India to have 170-175 warships by 2035, says Navy chief

The Indian Navy is keen to pitch for a third aircraft carrier

INS Imphal INS Imphal is third among India's four Project 15B guided missile stealth destroyers (Photo @rajnathsingh)

With the world’s biggest navy operating in threateningly close proximity, the Indian Navy is trying its best to ramp up not just its indigenous warship production capabilities but also in good time vessels equipped with the latest technology.

Giving an idea of the numbers planned Indian Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar on Friday said, “We are looking at 170-175 ships by 2035. Currently, 67 ships are under construction, of which 65 are in Indian shipyards.” He was speaking with the media during a customary interaction to mark the Navy Day celebrations.

A case in point of the speed at which Indian indigenous warship production is being ramped up is the latest addition to the Indian naval fleet -- INS Imphal. It is the third among the four Project 15B guided missile stealth destroyers. 

From its keel-laying on May 19, 2017, to its launch on April 20, 2019, in less than two years, the INS Imphal was delivered to the Indian Navy on October 20, 2023, less than six months after the commencement of sea trials on April 28, 2023. Its crest was unveiled by defence minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday.

But even that effort would look puny compared to the speed at which China is churning out warships.

The People’s Republic Army-Navy (PLAN) operates over 370 ships and submarines, including more than 140 major surface combatants. According to the Pentagon’s China Military Power Report for 2023, the PLAN “is expected to grow to 395 ships by 2025 and 435 ships by 2030”.

Implying an expeditionary role, China’s 2019 white paper on defence described the PLAN as “speeding up the transition of its tasks from defense on the near seas to protection missions on the far seas...”

On the aircraft carrier front, the Indian Navy is keen to pitch for a third aircraft carrier—the IAC-2—after the INS Vikramaditya and the INS Vikrant, which will augment the Navy’s capability substantially.

Speaking on the advantages of having already home-built an aircraft carrier, Admiral Kumar said with the accumulated experience, the time taken for a subsequent carrier will be much less.

“IAC-1 (INS Vikrant) took about 11-12 years to build. There were particular challenges of IAC-1 because we were doing it for the first time… but that is not the case now… it will probably take about 8-9 years. It is good time to make an aircraft carrier. So we are very confident that if the government approves it will come out in good time,” the chief added. 

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