Sunday, 18 September 2016

New stealth destroyer launched, yet navy faces major fleet shortfalls

Despite fanfare over INS Mormugao, navy has just 139 warships against a requirement of 212

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 18th Sept 16

Amidst celebrations over the launch of INS Mormugao at Mazagon Dock, Mumbai (MDL), on Saturday --- the second of four destroyers MDL is building under Project 15B --- there is growing concern over capacity shortfall in Indian defence shipyards for equipping an Indian Navy that desperately needs more warships.

India’s defence ministry has determined that the “new challenges” of the Indian Ocean, require a vastly expanded navy. Yet, against a projected requirement of 212 warships and submarines, the navy currently has just 139.

The navy has been steadily growing. In 1964, the cabinet had approved 138 ships and submarines for the navy. In 2012, the defence ministry raised this to 198 vessels. In May, parliament’s standing committee for defence (the Committee) stated in a report that the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP), which stipulates force levels for the 15-year period, 2012-27, stipulates: “a requirement of 212 vessels and 458 aircraft have been contemplated for Indian Navy in MCPP 2012-27.”

The Committee reasoned: “the Maritime Security Environment of the country has undergone a sea-change (pun apparently unintentional).”

Explaining the increase, it lists out the navy’s additional responsibilities: coastal security against sea-borne terrorism, counter-piracy duties, and “amplified hostilities in [the] Indian Ocean Region by our neighbouring states.” The last presumably refers to the growing threat from China.

New Delhi has so far shied away from directly confronting China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea. The Indian Navy sees the Indian Ocean as its demesne, and the South China Sea as beyond its sphere of influence. Even so, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to the US in June, jointly stated with President Barack Obama that New Delhi and Washington attached importance “to ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight [in the South China Sea] and exploitation of resources as per international law.” The Indian Navy has also begun training with the US and Japanese navies in the annual Malabar series of exercises.

This increasingly forward stance requires capital warships. To meet its current shortfall, 45 warships, including six Scorpene submarines, are at various stages of construction in shipyards across India. But these would be sufficient only to replace older warships that are queuing up for decommissioning (retirement).

A defence ministry release today states that INS Mormugao is the fifth frontline warship (including the indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant) to be launched in the last six years. It says eight capital warships --- three destroyers, three frigates and two corvettes --- were commissioned into the navy during this period.

This is a fraction of what is needed. Given a warship service life of 30 years, a fleet of 150 warships will see five vessels retiring annually. Besides replacing these, the navy must commission another five warships each year till 2027, to meet the 212-warship target that year. Yet, instead of the ten new warships required annually, the navy is commissioning just one or two.

The parliamentary Committee has criticised this worrying gap. It has specifically highlighted the lack of impetus in replacing “aging platforms [that] would be de-commissioned in the next 10-12 years. Its report draws attention to six “Mine Counter Measure Vessels” that are over 25 years old. The process of building replacements for these has been mired in ministerial process and allegations of corruption.

Warship building is slow, painstaking work, involving the integration of multiple weapons systems and sensors, aviation structures and battle hardened electronics that can survive battle. INS Mormugao, which was launched today, is still only a 2,844-tonne hull. It will take at least another 3-4 years to construct its superstructure and integrate the weapons, sensors and machinery that will transform it into a 7,300-tonne stealth destroyer.

Well before that, several other warships will enter service. INS Chennai, the third and last destroyer of Project 15A, will be commissioned next month. INS Kalvari, the first of six Scorpene submarines being built at MDL under Project 75, will join the fleet by end-2016, followed by five others at 9-10 month intervals. INS Kiltan and Kavaratti, two anti-submarine corvettes being built at Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, Kolkata (GRSE), are expected next year.

Industry analysts note that while India has developed the capability to build frontline warships, it lacks the capacity to meet its needs. A major reason for that has been the reservation of warship building for the defence ministry’s own four shipyards: MDL, GRSE, Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL), and the newly acquired Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL). Private sector shipyards that have recently established promising capabilities are regarded as “inexperienced” and only given orders for smaller, less complex vessels. These include L&T’s Hazira shipyard and its new facility at Katupalli, near Ennore; Reliance Defence’s shipyard at Pipavav; and ABG Shipyard in Gujarat.

With private sector capacities under-utilised, continuing shortfalls are building pressure for the procurement of warships from overseas. Moscow has offered to build and supply four stealth frigates, which are derivatives of six Talwar-class (Russian: Krivak class) frigates that the Indian Navy inducted over the last decade. Now the navy, which has steadfastly pursued the path of indigenisation, may be left with no option but to look overseas.



A defence ministry release today says INS Mormugao will be 163 metres long, and 17.4 metres at its beam. It is equipped to carry two on-board helicopters (one Kamov-28 for ASW; and one Kamov-31 for AEW) and be crewed by 50 officers and 250 sailors. It will be propelled by four gas turbines in a "combined gas and gas (COGAG)" configuration that allow it to achieve speeds "in excess of 30 knots". Its endurance will be 4000 nautical miles.

The MoD describes the vessel as a "network of networks" that incorporates an Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) for controlling and monitoring machinery and auxiliaries; an Automated Power Management System (APMS) for managing on-board power; and a Combat Management System (CMS) for battle, that evaluates threats detected by on-board and networked sensors, allocates resources to deal with them based on the tactical picture and the onboard ammunition. The data flows ride on an integral information highway called the Ship Data Network (SDN).

An element of stealth has been infused into the Morugao's design through shaping of the hull and the use of "transparent" deck fittings. It incorporates features like Multiple Fire Zones; Total Atmospheric Control Systems (TACS) for air-conditioning; Battle Damage Control Systems (BDCS) and Distributional Power Systems for enhanced survivability.

Like Project 15A before it, Project 15B vessels like INS Mormugao carry a heavy sensor and weapons package. Anti-missile defence centres on the Indo-Israeli LR-SAM, mated with the MF-STAR radar that shoots down incoming missiles out to 70 kilometres. For surface attack, the vessel carries the Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles with a stated range of 295 kilometres.

As Broadsword reported earlier, the cost of each Project 15B destroyer has been currently pegged at Rs 7,350 crore ($1.1 billion).


Unknown said...

I think sir you forgot about the lead ship INS VISHAKAPATANAM that will be delivered to the navy in the fall on 2018. The subsequent ships would be delivered at intervals of 2 years each including INS MURMUGAO which should join in 2020. These are being built under modular design that reduces time intervals. But to augment capacity building like the Chinese we have to build more of similar designs or newer designs at a private shipyard in the country.simultaneously we can build warships at Russian yards as well.

Anonymous said...

We know each class of ship like 15A has a planned number say 3 . This hw needs to be ordered immediately and all 3 need to built in parallel. No point in having serial production . It looks mess starts from finance side. We should hope with arrival of pvt shipyards things improve. These companies can start manufacturing modular structures in parallel and shipped by sea.

Anonymous said...

The IN is dreaming when it talks of a 212 ship navy by 2027. Maybe 2047 is a more likely date for getting those numbers given the large numbers of ships that will have to be decommissioned by 2027. At best, it might get to 150-160 ships by 2027.

Maybe the IN top brass should stop dreaming and get down to the business of ensuring ships are built on time, shipyard capabilities are properly vetted before awarding orders, speeding up decisions on several long delayed projects, ensuring industry can deliver shipbuilding material and equipment on time, better project management at all phases of ship construction, and lastly to ensure that extant vessels are properly maintained and safely operated by their crew/maintainers.

Anonymous said...

At least we have reached 1964 target.... hum honge kamyaab .....ek din.....ek din...

we should celebrate 1964 style by announcing on All India Radio and Doordarshan.