The Indian Navy which is the fifth largest naval force in the world is on a modernisation spree. The navy is acquiring some of the most modern and potent combat platforms to guard India against hostile sea-borne threats and to better guard India’s spread out maritime interests. Even as the force steadily acquires frontline battleships, it is critical that it also gains requisite infrastructure along the Western and Eastern sea boards.
The navy has launched multiple programs to construct new naval bases and also to ramp up infrastructure in the existing bases. One of the most crucial projects launched by the navy in this regard is ‘Project Seabird’ which was constituted to construct – INS Kadamba – India’s maiden naval exclusive base at Karwar.
Constituted in 1985, ‘Project Seabird’ promised India the biggest naval base in the Eastern Hemisphere when the construction was completed. In a recent report tabled before the parliament, the ‘Standing Committee on Defence’ has stated that Phase-II of the construction program has been hit by a major unforeseen delay.
The naval base when completed will be at the epicentre of navy’s operations along the Western sea board. According to the report, the infrastructure being constructed under Phase – II of the program will nowhere be ready at least until 2022. This, the report says, is a major setback to the navy’s operational capabilities.
The report attributes this setback to the delay in appointing Project Management Consultant (PMC) by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). While the approval for Phase-II was accorded in December, 2012, the MNC was appointed by MoD only in 2014, thereby inducing a delay of two years in the project right at the onset.
Following completion, INS Kadamba is expected to house strategic assets such as nuclear and conventional submarines. Delay in completion of a strategic base has raised eyebrows in the military circles.
MoD in reply to the committee’s query has stated that the delay has forced it to revise the completion timeframe of the project from January, 2021 to December, 2022. MoD, however, has launched a slew of measures to counteract the effects of the delay and as of now groundwork has already began for the project.
The development of INS Kadamba under Phase – I of ‘Project Seabird’ began in 1985 and was completed in 2005 with a cost of INR 2628.62 Crore. The base currently is capable of housing close to 40 surface combatants and is the homeport of INS Vikramaditya, which is the flagship of the Indian Navy. Under Phase II, INS Kadamba is expected to receive additional jetties, infrastructural boost to handle up to 65 surface combatants and construction of specialised submarine pens. The government has allotted INR 19,603 Crore for the construction of the base.
Following the completion of Phase-IIA and IIB, the base will also house a fully operational naval air station, which will house the air wing of Indian Navy’s carriers. Specialised reinforced pens are being carved deep in the mountains of the Western Ghats and these will play host to India’s strategic assets in the future.
Following the completion of these construction phases, INS Kadamba will become the biggest naval base east of Suez Canal. Also, the base will acquire requisite infrastructure and capabilities to house the entire Western Naval Fleet of the Indian Navy.
© Karthik Kakoor