & Toubro for building the state-of-the-art K-9 Vajra Self Propelled Howitzer. This is a significant contribution towards India’s defence sector and protecting the country… Boosting ‘Make in India’ in the defence sector is our endeavour. I am glad that the private sector too is supporting this pursuit and making a valuable contribution,” the Prime Minister tweeted after the inauguration. He, however, did not address people at the inauguration.

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