New Delhi: India will have "a brand new" navy with "long legs" at sea, with force levels of 150-odd warships and 500-odd air fleet, navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said on Friday.
Ahead of the Navy Day on December 4, Verma told an annual press conference in New Delhi that by 2027, the Indian Navy will be having "over 150 ships and close to 500 aircraft and helicopters".
"Today, Indian Navy is poised for a very good growth path. Navy veterans could not have imagined the growth curve that we have today," he said.
Referring to the two new tankers that Indian Navy has inducted this year for deployment on the Eastern and Western sea boards, Verma said India now has the capability to operate two task forces on the either side of India's coast simultaneously.
"The two tankers inducted are going to provide us long legs. Two tankers on either coast will make it possible to operate two task forces at greater distances for longer periods," he said.
"When I say long legs, we can translate it into two distinct methods of deployment -- deployment at long distances and deployment at long distances along with ability to stay there for sometime. We are talking about reach and sustainability," he said.
India also plans to induct the INS Vikramaditya (erstwhile Admiral Gorshkov) aircraft carrier from Russia by this year end, apart from inducting nine other major surface warships such as one Shivalik class frigate, another Kolkata class destroyer, an anti-submarine warfare corvette, an offshore patrol vessel, two follow-on Talwar class frigates from Russia, apart from three catamaran survey vessels and 25 fast interceptor craft.
With regard to the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) being built at Cochin Shipyard, Verma said it was "a setback of sorts" that it could not be launched into the waters this month as originally planned due to delays in procurement of critical equipment that needed to be integrated on the ship before hitting the waters.
"Hopefully by middle of next year or so (we should launch the IAC), that's my assessment and hope," he added.
Despite the navy set for growth over the next 15 years, Verma said its primary focus and area of responsibility will be to defend the Indian Ocean, and to deploy more ships at sea to respond to emergent situations far away from the main land, such as a pirate attack or escorting cargo ships with Indian interests in pirate-infested waters.
On the delays in the follow-on conventional submarines project codenamed P75I, Verma said since this was navy's last opportunity to build its own design capabilities in terms of stealth and other technologies, it was taking time to define what it wants to achieve for indigenous capabilities from the project.
He also said the navy did not want to end up in a single vendor situation for P75I, thereby forcing it to "redo" the tendering that would put back the procurement plans by several more years.
"We have to be very clear as to what we are asking for, as we don't want to land up in a situation where we have to redo the process, like it happened in some cases and defence programmes," he said.
The navy, Verma said, has on order 49 ships and submarines of which 45 are from Indian shipyards.
He also noted that the navy was planning to set up an amphibious warfare training complex at Kakinada on the Andhra Pradesh coast to raise troops that can wage war by landing on enemy shores.