Indian Naval Air Arm

Indian Naval Air Arm

The Indian Naval Air Arm is an important component of the Indian Navy. It undertakes several very important roles to support the Navy and project India's military power including aircraft carrier-launched strikes against maritime targets, fleet air defense, reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare. To undertake these tasks, the Indian Navy employs an aircraft carrier and a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft and helicopters. The INS Viraat carries a complement of Sea Harrier aircraft and Kamov, Sea King, Chetak and Dhruv helicopters. The Kamov Ka-31 provides AEW support for the fleet. In the anti-submarine role, the Sea King, Ka-28 and the indigenously-built HAL Dhruv are used. The MARCOS use Sea King and HAL Dhruv helicopters while conducting operations. Reconnaissance operations are carried out by Tupolev Tu-142s, Ilyushin Il-38s, Dornier Do 228s and also by HAL Chetak helicopters. The UAV arm consists of around 30 UAVs, such as Heron and Searcher-IIs, that are operated from ships and shore for better surveillance. The Indian Navy also maintains an aerobatic display team, the Sagar Pawan. The Sagar Pawan team will be replacing the present HJT-16 Kiran with the HJT-36. [ [ 101 Center] ] The HJT-36 will also be used in training pilots.


The first naval air station, INS "Garuda", was inaugurated in Cochin on 11 May 1953. [ [ "Military Year-book" - India 1965] ] This went hand-in-hand with the commissioning of the No.550 Squadron [ [ "" - Indian Navy Timeline - "11 May 1953: First Naval Air Station, INS Garuda, inaugurated at Cochin. No.550 Squadron (consisting of Sealand and Firefly aircraft) commissioned"] ] , utilizing Short Sealand aircraft. [ [ "Naval Aviation Museum, Dabolim, Goa, India" -] ] and Fairley Firefly aircraft [ [ "Naval Aviation Museum, Dabolim, Goa, India" -] ]

1960 saw the No.300 White Tigers Squadron, [ [ "" - Indian Navy Timeline - "1960: No.300 White Tigers Squadron (consisting of Sea Hawk aircraft) commissioned."] ] consisting of Sea Hawks [ [ "Naval Aviation Museum, Dabolim, Goa, India" -] ] aircraft being commissioned.

In the very next year (1961), INS "Vikrant" (formerly HMS "Hercules") was acquired by the Indian Navy. [ [ "Military Year-book" - India 1965] ] The "Vikrant"'s initial airwing consisted of British Hawker Sea Hawk fighter-bombers and a French Alize anti-submarine aircraft. On May 18 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 [ [ "Aircraft Carriers: The World's Greatest Naval Vessels and Their Aircraft" By Richard Jones, Chris Bishop, Chris Chant, Christopher Chant] ] [ [ "Naval Aviation Museum, Dabolim, Goa, India" -] ] ) 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 [ [ "Students' Britannica India" By Dale Hoiberg, Indu Ramchandani] ] and turned into a museum ship [ [ "INS Vikrant - the naval museum"] Posted by Nita] .

In 1976, the Indian Air Force handed over Super Constellation [ [ "Naval Aviation Museum, Dabolim, Goa, India" -] ] aircraft to the No.312 Albatross Squadron [ [ "" - Indian Navy Timeline - "1976: No.312 Albatross Squadron (consisting of Super Constellation aircraft) commissioned."] ] in Dabolim, Goa. Being fairly old aircraft at that point, these were withdrawn from active service by 1983. The No.315 Winged Stallions Squadron was commissioned in 1977 [ [ "" - Indian Navy Timeline - "01 October 1977: No.315 Winged Stallions Squadron (consisting of IL-38 aircraft) commissioned."] ] with the Ilyushin Il-38 [ [ Bharat-Rakshak "Indian Navy Timelines"] ] aircraft.

Operation Vijay

The INS Vikrant participated in Operation Vijay, the liberation of Goa from Portugal. It's role was primarily to deter foreign naval intervention [ [ Sankalp India Foundation - "What happened during Operation Vijay (1961)?"] ] during the 40-hour long military action in December, 1961.

India Pakistan War 1971

The INS Vikrant played a major role in the successful Naval blockade of East Pakistan [ [ Aircraft Carriers: The World's Greatest Naval Vessels and Their Aircraft] By Richard Jones, Chris Bishop, Chris Chant, Christopher Chant] . Stationed off the Andaman & Nicobar islands along with Indian naval ships, INS Bramhaputra and INS Beas, the Vikrant redeployed towards Chittagong [ [ YouTube documentary] ] at the outbreak of hostilities. The morning of December 4, 1971, the eight Sea Hawk aircraft on the Vikrant launched an air raid on Cox's Bazaar from 60 nm away. That evening, the air group struck Chittagong harbor. Future strikes targeted Khulna and Mongla. A PTI message is supposed to have read, "Chittagong harbor 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 the Vikrant continued till December 10, 1971.

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

The PNS Ghazi submarine was deployed to sink the INS Vikrant. However, she sank off Visakhapatnam harbor under mysterious circumstances [ [ Seapower: A Guide for the Twenty-first Century] By Geoffrey Till] .

Aircraft Carrier

INS Viraat: INS Viraat was originally commissioned in the Royal Navy as the HMS Hermes on November 18, 1959 [ [ - "Centaur Class" -] ] . While in the Royal Navy, the Hermes was the flagship carrier during the Falkland Islands campaign. The vessal was acquired by the Indian Navy in April 1986 following an extensive refit at Devonport Dockyard. Another refit followed between 1999 and 2001, which is expected to extend her useful life till 2010. However, there is some uncertainty around this retirement date. [ [ - "R 22 Viraat Class HMS Centaur Class (UK) Aircraft Carrier" -] ] . The second refit upgraded propulsion systems, added a package of sensors to sound emergency alerts, and introduced modern communication systems. In addition, long-range surveillance radar, weapon systems, and new hangar with fire curtains was installed. The lift system was revamped to reduce reaction time in the event of an attack and a new flood alarm system was installed [ [ - "Centaur Class" -] ] . Another year of down time followed while the ship received the Israeli Barak surface-to-air missile system in 2004 [ [ - "Centaur Class" -] ] . In a wartime scenario, the INS Viraat can embark up to 18 combat aircraft. INS Viraat is ideally suited for two missions: supporting amphibious operations and conducting ASW operations. Despite its age and range considerations, INS Viraat can quite effectively project naval and air power anywhere in the South Asia region. In 2004, India bought the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov from Russia for US$1.5 billion; it is expected to enter service in 2012 as INS Vikramaditya, when it will replace the Viraat.

Current Inventory of the Naval Air Arm


Mikoyan MiG-29: The MiG-29K program was revived by Russia in response to the decision of the Indian Navy to acquire the Soviet aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov [ [ MIG-29 FULCRUM (MIKOYAN-GUREVICH)] ] [ [ MiG-29K/KUB FULCRUM-D at Bharat-Rakshak] ] . On January 20, 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 January 22 2007. Though it is ready it is not yet in service. [ [ First MiG-29K/KUB aircraft for Indian Navy undergoes flight tests] ] First four of the sixteen aircraft was expected to be delivered by September 2008. [ [] :The Indian Navy's first MiG-29KUB] [ [ Russia to deliver first four MiG 29K by September] ] but has been delayed till the spring of 2009. [ [ Russia to start MiG fighter deliveries to India in spring 2009] ] The fighter plane is different from the Mig-29 flown by Indian Air Force. Modifications were made for Indian Navy requirement featured Zhuk-ME radar, RD-33MK engine, combat payload up to 5,500 kg, 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 updated 4-channel digital fly-by-wire flight control system. With special coatings MiG-29K radar reflecting surface is 4-5 times smaller than of basic MiG-29. Cockpit displays consist of wide HUD and 3 (7 on MiG-29KUB) colour LCD MFDs and 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. [ [ Navy's MiGs superior to IAF's Sukhois] ] The MIG-29 KUB ( double seat trainer) is more similar to the MIG-29K but with reduced operational range. The aircraft will be fielded on the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. [ [ First MiG 29 K for Indian Navy takes off] ] .
BAE Sea Harrier: The BAE Sea Harrier operates from the INS Viraat [ [ Indian Navy Sea Harrier Operations video on YouTube] ] . The BAE Sea Harrier FRS Mk.51 / T Mk.60 fly with the INAS 300 and INAS 552 squadrons of the Indian Navy. They were first acquired by the Indian Navy in the mid-1980s. After years of undergoing maintenance in the UK, the Indian Navy launched Project Ashok to set up a maintenance facility in Kochi in 1994. A mid-life upgrade in 1999 for these aircraft was cancelled when the decision was made to purchase MiG-29K air defense fighters, to be deployed aboard the INS Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov). 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 [ [] : The White Tigers of Rewa] . Though the Sea Harriers were expected to remain in service with the Indian Navy till 2012-15, limited upgrades are being performed on these Sea Harriers to extend the life of the aircraft by 15 years, indicating a retirement date of 2023. [ [ Flight Global] ] The upgrades are expected to be performed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Tupolev Tu-142: The Indian Navy operates eight Tu-142 aircraft. The aircraft was inducted into service in the year 1988. Upgrading of the aircraft are taking place, which helps to extend the service life of the aircraft by sixteen years. One the upgraded aircraft has been handed over to the Indian Navy. [ [ Modernized Tu-142 handed over to Indian Eastern Headquarters] ] The aircraft operates from INS Rajali and INS Hansa. Two Tu-142 aircraft are being fitted with the air launched version of the Brahmos. The aircraft will be the test platform for the Brahmos cruise missiles. The integration and tests of the missile is expected to be completed by 2010. [] The eight aircraft will be fitted with the Brahmos cruise missiles.

UAV: The Indian Navy currently has one squadron (INAS 342) that operates the Heron and Searcher Mk-II UAV's. There are plans to have at least three squadron of UAV's. [ [ Birds of a different feather] ] UAV's are operated from ships to increases the range of surveillance. There are plans to introduce rotary UAV's into the Indian Navy. [ [ Maritime surveillance capability needs to be strengthened: Mehta] ] These UAV's will have higher endurance and load carrying capability resulting in better reconnaissance capabilities. [ [ Indian Navy developing new generation UAV] ]


HAL Dhruv Developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited with MBB of Germany (now Eurocopter Deutschland), the Navy received it's first Dhruvs on 28 March 2002 [ [] : HAL Dhruv at Aero India '05] . 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. 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.

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

Westland Sea King and the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King: Used principally for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and search & rescue roles, [ [ Sea King] ] the helicopeter fleet operate from INS Garuda (Kochi) as well as INS Kunjali-II (Mumbai) 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 kilometers and a new radar. [ [ India to Upgrade 17 Sea King Copters for $300M] ]

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 Kunjali-II and INS Utkrosh Naval Air Stations in Mumbai and Port Blair respectively.

Naval Aircraft Inventory

The Navy operates 185 aircraft, including 18 combat jets, 108 helicopters and 12 UAV's. [ [ Indian military aviation OrBat] ] ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Aircraft! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Origin! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Type! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Versions! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|In service"World Military Aircraft Inventory", Aerospace Source Book 2007, "Aviation Week & Space Technology", January 15 2007.] ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Notes
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum || || Maritime patrol || Tupolev Tu-142 Bear-F || 8 ||
Ilyushin Il-38 May || || Utility transport || Do 228-101

Do 228-201 || 1
19 ||
HAL HJT-16 Kiran || || Utility helicopter || || 6 ||
Westland Sea King || || Utility helicopter || SA 316B
SA 319 || 30
25 || built by HAL
Kamov Ka-25 Hormone || || Naval helicopter || || 9 ||
Mil Mi-2 Hoplite || || UAV || || 4 |
IAI Searcher MkII || ISR || UAV || || 8 ||

Future Aircraft Carriers

"Vikrant" class aircraft carrier:In April 2005, India began construction of a 37,500 tonne "Vikrant" class aircraft carrier at a cost of Rs.40 billion and scheduled to operate 30 aircraft, including Naval LCA, MiG-29K, and Sea Harrier combat aircraft, as well as HAL Dhruv, Ka-31, and Sea King Mk.42 helicopters. Four turbine engines will power the ship. The carrier is being constructed by state-run Cochin Shipyard Limited. [ [ India's construction of aircraft carrier.] ] and will be commissioned by 2012-13. The Indian Minister of State for Defence, Pallam Raju, went on record in September 2006 stating that the aircraft carrier is likely to be commissioned by 2011. [ [ IAC construction] ] There are plans to build more Indigenous aircraft carriers. [* [ India to have ‘3-carrier Navy’] ]

INS Vikramaditya: On January 20, 2004, after years of negotiations, Russia and India signed a deal for the sale of the ship, the then-Admiral Gorshkov. The ship was free, while India will pay US$800 million for upgrade and refit of the ship, as well as at least an additional $1bn for the aircraft and weapons systems. The Navy looked at equipping the carrier with the E- 2C, but decided not to. The deal also includes the purchase of 12 single-seat MiG-29K 'Fulcrum-D' (Product 9.41) and 4 dual-seat MiG-29KUB aircraft (with an option for 14 more aircraft)$1bn, 6 Kamov Ka-31 "Helix" reconnaissance and anti-submarine helicopters, torpedo tubes, missile systems, and artillery units. Facilities and procedures for training pilots and technical staff, delivery of simulators, spare parts, and establishment maintenance on Indian Navy facilities are also part of the contract.The announced delivery date for INS Vikramaditya was August 2008, an ambitious schedule, but one that would allow the carrier to enter service in 2009, around the time as light carrier INS Viraat (formerly HMS Hermes, last of the Centaur class) was scheduled to retire. The new ship will berth at the new Indian Navy facility in Karwar, on India’s west coast. The INS Viraat’s retirement is now set for 2010-2012. The sea trials of INS Vikramaditya are expected to begin by 2010 and delivery is expected by 2012.

Aircraft Under Development and Future Aircraft

HAL Tejas:The naval variant of the Tejas will have strengthened landing gear and other necessary modifications for service on an aircraft carrier. Two Naval prototypes will be built, the NP-1 (Naval Prototype-1) which will be a two seat variant and NP-2 (Naval Prototype-2), a single seat variant for carrier operations. The Tejas is expected to be delivered before 2012. [ [ Naval Tejas] ] The first flight of NP-1 is expected to take place by the end of 2008. The carrier trials will be delayed due to the delay in the delivery schedule of INS Vikramaditya. Hence the trials will have to be carried out at the SBTF (Shore-based Test Facility) under construction at the naval airbase INS Hansa in Goa. Indian Navy plans to operate two squadrons (40 aircraft) of carrier borne Tejas aircraft from the two aircraft carries. [ [ Gorshkov delay stalls carrier trials of naval LCA] ]

*Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (30): The Indian Navy issued an RFP for eight maritime patrol aircraft. The plan is to induct up to thirty new maritime patrol aircraft by 2020. The bidders are [ [ India's Navy Holding Maritime Patrol Aircraft Competition] ]

*BAE (Nimrod)

*Boeing (P-8A MMA)

*Lockheed (P-3C Orion)

*Northrop-Grumman (Global Hawk)
**EADS (AT3 Atlantique presumably, a smaller twin-engine turboprop)

*Rosoboronexport (IL-38 "May" and TU-142 "Bear", both currently in service)

*Dassault (Falcon 900 MPA)

*The P-8I Poseidon aircraft will undergo field trials in India. [ [ Boeing gets India call for field trials of aircraft] ]

*Airavat (formerly ASP)

*17 Hawk Trainer [ [ IAF to get 40 more Hawk AJTs] ]

* HAL HJT-36

* 20 ASW Helicopters (to replace Sea King) [ [ Indian Navy in the Market For New ASW Helicopters] ]

* 40 Unmanned helicopters [ [ India developing unmanned helicopter] ] . This helicopter is under development and will be based on the HAL-built Cheetah helicopters. [ [ Indian Navy RFPs for maritime patrol aircraft soon, to develop rotary wing UAVs ne] ]

* Rustom UAV

Personnel and Structure

The 5000-person [ [] :Administrative Structure] Naval Air Arm is headed by Rear Admiral Vijay Shankar, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Air) [ [] : NAVY SENIOR APPOINTMENTS & OFFICERS LIST] . The current Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta was in the Naval Air Arm and flew the Hawker Sea Hawk from the INS Vikrant earlier on in his career. He also held command of the INS Garuda air station in Kochi, Kerala. [ [] : Admiral Sureesh Mehta]

Western Command

Established in 1986, the Flag Officer Naval Aviation (FONA) [ [] : Eastern Command] is headquartered in Goa, and is responsible for all naval aviation aspects. The Directorate of Naval Air Staff at Naval HQ has centralized functions like laying down the general principles of operational deployment, organisation, administration and operational/training standards for the flying units. On the other hand, 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.

Eastern Command

To protect and preserve India's growing trade with Southeast Asia [ [] : Western Command] and offer a bulwark against Chinese dominance in the Bay of Bengal, a new naval base is being built near Visakhapatnam. It is expected to be capable of harboring two aircraft carriers, including the new Vikrant-class aircraft carrier that is being planned.

Southern Command

It has at least one airfield. [ [] : Southern Command]

Andaman & Nicobar Command

A fighter squadron is expected to be based in Port Blair in the future [ [] : Andaman & Nicobar Command] , to bolster the strength of the squadron of Mi-8 helicopters currently operating there.


ee also

* Indian Coast Guard
* Naval ranks and insignia of India
* Middle Ground Coastal Battery
* Project Seabird
* Indian Ancient Maritime History
* Kanhoji Angre
* Kunjali Marakkar
* Chempil Arayan


External links

* [ Naval Air Arm]
* [ Indian Naval Aviation - Part 1 @]
* [ Indian Naval Aviation - Part 2 @]
* [ Naval Tejas,]
* [ Documentary on YouTube on the INS Vikrant]
* [ Video of IL-38 of IN firing anti-ship missile]
* [ YouTube video by user vishv with some good photographs]
* [ INS Vikrant docked in Mumbai]
* [ Image of Kamov helicopter]

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