The Indian Navy plans to partially lease a private shipyard to berth its new aircraft carrier as shortage of funds has delayed its move to create of a strategic naval base on the eastern coast, people privy to the development told ET.
The navy has informed the parliamentary standing committee on defence that the proposed secretive base on the eastern coast, which was to house frontline nuclear submarines and warships, was among the defence projects impacted by the fund crunch, they said.
Operationalisation of Defence Space Agency, Defence Cyber Agency, and Armed Forces Special Operations Division (AFSOD) — all new initiatives taken up by the Narendra Modi government — too, have been delayed, the standing panel was told.
The aircraft carrier, to be named INS Vikrant, was to operate from the new base codenamed Project Varsha. Besides berthing facilities for large warships, it will have underground pens for a nuclear submarine fleet. The base was originally planned to be commissioned by 2018.
As an interim measure, the navy is looking to lease a portion of a shipyard near Chennai, sources said.
“The case for leasing of the 260 m berth at M/s L&T shipyard, Kattupalli for a period of eight years (2022-2030) for interim berthing of IAC 1on the East Coast has been taken up with MoD (defence ministry,” the navy has informed the committee. “The total financial implications for leasing the berth along with ‘ready to use’ infrastructure are Rs 30.48 crore per year plus Rs 48 crore refundable deposit,” it said.
The armed forces, which have raised the issue of a lack of funds for the past several years, have also warned that implications of the budget shortfall will hit the tri-services initiatives, which are now being looked after by the Chief of Defence Staff.
Besides the inability to operationalise the new commands, the lack of funds would lower the “operational readiness of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) ships”, the committee has been informed.