Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Project 15-B: Navy's destroyer project sets sail

(Photos: courtesy Ajai Shukla)

Left: The INS Kolkata, the first of the Project 15-A destroyers, at its slipway in Mazagon Dock, Mumbai (MDL)

Above: The second and the third destroyers of Project 15-A

Business Standard
March 30, 2009

by Ajai Shukla
Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai

The Indian Navy’s firepower is going to be significantly boosted with the addition of four heavy warships. The navy’s design chief, Rear Admiral MK Badhwar, has confirmed for the first time, to Business Standard, that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) — the top procurement body in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) — has cleared Project 15-B, the construction of four 6800-tonne destroyers by Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL).

There was no competitive bidding for Project 15-B, since MDL is the only Indian shipyard large enough to build destroyers, which are significantly larger than frigates. MDL is currently completing Project 15-A, the construction of three destroyers of the Kolkata Class; Project 15-B (the class has not been named yet) is a “follow-on project”, i.e. it is only incrementally different from Project 15-A.

Asked when manufacture will begin, Admiral Badhwar said, “The Indian Navy has asked MDL for a quotation. Once that is received, an MoD Contract Negotiation Committee (CNC) will negotiate a price with MDL for the four destroyers. After the price is agreed upon, the MoD will accord final sanction for the project.”

The navy intends to drive a hard bargain with MDL. Admiral Badhwar explains, “The three Kolkata class destroyers built under Project 15-A cost about Rs 3800 crore each, i.e. about Rs 11,000 crore. Project 15-B should logically be cheaper.”

At that price, Project 15-B will save more than a billion dollars per warship. Australia bought its F100 frigates (at 3,000 tonne, significantly smaller and more lightly armed than the destroyers that will be built under Project 15-B) from Spanish shipyard, Navantia, for the equivalent of Rs 9,000 crore per frigate.

Crucial to how cheaply, and how fast, Project 15-B can be built is the issue of how different these warships will be from their predecessors in the Kolkata Class Project 15-A. Project 15-A has taken longer than anticipated because it incorporated significant changes and upgrades from its predecessor, Project 15 (three Delhi Class destroyers). But Project 15-B, MDL hopes, will have fewer design challenges; it will differ from its predecessor only in weaponry and sensors.

Vice Admiral HS Malhi, chairman and managing director (CMD) of MDL explains, “If there are no major changes in Project 15-B, we can definitely cut down the build time. If the vendors can use the same manufacturing equipment, if the same drawings can be used, it makes a big difference. Standardisation is the key.”

Admiral Malhi points, as an example, to the US Navy’s DDG-51 programme, in which 62 destroyers have already been churned out with standardised hulls and propulsion systems.

MDL’s CMD points out, “If you have that kind of production line, the speed of building and the cost of building comes down dramatically.”

This is the Catch-22 situation facing Indian warship-building. The shipyards want larger orders of warships with standardised designs. But the Indian Navy has tended to place smaller orders of 3-4 ships; the navy says construction delays by the shipyards mean that designs get outdated by the time the ships are rolled out.

This impasse, however, appears to be dissolving. The design similarities between Projects 15-A (three destroyers) and 15-B (four destroyers) could effectively combine those into a combined seven-destroyer order. Similarly, Project 17-A is being planned as an order for seven stealth frigates.

MDL believes that, since Project 15-B is a follow on of the 15-A, the design and planning period will be less than 1½ years. Once the design is finalised, the navy wants the first destroyer to roll out within four years, with the others completed at one-year intervals. By that ambitious timeline, if the order is placed on MDL by end-2009, the first 15-B destroyer would be commissioned in mid-2015.

14 comments:

BeasF137 said...

Ajai Sir, nice piece. The only way the P-15B will cost less than or equal to P-15A is if, as you have asserted, the changes are minor relative to the P-15A. But this fact is not yet known for sure. also, there are some questions about the choice of powerplant - Russian or US? This could have serious implications on the layout of the MER's, the design and consequently the costs.

Do you have a zoomed out picture of the Kolkata? We could certainly do with such pictures.

Anonymous said...

you got internet connection in arunachal pradesh ?

Shyam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
future mantra said...

Nice blog. Only the willingness to debate and respect each other’s views keeps the spirit of democracy and freedom alive. Keep up the good work. Hey, by the way, do you mind taking a look at this new website www.indianewsupdates.com. It has various interesting sections. You can also participate in the OPINION POLL in this website. There is one OPINION POLL for each section.

Kindly note: The comments section is having problems so you may not be able to comment right now but it will available in a few days. We are also planning to get Live Cricket in our website within this week.

Kindly go through the entire website. Who knows, it might just have the right kind of stuff that you are looking for. If you like this website, can you please recommend it to at least 5 of your friends. Your little help would help us in a big way.

Thank you,

The Future Mantra

Harpreet said...

Is this a tease? Come on, you must be having better pictures of INS Kolkata.

fighterclass said...

nice pics but we want more !!!!

Arun said...

I think that Cochin shipyard can easily build ships the size of project 15-b. I mean the Vikrant class carriers are much bigger are'nt they?

Anonymous said...

that's true you know. what exactly stops a shipyard that can make a carrier from making much smaller destroyers ?

Anonymous said...

Ajai if only MDL can build big ships how about Cochin shipyard? They are building a 38,000 ton aircraft carrier!! I don't think that's true they are the only capable one.

p said...

Ajai Sir,
Please post all the pictures that you have in a picture series on your blog.
You can start with Aero India, then the LCA, and finally the Navy shipyards (Both the ADS and the ships at Mazgaon Docks)

Eagerly waiting for the same.

PS: Maybe you can create a separate photo gallery on your blog, where your pics will be stored.

Broadsword said...

Anonymous Sahib, Cochin shipyard is not a defence shipyard. They are building the IAC as a one-off because the others don't have the space. But they are not about to start building destroyers and frigates.

Anonymous said...

ajai, CSL would build IAC-2 too right ?
they are becoming a specialised carrier manufacturing yard !!

Anonymous said...

Powerplant should be only Russian(Ukrainian) , we don't want our defense to be at mercy of US if suddenly they decide to put sanctions.

Ayon Bhattacharya said...

Sir,

I am researching the navy's present warship construction programs vis-vis overall Indian shipbuilding efforts. I came across the CCS clearing the purchase of P15B as early as 2009 however, i could not find any news report that the navy has placed an order for them. Is this because the basic P15 class remains completedly untested? Comparatively,P17A class approval was received last year but the Navy still has not put down the order. Is there any pattern to this? I would be extremely grateful if you can reply back.