India - UK: Naval Cooperation


India - UK: Naval Cooperation

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s recent visit to the United Kingdom (U.K.) is significant. The visit, after 22 years, is in an environment where  opportunities have grown significantly in the past few years, write Harsh V. Pant (Vice President, Studies and Foreign Policy, Observer Research Foundation - ORF) and  Kartik Bommakanti (Fellow with the Strategic Studies Programme, ORF).  “The growth of Chinese military power and in particular, its expansion into the Indian Ocean which threatens India and also Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs), on which the U.K. depends, have given the British an opportunity to reorient their strategic priorities.”


UK could help Indian Navy’s technological gaps

The Indian Navy for example, “has several capability-related needs to make up for the shortfalls the service faces vis-à-vis the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Securing key technologies has been an integral part of Mr. Singh’s visit to the U.K. The U.K. is in a position to help redress the Indian Navy’s technological gaps against the Chinese.”


Electrical propulsion to power aircraft carriers

One key area where London and New Delhi are cementing cooperation “is in electrical propulsion to power aircraft carriers. The Indian Navy’s carriers, at present, are not powered by electric propulsion technology…..” The PLAN for its part has also “struggled to overcome the technical challenges associated with electric propulsion..”

The advantage of using electric propulsion write the two authors  “is that warships integrated with this capability produce a low acoustic signature by removing the link between the principal mover and propulsion. There is also the added advantage of enhanced electrical power generation for subsystems in major warships of the Indian Navy’s surface fleet.”

Extensive discussion have taken  place after  the establishment of a joint working group dubbed the ‘India-UK electric propulsion capability partnership’ first met in February 2023. The British have agreed to train, equip and help establish the infrastructure necessary to develop an electric propulsion system. Initially, “the technology is expected to be tested on landing platforms docks and thereafter on surface vessels such as guided missile destroyers belonging to the next generation with a displacement of over 6,000 tonnes.”

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