Introduction & Brief History – Chief of Naval Staff
“The pessimist complaints about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. But a LEADER adjusts the sails.” – John Maxwell
The Indian Navy works with a primary objective of safeguarding the nation’s maritime borders.
It has witnessed some great leaders bringing India to rank 7 in the world, with regards to naval strength.
The highest-ranking officer and the commander of the Indian Navy are called the Chief of Naval Staff. Abbreviated as CNS, the position is always held by a Full Admiral.
It was after The Commander-in-Chief (Change in Designation) Act, 1955, that the office of Chief of Naval Staff was created.
Earlier, the head was designated as the C-I-C (Commander-in-Chief), Royal Indian Navy.
Appointment Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) makes an appointment to this office and the appointee retires after completing three years of service as the chief or at reaching 62 years of age, whichever is earlier.
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Current Chief of Naval Staff
Admiral Karambir Singh
Admiral Karambir Singh is currently serving as the 24th Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) of the Indian Navy.
He is also known as the “Grey Eagle”. Admiral Singh was born on 03 November 1959 in Jalandhar, Punjab.
His father was an Indian Air Force (IAF) officer. He did his schooling from deolali and later joined the 56th course of the National Defence Academy(NDA). He was commissioned into the Navy in July 1980.
He has served as the Chief of Staff, Eastern Naval Command and also as the Deputy and Vice Chief of Naval Staff.
In his career of around 39 years, he has received the Param Vishist Seva Medal and the Ati Vishist Seva Medal.
He was appointed as the Chief of Naval Staff on 31 May 2019 succeeding Admiral Sunil Lanba. He is the only helicopter pilot till date to serve as the Chief of Naval Staff.
List of Chief of Naval Staff
Below is the list of all the appointees to the positions of Indian Navy Chief since the independence of India till today: –
1. Admiral Sir Charles Thomas Mark Pizey
Sir Charles Thomas Mark Pizey was born on 17 June 1899. He was a Royal Navy official who filled in as the last Commander-in-Chief and first Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy from 1951 to 1955.
In October 1951, Mark Pizey became the last Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Navy by replacing Admiral Edward Parry.
2. Vice Admiral Stephen Hope Carlill
Vice-Admiral Sir Stephen Hope Carlill was born on 23 December 1902. He was a Royal Navy admiral who served as the last British Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy from 1955 to 1958.
He becomes Chief of Naval Staff after he was succeeded by Vice-Admiral Ram Dass Katari. After completing his service in the Indian Navy, Carlill retired from the Royal Navy on 7 July 1959.
3. Admiral Ram Dass Katari
Admiral Ram Dass Katari, PVSM, AVSM was born on 8 October 1911 and died on 21 January 1983. He was the 3rd Chief of Naval Staff from 22 April 1958 to 4 June 1962. He spent 4 years, 43 days in office as Indian Navy Chief.
He was the first Indian to hold the office after he succeeded the last British officer to the post, Vice Admiral Sir Stephen Hope Carlill. He is the one who led the Indian Navy in the conflict during the annexation of Goa against the Portuguese Navy.
4. Admiral Bhaskar Sadashiv Soman
Admiral Bhaskar Sadashiv Soman on 30 March 1913. He died on 8 February 1995. He commanded the Indian Navy from 1962 to 1966 as the 4th Chief of Naval Staff (CNS).
He spent 3 years, 272 days in office as Indian Navy Chief. He took over as Flag Officer Commanding Indian Fleet (FOCIF), In April 1960. He was responsible for India’s maritime operation during the 1961 Liberation of Goa.
5. AdmiralAdhar Kumar Chatterji
Admiral Adhar Kumar Chatterji was born on 4 March 1914 and he died on 6 August 2001. Admiral Chatterji served as the Indian Navy Chief from 4 March 1966, until 28 February 1970.
He became the 1st Indian officer of the navy to hold the rank of full Admiral. He spent 3 years, 362 days in office as Indian Navy Chief.
6. Admiral Sardarilal Mathradas Nanda
Admiral Sardarilal Mathradas Nanda, PVSM, AVSM was born on 10 October 1915 and on 11 May 2009. He served as the 6th Chief of the Naval Staff from 1 March 1970 until 28 February 1973. He spent 3 years in office as an Indian Navy Chief
He is the one who led the Indian Navy during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Under his command, the Indian Navy successfully executed a naval blockade of both West and East Pakistan. Which helped India achieve an overwhelming victory during the war.
In the History of the Indian Navy, he is one of the most notable commanders.
7. Admiral Sourendra Nath Kohli
Admiral Sourendra Nath Kohli, PVSM was born on 21 June 1916 and he died on 21 January 1997. He served as the 7th Chief of the Naval Staff from 1 March 1973 until 29 February 1976.
During the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, Sourendra Kohli served as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-IN-C) of the Western Naval Command.
He was responsible for the devastating assaults on the Pakistan Navy fleet in Karachi.
8. Admiral Jal Cursetji
Admiral Jal Cursetji, PVSM was born on 20 May 1919 and he died on 29 January 1991. He served as the 8th Chief of the Naval Staff from 1 March 1976 until 28 February 1979. He spent 3 years in office as an Indian Navy Chief
Jal Cursetji’s commands included – Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command and also he is the commanding officer of INS Vikrant (R11) and HMIS Bombay (J249).
He also worked as the Naval Attache to the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. He is also the Chief Hydrographer of the Indian Navy.
9. Admiral Ronald Lynsdale Pereira
Admiral Ronald Lynsdale Pereira was born in 1923 and he died in 1993. He was the 9th Chief of Naval Staff. He spent 3 years in office as the Chief of Naval Staff from 1979 to 1982.
Admiral Pereira also served as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Command and Flag Officer Commanding of the Southern Command.
In 1971 he received the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) and in 1977 was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM). He was a sports enthusiast and represented the Indian Navy in Hockey in 1946 and Golf in the 1960s.
10. Admiral Oscar Stanley Dawson
Admiral Oscar Stanley Dawson was born on 13 November 1923 and died on 23 October 2011. Dawson was a four-star admiral in the Indian Navy who served as the 12th Chief of the Naval Staff.
He spent 2 years, 274 days in office as the Chief of Naval Staff from 1 March 1982 to 30 November 1984. He also served as the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee of the Indian Armed Forces till his retirement.
He previously served as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Command and Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet (FOCEF).
Adm Oscar Stanley Dawson was also the Director of Naval Operations during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.
11. Admiral Radhakrishna Hariram Tahiliani
Admiral Radhakrishna Hariram Tahiliani was born on 12 May 1930 and died on 14 October 2015. He was a senior officer in the Indian Navy.
He was the 11th Chief of the Naval Staff. He spent2 years, 364 days in office from 1 December 1984 until 30 November 1987.
He was the commander of the Western Naval Command, FOC-IN-C of the Southern Naval Command and the Western Fleet (FOCWF).
He also worked as the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant (R11) as a carrier-based aircraft pilot.
After retirement, Tahiliani filled in as the Governor of Sikkim from 1990 to 1994. He was the founder member and chairman of the India section of Transparency International (TI).
12. Admiral Jayant Ganpat Nadkarni
Admiral Jayant Ganpat Nadkarni, PVSM, AVSM, NM, VSM, ADC was born on 5 December 1931 and died on 2 July 2018. He served as the 12th Chief of the Naval Staff of the Indian Navy.
He spent 2 years, 364 days in office from 1 December 1987 to 30 November 1990.
He additionally filled in as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-IN-C), Eastern Naval Command before being selected the Vice Chief of the Naval Staff (VCNS).
13. Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas
Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas, PVSM, AVSM, VrC, VSM, ADC was born in 1933. He served as the Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy.
He spent 2 years, 303 days in office from 1 December 1990 to 30 September 1993. Ramdas has also served as Aam Aadmi Party’s internal Lokpal.
After retirement, he got settled with his wife, in Alibag. The couple also intervenes in military issues. They were a part of the gathering which filed a PIL in the Supreme Court of India against the appointment of the then Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh for the post of Chief of Army Staff.
14. Admiral Vijai Singh Shekhawat
Admiral Vijai Singh Shekhawat, PVSM, AVSM, VrC, ADC was born on 5 September 1933. He served as the 14th Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy.
He spent 2 years, 365 days in office from September-30 1993 to September-30 1996.
15. Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat
Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat PVSM, AVSM was born in October 1939. He served as the 15th Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy. He spent 2 years, 90 days in office from 1 October 1996 to 30 December 1998.
The only CNS who was relieved from office while still serving and stripped of Admiral rank as a punitive measure.
16. Admiral Sushil Kumar Isaac
Admiral Sushil Kumar Isaac, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, NM was born in 1940 and died on 27 November 2019 at the age of 79. He served as the 16th Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy.
He spent 2 years, 364 days in office from 30 December 1998 to 29 December 2001. A was a specialist in amphibious and hydrography warfare. He is also a qualified air warfare instructor.
17. Admiral Madhvendra Singh
Admiral Madhvendra Singh, PVSM, AVSM, ADC was born in 1942. He became the 17th Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy. He spent 2 years, 215 days in office from 29 December 2001 to 31 July 2004.
He had completed 41 years of service in the Indian Navy when he became CNS. He also served as the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee from 2002 to 2004.
Madhvendra Singh also Singh commanded INS Viraat (aircraft carrier), INS Ranvir (guided-missile destroyer) and INS Talwar (frigate).
He was involved in active service operations such as 1961 actions in Goa and in both the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistani wars.
18. Admiral Arun Prakash
Admiral Arun Prakash, PVSM, VSM, AVSM, ADC VrC, was born in October 1944. Arun Prakash is a former Flag Officer of the Indian Navy, who served as the 18th Chief of the Naval Staff.
He spent 2 years, 215 days in office from 31 July 2004 to 31 October 2006.
He also served the Indian Navy as the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee from 31 January 2005 to 31 October 2006. Later he achieved the title of India’s most decorated naval officers.
He was the part of the very famous 1971 Indo-Pakistan War where he flew Hawker Hunter aircraft for the 20th Squadron Lightning.
He received the Vir Chakra award for his gallantry in air action over West Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir.
19. Admiral Sureesh Mehta
Admiral Sureesh Mehta, PVSM, AVSM was born on August 18, 1947. He served as the 19th Chief of the Indian Navy. He spent 2 years, 304 days in office from 31 October 2006 to 31 August 2009.
Before he became the Indian Navy Chief, he served as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C) of the Eastern Naval Command (ENC).
20. Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma
Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma was born on 14 November 1950. He is a former senior naval officer. He served as the 20th Chief of the Naval Staff of the Indian Navy. He spent 3 years in office from 31 August 2009 to 31 August 2012.
He was appointed as the High Commissioner to Canada in November 2012. He Commanded Eastern Naval Command as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C).
He has been awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal and the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal.
21. Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi
Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi, PVSM, AVSM, YSM, NM, VSM (Retd.) was born on 4 July 1954. He is the 21st Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy. He spent 1 year, 179 days in office from 31 August 2012 to 26 February 2014.
When he was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral, he served as the Commander-in-Chief, Andaman and Nicobar Command from 2009 to 2010. During this time he was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal.
He became the first Indian Navy Chief to resign on 26 February 2014, by taking the responsibility for a series of accidents.
After this, he became the 14th Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Vice Chairman of Islands Development Agency (IDA).
22. Admiral Rabinder “Robin” Kumar Dhowan
Admiral Rabinder “Robin” Kumar Dhowan PVSM, AVSM, YSM, ADC was born in 1954. He served as the 22nd Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy. He spent 2 years, 44 days in office from 17 April 2014 to 31 May 2016.
Vice Admiral Robin Dhowan has been named the successor of Admiral DK Joshi as he quit the navy chief over a series of operational incidents.
23. Admiral Sunil Lanba
Admiral Sunil Lanba, PVSM, AVSM, ADC was born on 17 July 1957. He served as the 23rd Chief of the Naval Staff of the Indian Navy. He spent 3 years in office from 31 May 2016 to 31 May 2019 after Admiral Robin K. Dhowan.
During his service of 3 years, he also served as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and Honorary Aide-de-Camp to the President of India.
Commands Held by Admiral Sunil Lanba
- Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee
- Chief of Naval Staff
- Vice Chief of Naval Staff
- Western Naval Command
- Southern Naval Command
- INS Mumbai
- INS Ranvijay
- INS Himgiri
- INS Kakinada
To know about other Ranks of Indian Navy, read our article on Indian Navy Ranks .
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