Sunday

Navy's latest acquisitions


Giving a boost to Navy's defence capabilities, two state-of-the-art high-speed warships, INS Cankarso and INS Kondul, were commissioned here today in the naval fleet.

The indigenously-built ships use water jet propulsion technology and can achieve speeds in excess of 35 knots. They will be based in Goa and tasked with the role of detecting, locating and destroying small, fast-moving enemy surface craft engaged in covert operations, a Navy spokesman said.

INS Cankarso and INS Kondul are fitted with 30-mm CRN-91 gun built by Ordnance Factory, Medak, and Igla missiles and set of machine guns ranging from light to heavy. "These features are an improvement over the previous fast attack craft (FAC) ships," the spokesman said.

These two ships are the first lot of the ten similar ships that the Navy proposed to induct in its fleet. They belong to the Car Nicobar class V and VI in the FAC series.

"In addition to their primary role, the ships will be tasked with the role of policing, anti-smuggling and fisheries protection in India's coastal waters. In the long run, these ships could help in ensuring stability in India's maritime zones of responsibility," the spokesman said.

With the Indian armed forces inducting a large number of spy drones and "killer" UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) since the 1999 Kargil conflict, the hunt has now been launched for drones to operate underwater as well.

The Navy has invited proposals from both state-owned and private companies to acquire at least 10 AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles), which are non-tethered robotic devices driven through water by propulsion systems that are controlled and piloted by onboard computers.

AUVs can be used for MCM (mine counter-measures) operations, oceanographic surveys and specialised mapping, among other tasks. Advanced AUVs can even be deployed to keep under surveillance protected areas like harbours as well as aid in detection of enemy submarines.

"Apart from being manoeuvrable in three dimensions, the AUVs should be able to carry variable payloads such as high-definition sonars and underwater cameras for surveillance and reconnaissance activities of the seabed," said a Navy official.

"Capable of being launched from small vessels with a maximum weight of 1.5-tonne, the AUVs should be able to operate at depths up to 500 metre for 7-8 hours," he added.

The move comes at a time when the Army is also looking for combat drones, or UCAVs (unmanned combat aerial vehicles), drawing lessons from the deadly use of US `Predators' and `Reapers' against the Taliban in the Af-Pak region. Unlike killer UAVs, which hit their targets and perish with their missions, UCAVs are like fighter jets because they return to their bases to re-arm themselves with more missiles for the next mission.

India's latest addition to the Navy - warship INS Kochi, a Delhi-class destroyer, was inaugurated on Friday. This is the second warship of ‘Project 15-A’, built by Mazgaon Dock Limited.

The 6,500-tonne INS Kochi is the second warship in the 'Project 15-A' under which three guided-missile destroyers with stealth and multi-role features will be built.

"The destroyer has been launched using pontoon-assisted technique, employed for the first time in the history of indigenous warship building. The technique helps in overcoming slipway constraints which hinder heavier vessel movement into deeper waters for fitting its superstructures such as decks," chairman and managing director of Mazgaon Dock H S Malhi said.

INS Kochi has advanced stealth features that make it less vulnerable to detection by enemy radar. Its weapons system include nuclear capable supersonic BrahMos surface-to-surface missile.

India on Thursday commissioned its first indigenously-built stealth warship with sophisticated features to hoodwink enemy radars and gained entry into a top club of developed countries having such capability.

Inducting 'INS Shivalik', the first of the three-ship Project-17 frigates, at the Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks (MDL), Defence Minister A K Antony called it a red letter day for the armed forces.

The 143-metre-long warship, with 6,000-tonne displacement, has "versatile control systems with signature management and radar cross-section reduction features." The other countries having the capability to build stealth warships are the US, the UK, Russia, France, China, Japan and Italy.

"It is a red letter day for the Navy, armed forces and ship building industry of India. We can consider ourselves as a really potent force and the Navy has to maintain eternal vigilance since we have a long coastline," Antony said unveiling the new warship.

"We have to maintain high-level of operational readiness at all times. Only a professional Navy can meet all its challenges," he said.

The Navy currently has a 130-warship-strong fleet which includes an aircraft carrier, 20 landing ships, eight destroyers, 12 frigates and 16 attack submarines based in four commands headquartered in Mumbai (Western Naval Command), Visakhapatnam (Eastern Naval Command), Kochi (Southern Naval Command) and Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar Joint Command).

Shivalik class warships can deal with multiple threat environment and are fitted with weapon suite comprising both area and point defence systems. It has sensors for air, surface and subsurface surveillance, electronic support and counter equipment and decoys for 'soft kill measures'.

Two more of the Shivalik class -- INS Sayahdri and INS Satpura -- would be ready for commissioning by November this year and middle of next year respectively.

"INS Shivalik has the latest stealth features to outsmart the enemy with low radar cross section, be it of the hull, infra-red or sound signatures," according to Navy's Director General for Naval Design Rear Admiral K N Vaidhyanathan.

"Shivalik is a steep jump in the indigenous design effort of the Directorate of Naval Design that has since 1954 designed 17 warships of different classes with 80 units built out of them. Currently, there are four designs from which 11 warships are under construction," he said.

Though the Shivalik project took the Navy nearly 12 years from the drawing board stage to its commissioning, Vaidhyanathan said new designs for warships the world over also had taken that much time.

The total indigenous effort accounting for 60 per cent of the cost is estimated to be Rs 2,300 crore per ship.

Shivalik class is equipped with a judicious mix of imported and indigenous weapon systems and sensors, including Barak surface-to-air missiles, 'Shtil' air defence system, rapid fire guns and basic anti-submarine warfare weapons.

The ship is powered by combined diesel and gas turbine (CODOG) propulsion system consisting one each of US-origin LM-2500 gas turbine engine and SEMT Pielstick diesel engine on each shaft driving a large diameter controllable pitch propeller.

With better modular habitation and galley facilities on the ship including an electric 'chappati' (Indian bread) maker, the features in the warship would ensure that the crew was more comfortable while sailing.

Shivalik would also be the first warship of the Indian Navy to provide for separate living rooms for women crew as and when the Defence Ministry decides to send them on board battleships.
If you thought the Rs 42,000 crore project to procure 126 multi-role fighters for the IAF was the "mother of all defence deals", think again. The stage is now being set for an even bigger project—this one worth over Rs 50,000 crore for six new-generation submarines for the Indian Navy.

The Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), chaired by defence minister A K Antony, has finally decided that three of the six submarines will be constructed at Mazagon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai and one at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL) in Visakhapatnam, with the help of a foreign collaborator.

"The other two submarines will either be imported from the foreign vendor directly or constructed at a private shipyard in India. Fresh estimates show each of these six diesel-electric submarines will cost almost Rs 8,500 crore," a source said.

Under the programme—called Project-75 India (P-75I)—apart from stealth, land-attack capability and the ability to incorporate futuristic technologies, all the six new submarines will be equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems to boost their operational capabilities.

Conventional diesel-electric submarines have to surface every few days to get oxygen to recharge their batteries. With AIP systems, they can stay submerged for much longer periods, narrowing the gap with nuclear-powered submarines which can operate underwater for virtually unlimited periods.

The selection of the foreign collaborator for P-75I will, of course, take time because a RFP (request for proposal) will first have to be issued to submarine manufacturers like Rosoboronexport (Russian), DCNS/Armaris (French), HDW (German) and Navantia (Spain). Shortlisting and detailed technical and commercial negotiations will follow, before the actual contract can be inked.

Navy has reasons to be worried. By 2015 or so, it will be left with just half of its present fleet of 15 ageing diesel-electric submarines—10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDW and one Foxtrot. Moreover, it has been hit hard by the almost three-year delay in the ongoing Project-75 for six French Scorpene submarines at MDL, under which the vessels were to roll out one per year from 2012 onwards, with price escalation pushing the total cost beyond Rs 20,000 crore, as was first reported by TOI.

For P-75I, the second line of submarines, the navy was keen on a private domestic shipyard to tie-up with the foreign vendor since it felt MDL was already "overloaded" with orders and quick delivery schedules were "critical".

But the DAC has decided otherwise, holding that the infrastructure and capabilities acquired by MDL in the Scorpene project could not be allowed to go waste. "Let’s hope thing go smoothly now, and instead of 10 years, the navy gets its first submarine under P-75I in six to seven years," an official said.

Submarines can be game-changers in any conflict. And if they are armed with nuclear-tipped missiles, they provide the most effective strategic deterrent available around the world at this point of time. The US and Russia, after strategic arms reduction pacts, in fact, plan to retain over 60% of their nuclear weapons in the shape of SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles) fitted on nuclear-powered submarines called "boomers", or SSBNs.

Though India does not have nuclear submarines and SLBM capabilities at present to complete its "nuclear triad", it hopes to move forward by inducting the Akula-II class attack submarine K-152 Nerpa on a 10-year lease from Russia in October this year, and then the first indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant by early-2012.

Pakistan, incidentally, already has its first Mesma AIP-equipped submarine, PNS Hamza, the third of the French Agosta-90B submarines it has inducted since 1999. It is now looking to induct three advanced Type-214 German submarines with AIP. China, in turn, has 62 submarines, with 10 of them being nuclear-propelled.
The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) hopes to develop an indigenous Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarine in four to five years, chief controller, Research and Development, Dr A Sivathanu Pillai has said.

Research and development work was going on at the DRDO Naval Material Research Laboratory (NMRL) in Mumbai to develop hydrogen-based fuel cells for the diesel-powered submarines, Dr Pillai told mediapersons.

"NMRL already has developed number of fuel cells," Pillai, who was at Trikkakara near here in connection with a national symposium at the Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL), said.

Diesel power submarines will have to surface everyday for air, while the hydrogen based technology is new and presently not operational anywhere in the world. "It is being developed by one or two countries. We are also going to develop that technology and that will be installed in the diesel submarines," he said.

The hydrogen based technology could enable submarines operate for long duration, may be 20 to 25 days under water, he said.

To a query, he said while Pakistan got AIP developed by France last month under the deal to purchase the Agosta submarines, India would be able to develop the technology indigenously.

India may also go in for AIP system from France or some other countries for the six submarines that are being constructed at Mazgaon. "But, we are not interested in that system and want a better system that is based on hydrogen," Pillai said.

India on Sunday reached a milestone when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur launched the country's first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine 'INS Arihant' for sea trials.
Prime Minister arrived at the ENC's airbase INS Dega in Visakhapatnam by a special IAF plane along with his wife at 11 am and drove straight to the naval dockyard to commission INS Arihant into the sea.

The 6000-tonne submarine will first be put on sea trials for two years before being commissioned into full service.

In these two years, the submarine will also undergo harbour trials of its nuclear reactor and other systems.

Sunday's launch coincides with Vijay Diwas marking India's triumph over Pakistani intruders in Kargil.

With the launch of the submarine India will join the exclusive club of US, Russia, China, France and the UK with similar capabilities.

The ENC headquarters in Visakhapatnam has been decked up for this historic event, navy sources said.

INS Arihant has been built under the advanced technology vessels (ATV) programme at a cost of $2.9 billion at the naval dockyard in Visakhapatnam.

Code-named Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), the submarine christened 'INS Arihant' (destroyer of enemy) was launched for sea trials at the Matsya naval dockyard here.
As India has declared "no first use" of nuclear weapons, the country's weapons system must survive a first strike for retaliation. Therefore, Arihant's primary weapon is stealth as it can lurk in ocean depths of half a kilometre or more and fire its missiles from under the sea.

The 6000-tonne submarine is powered by an 85 megawatt capacity nuclear reactor and can acquire surface speeds of 22 to 28 kmph (12-15 knots) and submerged speed upto 44 kmph (24 knots). It will be carrying a crew of 95 men and will be armed with torpedoes and missiles including 12 ballistic missiles.

Four more nuclear-powered submarine of this class have already got government's nod and these would add to the Navy's underwater combat potential in the years to come.
Defence Minister A K Antony, Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy witnessed the event.

The Prime Minister flew to Vishakapatnam this morning by the IAF's newly acquired Boeing business jet and reached the venue of the submarine launch by road.
Sea trials of the submarine will be conducted in the Bay of Bengal off Vishakapatnam, where the vessel was under construction for the last two decades.
The Rs 30,000-crore secret nuclear submarine project was started in the 1980s though it was conceived by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the 1970s.

The first official admission of the project nearing completion came this February when Antony had announced it during the AeroIndia show in Bangalore.
INS Arihant can also be armed with cruise missiles. The DRDO is already working on an equally secretive Sagarika project for a 700-km K-15 missile, capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

With US, Russia and China already fielding 5,000-km range SLBMs, the DRDO too has recently tested an SLBM based on the design of 3,500-km range Agni-III.
The induction of ATV will help India to complete the nuclear weapons triad, as envisaged under its nuclear doctrine to deliver nuke-tipped missiles from land, air and sea.

India has land-based nuclear-capable Agni ballistic missiles, apart from IAF fighters such as Mirage-2000 that can deliver tactical nukes.
Two decades ago, India had operated a Charlie-class nuclear submarine, christened INS Chakra, leased from Russia for three years between 1989 and 1991.

Moscow will again lease out two Akula-class nuclear submarines to New Delhi for 10 years. Plans to deliver the submarines this June were hit by a mishap during sea trials late last year. But hopes have soared for its delivery in 2010 after Russia took out the repaired vessel for sea trials again early this month.

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