The Maritime Theatre Command — comprising all the naval assets — will come up soon after the unified Air Defence Command is set up, ThePrint has learnt.
An ongoing study on the maritime command is currently at an advanced stage, top defence sources said.
The Air Defence Command, responsible for guarding the Indian airspace against hostile air elements, was initially reported to be set up by October. A new date, however, is yet to be formally announced. The study on the Maritime Theatre Command has been underway for the last several months.
A senior defence source told ThePrint that the command is more likely to be headquartered at Karwar in Karnataka. Hyderabad is also under consideration, though, it is learnt.
It will likely be headed by an Indian Navy officer of vice-admiral or admiral rank.
According to defence officials, the Maritime Theatre Command will comprise both the Eastern and Western Naval Commands, with the Andaman and Nicobar Command subsumed into the Eastern Naval Command.
The Andaman and Nicobar Command, set up in October 2001, and the Strategic Forces Command, set up in 2003, are the only two unified tri-services commands.
“It (maritime command) will also have shore-based maritime strike elements of the IAF and some amphibious elements of the Army,” a senior defence official said.
Amphibious elements of Army include infantry, mechanised as well as armoured regiments, which are presently capable of executing amphibious operations.
Maritime strike aircraft with the IAF includes certain squadrons of Sukhoi-30 and Jaguar fighters, and their primary role is to strike enemy naval facilities onshore, naval vessels and installations in the harbour and carry out anti-shipping strikes against enemy naval assets when in the vicinity of India’s naval forces.
A senior Navy officer told ThePrint the maritime command will reduce the inter-service mobilisation time for operational events and increase cohesion in joint training.
“Tri-services coordination will increase within the components placed in the theatre commands.”
The officer added, “Subsuming the Andaman and Nicobar Command into the Eastern Naval Command will provide greater force levels in the Bay of Bengal, while also increasing resources available at the islands to address any threat from the east.”
At present, the Indian Navy is divided into two operational fleets, with the western fleet addressing the western theatre and eastern fleet addressing the threats in the east and training command in the south.
The new theatre command aims to bring them all under one theatre command, which will address all threats emanating in the maritime domain.