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US-checked warship undergoes refit

New Delhi, Aug. 7: The Indian Navy is refitting the INS Jalashva, the ship it bought from the US in 2005 and that was examined by a “Golden Sentry” team under an inspection regime to which India has acceded, navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said today.

The amphibious warship is likely to have a reduced dependence on US-origin components after the refit.

“There was no intrusive inspection. In my book, had they (the inspection teams) boarded the ship that would have been intrusive. Let me assure you there was no such thing but from time to time certification has been given,” the admiral said.

“We have put the INS Jalashva through two refits. A short one earlier, because of financial constraints, and now it is going through a long refit.”

He was responding to The Telegraph report today that said a “Tiger Team” from the Pentagon examined night vision devices that were taken out of the Jalashva for the inspection under an end-user monitoring agreement that India and the US reached in 2009. The US inspection team was not required to board the vessel to examine the night vision devices.

The navy was and is uncomfortable with the inspection regime but it is bound by the bilateral pact between the two governments.

Admiral Verma said after the refits, the Jalashva, an amphibious “Landing Platform Dock”, was sailing faster than it used to. India bought the ship and six UH-3H Seaking helicopters for about $90 million second-hand from the US in 2005.

In its earlier avatar, the Jalashva (Seahorse) was the USS Trenton. The purchase was red-flagged by India’s comptroller and auditor general (CAG). The INS Jalashva is home-ported at the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam.

Admiral Verma said the current refit of the INS Jalashva included replacement of its radars and sensors. It is possible that the Indian Navy is replacing many of the US-origin equipment with indigenously built components or with hardware that it is more comfortable with.

None of the other countries from which India imports military hardware has an inspection regime as strict as the US’. But none of the others export so much high-tech military hardware either.

Under the end-user monitoring regime, US inspection teams verify that military hardware exported to “friendly countries” were being used for the purpose for which they were meant. The US Arms Export Control Act requires the teams to submit annual “compliance reports”.

Admiral Verma, who retires after 42 years of service at the end of this month (August 31), said the navy had assessed that military activity in the Indian Ocean region would increase with the US reinforcing its naval presence in keeping with a “rebalancing towards Asia-Pacific policy”.

He said that in the last three years the Indian Navy had commissioned a “record number” of 15 ships. It has also commissioned the nuclear submarine INS Chakra, leased from Russia.

India’s own nuclear submarine, the INS Arihant, would begin sea trials shortly and after its induction it would complete the “nuclear triad” — the ability of a retaliatory nuclear strike from air, from the surface and from under the surface.

“The Indian Navy is poised to complete the triad, and our maritime and nuclear doctrines will then be aligned to ensure that our nuclear insurance comes from the sea,” the admiral said.