Monday, July 14, 2014



File:Ranthambore Tiger.jpg
We call the Indian Navy "the Tigers" out of admiration. Photo credit: Koshyk released under  Creative Commons license. 

 We call the Indian Navy "the Tigers" around the water cooler because of the obvious symbolism, but also out of a profound respect. No other Navy in the world has ever done so much with so little. They are the masters of all of the naval big league skills from carrier operations, to nuclear submarines, and submerged missile launches, and underway replenishment. They have done all of this while meeting an intense operational tempo with a scavenger hunt fleet of second hand ships while gradually infilling with new domestic construction. They have been trying to do everything at once. For the longest they have been succeeding against all odds. But last summer two trends crossed. India is now well down the road towards the evolution of a sophisticated warship production line of its own. It is committed to retiring most of its second hand foreign built equipment, but can't do that all at once. Legislators and naval administrators alike don't want to put out a lot of money on hulls slated for retirement, at exactly the moment in time when they need the most maintenance. This is exactly the kind of conditions that result in mechanical failures, which were major factors of causation in the disasters of the last year.

 In the most recent case a Khukri class corvette suffered damage while entering the harbor of a naval base in Andamans. The INS KUTHAR was returning to port after operating in rough weather. Beyond that we have no facts. We don't know if this accident was the result of a navigational , vessel handling, error or mechanical failure or some combination there of. It may be completely unrelated to the recent rash of 15 accidents. But as we explained when we reported the last one, naval operations are full of hazards. The combination of operational tempo, budget restraints, and aging equipment in a period of technological transition makes these especially difficult times for the Indian Navy. We believe the Navy richly deserves the respect and support of the Indian tax payers. Given how far they came and how fast in the past, we believe that they will survive these trying times and will emerge once the transition to a purpose built domestic fleet is complete as one of the top three navies in the world.  They got into the top five on sheer guts, skill, and imaginative solutions.

 To our fellow English speaking navalists who are concerned that Indian ships as we write are in Russia exercising with the Russians, we remind them that India is non aligned. They have also exercised with the U.S. Britain, Australia, and Japan. They are however the world's largest democracy and have demonstrated respect for the law of the sea as written, not as they would like it to be as China does. They are a suitable, competent, and reliable guardian for global interests in the Indian ocean. In the world of electronic media an organization is only as good as its last media byte or headline. The Indian tax payer is traumatized to hear of these mishaps and rightly so. But we counsel India, have faith. Naval professionals around the world do. Your navy will emerge from this difficult period in a few years, transition completed, one of the finest navies in the history of the world and a real deterrent to mischief in the Indian Ocean. The Tigers as we like to call them don't give up and have an innate institutional power. They can only be defeated by the loss of public support in India. India have confidence, you will hear the tigers roar. It will surprise and delight you. But one group will not be surprised, the global naval professional community. Never has a navy been so admired by its professional peers that has had such relatively little public support in its own nation. Stick with them India....go tigers!


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