Indian Naval Air Arm

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Indian Naval Air Arm
Founded1948[1]
CountryIndia
TypeNaval aviation
RoleSea-to air-combat, surface attack, anti-submarine warfare, Search and rescue, aerial reconnaissance, weather observation, and material transportation.
Size21 squadrons
5,000 personnel[2]
235 manned aircraft[3]
Part ofIndian Navy
Commanders
Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Air)Rear admiral PG Pynamootil[4]
Insignia
RoundelRoundel
Fin flashThe IN Fin Flash
Aircraft flown
FighterMikoyan MiG-29K
HelicopterHAL Dhruv, Kamov Ka-27, Kamov Ka-31, SH-3 Sea King, Westland Sea King, HAL Chetak
Utility helicopterHAL Dhruv
InterceptorMikoyan MiG-29K
PatrolIlyushin Il-38, Boeing P-8I, Dornier Do 228
ReconnaissanceIAI Heron, IAI Searcher Mk II
TrainerBAE Hawk, HAL Kiran, Pilatus PC-7, Pipistrel Virus

The Indian Naval Air Arm is a naval aviation branch of the Indian Navy which is tasked to provide an aircraft carrier based strike capability, fleet air defence, maritime reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare.

Flag Officer Naval Aviation (FONA) at Goa appears to direct the field operations of the air arm. FONA also serves as the Navy's Flag Officer Goa Area (FOGA).[5]

History[edit]

The first naval air station, INS Garuda, was inaugurated in Cochin on 11 May 1953.[6] This went hand-in-hand with the commissioning of the No.550 Squadron,[7] utilising Short Sealand aircraft.[8] and Fairey Firefly aircraft[9]

1960 saw the No.300 White Tigers Squadron,[10] consisting of Sea Hawks[11] aircraft being commissioned.

In the very next year (1961), INS Vikrant (formerly HMS Hercules) was acquired by the Indian Navy.[12] Vikrant's initial airwing consisted of British Hawker Sea Hawk fighter-bombers and a French Alize anti-submarine aircraft. On 18 May 1961, the first jet landed on board, piloted by Lieutenant (later Admiral) R H Tahiliani. That year, the No.310 Cobras Squadron (consisting of Alize aircraft[11][13]) was commissioned. After playing an important role in several major Indian military actions, specifically the liberation of Goa and the India-Pakistan war in 1971, she was decommissioned in January 1997[14] and turned into a museum ship.[15]

In 1976, the Indian Air Force handed over Super Constellation[16] aircraft to the No.312 Albatross Squadron[17] in Dabolim, Goa. Being fairly old aircraft at that point, these were withdrawn from active service by 1983. To replace them in the maritime patrol role, Soviet aircraft were acquired. The No. 315 Winged Stallions Squadron was commissioned in 1977 with the Ilyushin Il-38 aircraft.[18]

In December 1961, INS Vikrant participated in Operation Vijay, the liberation of Goa from Portugal. Its role was primarily to deter foreign naval intervention during the 40-hour-long military action.[19]

INS Vikrant played a major role in the successful naval blockade of East Pakistan.[20] Stationed off the Andaman & Nicobar Islands escorted by the Leopard-class frigate INS Brahmaputra, as well as INS Beas, Vikrant redeployed towards Chittagong at the outbreak of hostilities.[21] The morning of 4 December 1971, the eight Sea Hawk aircraft on Vikrant launched an air raid on Cox's Bazar from 60 nautical miles (110 km; 69 mi) away. That evening, the air group struck Chittagong harbour. Other strikes targeted Khulna and Mongla. A PTI message is supposed to have read, "Chittagong harbour abalze as ships and aircraft of the (Pakistan) Eastern Naval Fleet bombed and rocketed. Not a single vessel can be put to sea from Chittagong". Air strikes staged from Vikrant continued till 10 December 1971.

Given naval intelligence that indicated the intent of the Pakistan Navy to break through the Indian Naval blockade using camouflaged merchant ships, Vikrant's Sea Hawks struck shipping in the Chittagong and Cox's Bazar harbours, sinking or incapacitating most merchant ships there.

The Hughes 269 helicopter was previously in service for training.

A Sea Harrier takes off from INS Viraat

The BAE Sea Harrier inducted in the 1980s operated from INS Viraat.[22] until March 6, 2016,[23][24][25] The BAE Sea Harrier FRS Mk.51 / T Mk.60 flew with the INAS 300 and INAS 552 squadrons of the Indian Navy. The Sea Harriers are armed with the Matra Magic-II AAM and the Sea Eagle Anti-ship missiles. The aircraft were upgraded with the Elta EL/M-2032 radar and the Rafael Derby BVRAAM missiles.[26]

The Naval Aviation Museum located in Bogmalo, 6 km (3.7 mi) from Vasco da Gama, Goa, India showcases the history of the Naval Air Arm.

Aircraft inventory[edit]

Fixed-wing aircraft[edit]

Mikoyan MiG-29K[edit]

A MiG-29K of the Indian Navy in flight over Indian islands

The Mikoyan MiG-29K program was revived by Russia in response to the decision of the Indian Navy to acquire the Soviet aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.[27][28] As reported by MiG Bureau, the Indian Navy's association with the MiG-29K began in Apr 2002 when a team led by Commander Gupta reached Moscow to evaluate the MiG-29K prototype for possible induction into the Indian Navy. The Team evaluated the aircraft on ground as well as in the air (the flight evaluation was conducted by a Navy Test Pilot Commander Ahuja). Some other aircraft were also evaluated but the MiG-29K was chosen. On 20 January 2004, the Indian Navy signed a contract for 12 single-seat MiG-29K and 4 two-seat MiG-29KUB. The first MIG-29K for the Indian Navy took flight on 22 January 2007. The MIG-29 KUB (two-seat trainer) is similar to the MIG-29K but with reduced operational range. The aircraft will be fielded on the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.[29]

The first squadron, INAS 303, christened "Black Panthers",[30] was commissioned on 11 May 2013.[31] The delivery of the aircraft to the Indian Navy started in 2009, and by July 2015, 33 had been inducted, with 12 more to be delivered.[citation needed]

The fighter plane is different from the MiG-29 flown by Indian Air Force. The aircraft has been modified for aircraft carrier operation by hardening the undercarriage. It also has much better 'over-the-nose' vision to make it easy to land aboard a carrier at a high angle of attack. Modifications made for Indian Navy requirement featured Zhuk-ME radar, RD-33MK engine, combat payload up to 5,500 kg (12,100 lb), 13 hardpoints (inclusive of the multi-lock bomb carriers), additional fuel tanks situated in dorsal spine fairing and wing LERXs, increased total fuel capacity by 50% comparing to first variant of MiG-29 and an updated 4-channel digital fly-by-wire flight control system. With special coatings, the MiG-29K radar reflecting surface is 4–5 times smaller than of basic MiG-29. Cockpit displays consist of wide HUDs, 3 colour LCD MFDs (7 on the MiG-29KUB), a French Sigma-95 satellite GPS module and Topsight E helmet-mounted targeting system compatible with the full range of weapons carried by the MiG-29M and MiG-29SMT.[32]

Boeing P-8I Neptune[edit]

A Boeing P-8I of the Indian Navy

New Delhi and Boeing have signed a $2.1 billion contract to deliver 12 P-8I Neptune for anti-submarine operations. The new aircraft will replace a fleet of Russian-manufactured Tupolev-142M planes. P-8I varies from the P-8A, with the Magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) has been kept intact while an aft-mounted radar provides 360-degree aerial radar surveillance capability. Many of the communication and other devices on-board are developed by Bharat Electronics Limited. The first squadron was formed with eight aircraft. When the remaining four join the force, the Tu-142 will be decommissioned.[33]

Ilyushin Il-38[edit]

Indian Navy operates 5 Il-38 planes but two were lost in a mid-air collision in 2002.[34] Currently they are being upgraded to use the Sea Dragon suite.

Helicopters[edit]

Dhruv of the Indian Navy.

HAL Dhruv; developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the Navy received its first Dhruvs on 28 March 2002.[35][36] It is expected to receive a total of 120 units to replace the Chetak helicopters in service. The naval variant is fitted with the Super Vision-2000 maritime radar, capable of detecting targets with low radar cross section at a range of 200 km (120 mi). The anti-submarine version of the helicopter is fitted with dunking sonar, torpedoes, depth charges. The helicopter may also be fitted with the missiles for anti-ship roles. However, in 2008, Indian Navy pronounced Dhruv unsuitable for its role as an ASW platform. Indian Navy will continue to procure Dhruv as a multi-role utility platform. During the commissioning ceremony Vice Admiral Sinha said that "In the Navy, Dhruv helicopters has transformed into an advanced search and rescue (SAR) helicopter also used for missions like heliborne operations, and armed patrol with night vision devices. Such machines in the inventory have become imperative for the Navy given the scenario of low intensity maritime operations (LIMO) and coastal security construct."[37] In 2013 Indian Navy showed keen interest in the armed version of the HAL Rudra. Impressed with the Dhruv's sensors which were able to track ships and also read their names at ranges of 12 to 14 km (7.5 to 8.7 mi). The Navy may induct 20 more helicopters into service.[38]

Kamov Ka-25, Kamov Ka-28, and the Kamov Ka-31: The Ka-25 was acquired by the Indian Navy in 1980 for anti-submarine warfare, but had severe technological limitations. The Ka-28s were acquired in the mid-80s, and were said to be a quantum leap over their predecessors from an ASW standpoint. The Ka-31[39] takes the Kamov capabilities even further by enabling real-time network-centric warfare for the Indian Navy.

A Sea King assigned to the destroyer INS Mumbai.

Westland Sea King and the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King: Used principally for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and search & rescue roles,[40] the helicopter fleet operate from INS Garuda (Kochi) as well as INS Shikra air stations. US sanctions on India in response to India's nuclear tests resulted in a large part of the Sea King fleet being grounded for want of spare parts. Seventeen of the Sea King helicopters will be upgraded. The upgrade will feature day and night capability, capability to work in adverse weather conditions, integration of two anti-ship missiles with a range of fifty kilometres and a new radar.[41]

Aérospatiale SA 316 Alouette III: Also known as the Chetak, these choppers have seen active service in the Navy as well as the Coast Guard. They are carried on several combatant as well as non-combatant ships. They are also operated from and maintained at the INS Shikra and INS Utkrosh Naval Air Stations in Mumbai and Port Blair respectively.

UAVs[edit]

The Indian Navy operates at least two squadrons of Heron and Searcher Mk-II UAVs, based in Kochi (INAS 342) and Porbandar (INAS 343).[42][43] There are plans to have at least two more squadrons of UAVs.[44] UAVs are controlled from ships to increases the range of surveillance. There are plans to introduce rotary UAVs into the Indian Navy.[45] These UAVs will have higher endurance and load carrying capability resulting in better reconnaissance capabilities.[46]

Future aircraft[edit]

HAL Tejas NP-1 naval variant taking off from shore based test facility
Fixed-wing aircraft
  • HAL Tejas: The naval variant of the Tejas will have strengthened landing gear and other necessary modifications for service on an aircraft carrier. Trials are being carried out at the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) constructed at the naval airbase INS Hansa in Goa. The Indian Navy plans has a requirement for 40 or 50 Tejas to equip two front-line squadrons to operate from aircraft carriers INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant.[47][48] The Indian navy has placed an order for its first six Tejas at an approximate cost of 1.5 billion (US$21.7 million) per aircraft, the total order amounts to 9 billion (US$130.2 million).[49] In December 2016, the navy rejected the aircraft stating that it is too heavy and with the underpowered engine is unsuitable for carrier operations.[50][51]
  • 17 Hawk Trainer: 10 delivered, rest by 2016–2017'[52][53]
  • HAL HJT-36 trainer aircraft to replace the older HAL Kiran.[54]
  • Pipistrel Virus SW 80 – Indian Navy ordered total 12 Pipistrel Virus SW 80 to train its cadets.[55][56]
  • Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft: The Indian Navy issued an RFP for six medium-range maritime reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft. The possible contenders are; the ATR-72MP/ATR-42MP, the EADS C-295MPA/C-235MPA, the Dassault's Falcon 900MPA and the Embraer P-99A. The procurement number has been enhanced to 9 as per news reports in February 2012.[57]
  • ShinMaywa US-2: The Indian Navy intends to acquire 12 US-2 amphibian aircraft for conducting long-range search-and-rescue operations at cost of $1.65 billion. Two US-2 will be directly imported and remaining 10 will be assembled locally in India.[58] In April 2018, Mahindra Defence signed an MoU with ShinMaywa Industries Ltd. to manufacture and assemble the aircraft, and set up MRO facility in India.[59][60]
  • "Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters": In late January 2017, the Indian Navy released an international Request for Information (RFI) for 57 "Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters" (MRCBFs), asking for responses by mid-May. The envisaged roles include shipborne air defence, air-to-surface attack, buddy aerial refuelling, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, etc. The requirements are flexible, including single- or multi-engine, short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) or catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR), or both. Armaments are to include a gun plus four beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles and two all-aspect air-to-air missiles. Other technical capabilities and inclusions are to be assessed. The main contest is between Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Dassault Rafale-M.[61][62]
Helicopters
  • In August 2017, the Indian Navy floated request-for-information for 123 naval multi-role helicopters (NMRHs) and 111 naval utility helicopters (NUHs).[63][64][65]
  • Purchase of 24 Sikorsky MH-60R for anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare at a cost of $2.4 billion.[66]
UAVs
  • The IAI-HAL NRUAV is a requirement for an unmanned helicopter capable of conducting ISR missions.[67]
  • In June 2017, US administration cleared sale of 22 Sea Guardian drones to India.[68]

Structure[edit]

Flag Officer Naval Aviation (FONA) controls training, maintenance and other functions of naval aviation. Aircraft yards at Kochi, Kerala and Dabolim, Goa are responsible for maintaining the fleet's air arm. An exclusive base, INS Shikra for helicopters was commissioned in Mumbai.[69]

To protect and preserve India's growing trade with Southeast Asia and offer a defence against increasing Chinese naval presence in the Bay of Bengal, a new naval base is being built near Visakhapatnam.[70] It is expected to be capable of harbouring two aircraft carriers, including the planned new Vikrant-class aircraft carrier. There are two more naval air stations, INS Rajali and INS Parundu in Tamil Nadu.

Southern Command has at least one airfield, INS Garuda, in Kochi, Kerala.[71] The Hindu reported on 2 February 2009 that a new airbase will be set up in Muscat, Oman to tackle piracy in the Gulf of Aden.[72] Three years later in 2012 it is not clear whether any action has been taken on this proposal. The southernmost naval air station, INS Bazz was formally opened on 31 July 2012 by the Chief of the Indian Navy at Cambell Bay in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. With the commissioning of this station, the country acquired increased capability to keep vigil on the vital maritime channel of the Straits of Malacca.[73]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]