Defence – India

The Supreme Command of the Armed Forces is vested in the President of India, though the responsibility for national defence lies with the Cabinet. The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, which is presided by the Prime Minister, decides all important matters having a bearing on defence. The Defence Minister is responsible to Parliament for all matters concerning the Defence Services. The Ministry of Defence and the three Services Headquarters exercise all operational and administrative control of the Armed Forces.

The main functions of the Ministry of Defence are: (i) to act as the central agency to ensure co-ordination of the three Services, (ii) to transmit (and implement) government decisions on policy matters to the three Services Headquarters, and (iii) to obtain financial sanction from Parliament for defence expenditure.

The three Services function under their respective Chiefs of Staff.


The Army is organised into seven Commands—Western, Eastern, Northern, Southern, South Western, Central and Army Training Command—each under a General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the rank of a LieutenantGeneral. The Commands are divided into Areas and Sub-Areas. An Area is commanded by a General Officer Commanding of the rank of a Major General and a Sub-Area by a Brigadier.


The Navy is organised into four Commands: (1) Western Naval Command, Mumbai, (2) Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam, (3) Southern Naval Command, Cochin and (4) Far Eastern Naval Command, Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The Navy has two Fleets—the Western Fleet and the Eastern Fleet. The Eastern Fleet was established on 18th November 1971. The Indian Navy has set up an exclusive command to provide protection to the Mumbai High offshore oil installations against any enemy attack from air or sea. A senior naval officer of the rank of Rear Admiral has been appointed Flag Officer of the command. The command is known as Flag Officer of the Defence Advisory Group (FODAG). It operates under the naval headquarters but is based in Mumbai.

Port Blair in the Andamans has been selected to become full-fledged command headquarters of the Indian Navy. A naval organisation, INS Jarawa has been set up at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, with necessary transport and communication facilities, to patrol the various islands in the area.

INS Kadamba—Asia’s largest naval base, it dedicated to the nation on June 1, 2005. The project was earlier known as Project Seabird and the foundation stone was laid by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on October 26, 1986. The naval base can repair and refit 11 warships simultaneously.

In an apparent bid to counter China’s growing presence in the Bay of Bengal, especially its new forays in Bangladesh and Myanmar, the Indian government has okayed two new naval bases on the eastern coast—Paradip (Oddisa) and Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu). These will be the first major naval bases other than Vizag on the eastern coast.

INS Sardar Patel naval base: On 9 May 2015, a strategically important new Naval base—INS Sardar Patel—was commissioned by Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in Porbandar. INS Sardar Patel will ensure coordination requirements of Indian Navy’s ships, submarines and aircraft that will be deployed in coastal regions of Gujarat. Their operational and administrative support and logistic support will be given by the new base.


The Indian Air Force is organised into seven Commands: (1) Western Air Command, (2) Central Air Command, (3) Eastern Air Command, (4) Training Command, (5) Maintenance Command, (6) South Western Command and (7) Southern Command.


Army: (from top) Field Marshal; General; Lt General; Maj General; Brigadier; Colonel; Lieutenant Colonel; Major; Captain; Lieutenant; 2nd Lieutenant.

Air Force: Marshal of the Air Force; Air Chief Marshal; Air Marshal; Air Vice-Marshal; Air Commodore; Group Captain; Wing/Comdr; Squadron Leader; Flight Lieutenant; Flying Officer; Pilot Officer.

Navy: Admiral of the Fleet; Admiral; Vice-Admiral; Rear-Admiral; Commodore; Captain; Commander; Lieutenant Commander; Lieutenant; Sub-Lieutenant; Acting Sub-Lieutenant.


It is a “Citizens’ Army” to which all able-bodied persons between the ages of 18 and 35 are eligible for recruitment. The upper age limit can be relaxed in case of ex-servicemen and those possessing the requisite technical qualifications. The Territorial Army provides an opportunity for the citizens to receive part-time military training so that, in times of necessity, they should be able to bear arms to defend the country. It is responsible for anti-aircraft and coastal defence and is also meant to relieve the regular army for the maintenance of internal peace. It is a second line of defence. The Territorial Army has units of Armoured Corps, Artillery, Engineers, Signals, Infantry, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the Medical Corps. Service in the Territorial Army is considered as part-time employment and pay and allowances are admissible only during training and during attachment to Regular or Territorial Army.


The National Cadet Corps is composed of boys and girls from schools and colleges. Its aims are: (1) To develop qualities of character, courage, comradeship, discipline, leadership, secular outlook, spirit of adventure and sportsmanship and the ideals of selfless service among the youth to make them useful citizens, and (2) To create a human resource of organised, trained and motivated youth, to provide leadership in all walks of life including the Armed forces and always available for the service of the nation. The NCC is thus mainly of an educational and nation-building character. Officers and cadets have no liability for active military service.

A certain percentage of the total intake of candidates for commissioned ranks in the Army, Navy and Air Force, on the basis of direct entry to the Armed Forces training institutions, has been reserved for NCC cadets of the three Services.

The NCC consists of three Divisions viz., (1) Senior Division, (2) Junior Division, and (3) Girls’ Division. The Senior and Junior Divisions are composed of three Wings: Army, Navy and Air Force. The Army Wing has units of the Armoured Corps, the Corps of Engineers, Artillery, the Signal Corps, infantry, the Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the Medical Corps.

The Junior Division consists of students of 8th, 9th and 10th class. It is also composed of Army, Navy and Air Wings. The object of Girls’ Division is to develop all-round personality among girls.


It is the special force raised to deal with extremists and terrorists. This will be a special peace keeping force in the country.


Rashtriya Rifles (RR) has been set up to help reduce burden on the overstretched Army units deployed for internal security. The RR is organised with three battalions grouped into one sector unit. Currently there are two sector commands. To ensure that the best personnel volunteer for the unit, the Chief of the Army Staff is the Colonel of the unit.


It is an organisation formed in December 1962, (1) to assist the police in order to maintain internal security, (2) to render assistance in case of air-raids and to perform emergency tasks connected with defence, (3) to assist the local authorities in case of epidemics, fire-fighting and (4) to undertake services such as motor-transport, engineering etc.


The Coast Guard forms a part of the Defence Ministry. Its headquarters are at New Delhi and is headed by a Director General. It has three regional headquarters at Mumbai (western region), Chennai (southern region) and Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar). The main duties of the Coast Guard are protection of coastal and offshore installations and terminals, protection of fisheries, patrol of the Exclusive Economic Zone to prevent poaching, anti-smuggling work, and search and rescue missions.


Military Training Institutes

  1. National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla (near Pune).
  2. Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun.
  3. National Defence College, New Delhi.
  4. Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Nilgiri Hills (Tamil Nadu).
  5. Armed Forces Medical College, Pune.
  6. Air Defence and Guided Missiles School, Gopalpur (Odisa).
  7. Rashtriya Indian Military College, Dehra Dun.

Air Force Training Centres

  1. Air Force Flying College, Jodhpur.
  2. Air Force School, Tambaram.
  3. Air Force Administrative College, Coimbatore.
  4. School of Aviation Medicine, Bengaluru.
  5. Air Force Technical College, Jalahalli.
  6. Air Force School, Jalahalli.
  7. Jet Training Wing and Transport Training Wing, Hakimpet and Begumpet (as part of the Air Force Station at Hyderabad).
  8. IAF Paratroopers’ Training School, Agra.

Naval Training Centres

  1. INS Venduruthy, Cochin.
  2. INS Garuda, Cochin.
  3. INS Shivaji, Lonavala (Maharashtra).
  4. INS Valsura, Jamnagar.
  5. INS Circars, Visakhapatnam.
  6. INS Hamla, Mumbai.
  7. INS Kistna, junior officers’ training ship.
  8. INS Angre, Mumbai.
  9. INS Kunjali, Mumbai.
  10. Indian Naval Academy, Cochin.

National Institute for Research and Development in Defence Shipbuilding (NIRDESH): On 4 January 2011, as a first step towards creating the infrastructure needed for making India a major global hub for building warships, the foundation stone of the National Institute for Research and Development in Defence Shipbuilding (NIRDESH) was layed at Chaliyam, in Kozhikode district of Kerala. NIRDESH, an autonomous body under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, will function under the MoD’s Department of Defence Production. Set up with a corpus of about Rs 40 crore, NIRDESH is funded by the MoD and the four defence shipyards. Once operative, it is expected to be self-sustaining, charging both public and private sector shipyards for design and consultancy work.


INS Vikramaditya: was inducted into the Indian Navy on 16 November 2013, at the Sevmash Shipyard in northern Arctic port of Russia. The aircraft carrier has MiG-29K naval combat aircraft along with Kamov 31 and Kamov 28 anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance helicopters.

INS Delhi: India’s largest and most sophisticated, indigenously-built warship, INS Delhi was launched on February 2, 1991. The ship was built under “Project-15”. The ship has most advanced weapon systems, light speed and long endurance and survivability in adversity capability.

INS Brahmaputra: called the Razing Rhino, is Indian Navy’s finest guided-missile frigate.

INS Kolkata: is the biggest indigenously-built naval destroyer: It is part of the Kolkata Class destroyers of the Indian Navy, and has been built at the Mumbai-based Mazgaon Docks, a defence Public Sector Unit. INS Kolkata, first of the three such ships (the other two ships being built are INS Kochi and INS Chennai), is equipped to play a varied role. It was also the first Indian ship to be armed with the land attack, anti-ship BrahMos missile.

INS Vishakhapatnam: Indian Navy’s destroyer, INS Visakhapatnam, with enhanced capability to operate in nuclear, biological and chemical atmosphere, was launched in Mumbai on 20 April 2015. The ship is the first of the four follow-up orders of the Kolkata class warships.

India’s stealth frigates: INS Shivalik was launched on April 18, 2003 at Mazagon Dock. The warship is one of three stealth frigates planned under Project 17—INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri, are other two.

INS Kamorta: India’s first indigenously-built anti-submarine warfare corvette, INS Kamorta, has been built by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd (GRSE), Kolkata. It is the first warship to be armed with an indigenous rocket launcher for anti-submarine warfare.

INS Kiltan: The indigenously-built anti-submarine warfare stealth corvette was commissioned on 16 October 2017. INS Kiltan is the latest indigenous warship after Shivalik class, Kolkata class and sister ships INS Kamorta and INS Kadmatt to have joined the Indian Navy’s arsenal. The stealth corvette has been designed by the Indian Navy’s in-house body, the Directorate of Naval Design, under Project 28 (Kamorta Class).

INS Kadmatt anti-Submarine warfare corvette: The second Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Corvette, INS Kadmatt, built indigenously by GRSE shipyard, Kolkata, was formally handed over to Indian Navy on 26 November 2015. The basic design for these ships was developed by Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design while the detailed design was made by the in-house design department of GRSE, Kolkata. INS Kamorta, the first in the class, was handed over to the navy in 2014. The ship’s main role is to protect the nation’s maritime interests against possible submarine attacks.

India Joins N-maritime Club: On January 3, 1988 India joined the maritime nuclear powers with the induction of the first nuclear propelled submarine, “INS Chakra” into the Indian Navy. The submarine was leased by former Soviet Union, for four years.

On January 23, 2012, for the first time in two decades, Indian Navy was once again equipped with a nuclear-powered submarine when Russia handed over nuclear-powered attack submarine Nerpa to India on a 10-year lease. The submarine was rechristened as INS Chakra. India is the sixth operator of nuclear submarines in the world, after the US, Russia, France, Britain and China.

Nuclear Submarine INS Arihant: The first indigenously built nuclear submarine INS Arihant was sent out to water on July 26, 2009 for trials. It took more than 25 years for it to come into existence since the submarine was planned. Unlike diesel-electric powered submarines that have to surface every 48 hours or so to “breathe”, a nuclear- powered submarine can remain submerged for longer periods, enabling it to hide.

INS Kalvari – First Scorpene-class submarine: The first of the indigenous Scorpene-class submarines, INS Kalvari, was commissioned in the Indian Navy on 14 December 2017. The state-of-art features of the Scorpene include superior stealth and ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision guided weapons. The attack can be launched with torpedoes, as well as tube launched anti-ship missiles, whilst underwater or on surface. It is designed to operate in all theatres including the tropics.

Boeing P-8-I Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft: On 14 November 2015, the Boeing P-8-I (Poseidon Eight India) Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft was dedicated to the nation. The aircraft will provide the Indian Navy the necessary reach and flexibility to undertake extensive surveillance, as also to respond swiftly and effectively to contingencies in our areas of interest.


The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India has been instrumental in developing India’s missile programme. It has developed five missiles: Agni, Akash, Prithvi, Nag and Trishul. The integrated guided missile programme was sanctioned in July 1983.

May 22, 1989, marked another triumph for India when the intermediate-range surface-to-surface missile Agni was successfully test-fired from Chandipur-on-sea test range. With the launch India joined the exclusive IRBM club comprising of USA, Russia, France and China. Agni has a range of over 2,500 km and has the potential to carry lethal warheads and deliver them over a long distance with a high degree of accuracy.

Agni-V: On April 19, 2012, India successfully launched its Agni-V Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) from the Wheeler Island off the Odisha coast. With a range of 5,000 km, Agni-V would travel a distance of 2,000 km more than any other Indian missile, making it the longest range missile currently available in India’s strategic armoury. It is also the fastest of the missiles, travelling at 24 times the speed of sound or 6,000 meters per second, covering the distance of 5,000 km in just 20 minutes. Agni-V’s navigational system is a quantum jump over its cousins, making it the most accurate of the lot.

BrahMos missile system: BrahMos (acronym for BrahmputraMoscow), is the supersonic anti-ship cruise missile jointly developed by India and Russia. It was first flight-tested on June 12, 2001 from the interim test range near Balasore (Orissa).

The air-breathing missile can fly at a velocity of upto 2.8 Mach. It is unique because all other current anti-ship missiles in the world either fly at subsonic speeds or have a much shorter range. BrahMos operates on a “fire and forget” principle and has a “low radar signature”.

Missile launch vehicle: Sarath Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) has been innovatively modified by scientists at the Avadi-based Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) to suit the new generation missile systems that are to be inducted into the armed forces in the next few years.


With the underground testing of three nuclear devices on May 11, 1998, codenamed “Operation Shakti”, India became the sixth nuclear weapon power of the world. It had become a nuclear weapon-capable power as far back as 1974 when the first test was conducted at Pokhran. The 1974 test had been codenamed “Smiling Buddha”.

On January 4, 2003, the government formalised the country’s nuclear command and control structure. A Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) will manage the nuclear arsenal of India. NCA has two bodies—political and executive. Only political council, headed by the Prime Minister, can give the green signal for a nuclear strike.

The K-15 nuclear missile, Shaurya, that can fire some 700 km, has been tested by the DRDO using a canister to mimic an under-sea launch. With this, India completed its nuclear triad.


Param Vir Chakra: is the highest decoration for valour and is awarded for bravery and dashing courage or pre-eminent acts of valour or self-sacrifice in combat against the enemy at land, sea or in the air. It entitles the recipient to Rs 50 per month (or Rs 70 in the case of Junior Commissioned Officers). In case of death during the combat, the award is granted to the widow of the deceased until her death or re-marriage.

During the Indo-Pak War of December 1971 the award was won by four members of India’s Defence Forces, viz., (i) Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon (ii) L/Nk Albert Ekka (iii) 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal and (iv) Major Hoshiar Singh. In the case of the first three, the award was given posthumously.

For gallantry displayed during the Indo-Pak War of 1965, the following members of India’s Defence Forces were awarded the Param Vir Chakra: CQMH Abdul Hamid; Lt-Col A.B. Tarapore; Major Dhan Singh Thapa.

For gallantry displayed during Operation Vijay in Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999, captain Vikram Batra, grandiers yogendra Singh Yadav and Majoj Kumar Pandey, and Rifleman Sanjay Kumar were honoured with Param Vir Chakra, the country’s highest gallantry award.

(Other recipients of Param Vir Chakra: L/Naik Karan Singh; Capt Rama Raghoba Rana; Hav-Maj Piru Singh; Capt Gurbachan Singh; Maj Shaitan Singh; Subedar Joginder Singh; Major Ramaswamy Parameshwaran (Posthumous); Naib Subedar Bana Singh.)

Maha Vir Chakra: is the second highest decoration. It is also awarded for an act of gallantry in combat against the enemy either on land, sea or in the air.

Vir Chakra: is the third in the order of awards given for acts of gallantry in the presence of the enemy, whether on land, at sea or in the air.

Ashoka Chakra: is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice on land, at sea or in the air. Kirti Chakra is awarded for conspicuous gallantry and Shaurya Chakra for an act of gallantry.

The other awards are: Sarvottam Yudh Seva Medal, Sena Medal, Nao Sena Medal and Vayu Sena Medal.


December 7 every year is observed in India as Flag Day as a mark of gratitude to India’s servicemen. Flag day is observed to remind the people of the heroic role played by the three wings of our armed forces in the defence of the country. Funds are raised by selling the armed forces flags. These funds are utilised for the welfare of the families of the jawans.