New Delhi, Feb 26 - Facing a massive shortage in its officer and sailor cadre, Indian Navy has gone on a campaign overdrive to attract the youth to join a 'career full of adventure' in the force.
The navy has launched TV ad campaigns and also put up hoardings at major road junctions. The campaigns, which depict a day in the life of a navy person, calls the youth to take up 'a career full of adventure' and 'serve the nation with honour'.
The effort, to continue for a few more weeks, is in consonance with the navy's plans to increase its force levels by at least 15 percent in the next five years to help man the nearly 50 warships it intends to induct at a rapid pace over the next decade, a senior officer told IANS.
At present, the navy has a shortage of nearly 1,300 officers and 5,500 personnel of other ranks, of its sanctioned strength of 8,000 officers and 50,000 sailors.
From a strength close to 150 warships, the navy plans to grow into over 200 warships, in tune with its plans to become a blue water force capable of protecting India's strategic interests far away from the Indian shores, be it conventional or sub-conventional threats in the Indian Ocean region and beyond.
'Considering that we are going to induct at the rate of five to seven warships a year, we also need crew strength to match up and man those newly inducted warships. That's why we have gone for this campaign to attract students' attention to a career in the navy,' the officer said.
Being a technology intensive force, the navy needs youth with knowledge in science or engineering-qualified to form a majority of its manpower.
The selection procedures to join the navy being stringent, the recruitment boards usually get to select only two or three percent of the total applicants into the force.
'With the force levels set to increase, we are focussing on developing operational and technical infrastructure, apart from manpower growth,' the officer said, noting that the plans were given shape by the navy top brass in October 2011.
The navy already has 49 warships and battle vessels on order with both Indian and foreign shipyards, including an indigenous aircraft carrier, Kolkata class destroyers, Shivalik class frigates, Corvettes and Scorpene submarines, that will be inducted in the next five years.
It also plans to place an order for building a second line of submarines for which a tender is expected soon.
These apart, the navy's infrastructure too will increase with the opening of a major naval base at Karwar on the West coast, new forward naval bases, operational turnaround bases and naval air enclaves at Tuticorin, Kamarta, Diglipur, Campbell Bay, Paradip and other coastal towns of the mainland and island territories of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep.
'The primary challenge confronting the navy is to balance its resources and build human capital and a requisite strategy so as to be responsive to the full spectrum of operations,' the officer said.
The aviation arm of the navy is also set to grow in the years ahead, as it has already inducted 16 MiG-29K naval combat aircraft for INS Vikramaditya (erstwhile Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier) that will come from Russia in early 2013.
The American major Boeing's P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, eight of which were bought in 2009 for $2.1 billion, too will join the fleet in 2013. Plans are afoot to induct four more of these spy planes.
The navy last year signed contracts with shipyards for five offshore patrol vessels, two cadet training ships, eight amphibious landing craft and fast interceptor craft.
(N.C. Bipindra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)