Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Two Deadly Stealth Frigates For Indian Navy

Finally some big movement under Project-17, Indian Navy is going to induct two new stealth frigate very soon. This will not only enhance the fire power of the Indian Navy but it will help in smoothing out the operational difficulties due to a bloated workload.

INS Satpura is likely to be commissioned in June-July, while the Russian-built 4,900-tonne INS Teg should finally be ready for induction by September-October.

These long-awaited warships will come at a time when Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma has stressed that "maintenance of war-fighting abilities" remains the "top-most priority" for his force despite the "large number of peacetime commitments (anti-piracy, coastal security and the like) at hand".

"With the security situation being fluid, we need to maintain the organizational ability to deploy warships, submarines and aircraft at immediate notice," said Admiral Verma, at the naval commanders' conference here on Tuesday.

INS Satpura and INS Teg will certainly boost combat capabilities, packed as they are with sensors, weapons and missile systems, coupled with their stealthy nature due to "vastly-reduced" radar, infra-red, noise, frequency and magnetic "signatures" to beat enemy detection systems.

That's not all. INS Satpura, the second of three indigenous stealth frigates built under the Rs 8,101-crore Project-17 at Mazagon Docks, will be followed by INS Sahyadri after six months. The first, INS Shivalik, was commissioned in April last year.


INS Tarkash

INS Trikhand
Similarly, INS Teg is to be followed by its sister frigates, INS Tarkash and INS Trikhand, built under a Rs 5,514-crore project inked with Russia in July 2006, after gaps of six months each.

 Displacement (Max)  5,600 tons
 Length      143 m
 Beam  16.9 m
76mm Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM) (Main Gun)
2 x AK-630 Rapid Fire guns
24 x CIWS/SAM systems - KASHMIR
16 x Barak 1 VLS SAM
24 x Shtil SAM
8 x VLS Klub or BrahMos Cruise missiles
90R missiles (ASW)
DTA-53-956 torpedoes
RBU-6000 (RPK-8)
Anti-air defence : Radar-guided Shtil missile system.
 Point Defence : Two Barak-1 Vertical Launch Systems (VLS)
Missile System and Two AK-630 Rapid Fire Guns
 Anti-surface : Eight Klub Vertical Launch System (VLS)
missiles cruise missiles, with a range of almost 300 kilometers
 Anti-submarine : RBU 6000 rocket launchers, total 24 barrels. Also,
two onboard helicopters, with sonars and torpedoes
 Main gun : OtoMelara 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM)
manufactured at BHEL, Haridwar. This can fire at ground and aerial targets 15-20 km away]
 Aircraft Two Sea King / Dhruv helicopters for surveillance and anti-submarine operations.
 Propulsion 2xFrench-made Pielstick diesel engines
2xGE LM 25000 gas turbines
 Max Speed  30 kts

Both the Indian and Russian projects, of course, have been dogged by huge time and cost overruns. The three warships from Russia are actually "a follow-on order" to the first three frigates, INS Talwar, INS Trishul and INS Tabar, inducted by India in 2003-2004 at a cost of over Rs 3,000 crore.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) made a scathing attack on the Indian Navy and Naval dockyards for delays in warship construction in general and Project 17 ships in particular in a report released on March 22, 2011.
“Till date only one frigate of Project 17 has been commissioned as against the expected nine ships by August 2010,” the report said. “Even after a decade, shipyard efficiency has not improved. The delays are primarily due to delay in finalization of the structural drawings, timely availability of steel, and inadequate infrastructure of the Defense Public Sector Unit (DPSU) shipyards.”
The CAG, additionally, took the government to task for accepting “poor cost estimation.” 
“The costs presented to the cabinet committee on security (CCS) were simplistic, ad-hoc and based on incorrectly estimated build period. The planned weapon and equipment package were also preliminary and at best indicative,” the report said.
The CAG has noted that the cumulative approved costs of two key projects-Project 17 and Project 15A- have more than trebled from Rs. 5830 crores to Rs. 19763 crores. “A professional mechanism does not exist to provide reliable and accurate data regarding costs, to the decision making authority,” the report noted.
The CAG report attributed ship building delays to the “lack of readiness” of the shipyards and “exhaustive modifications” of various sorts.
“Certain equipments/systems have been approved for use in the ships despite their non-compliance with technical requirements formulated,” the report noted.

Though their induction too was delayed, the Navy is quite happy with the power the Talwar-class frigates pack. The warships have "a very high weapon and sensor density", including eight vertical launch cells for the 'Klub-N' anti-ship and anti-submarine cruise missiles. In addition, the three new frigates will also be armed with the 290-km BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.

Overall, the Shivalik class conveys a dangerous beauty, which has become the hallmark of Indian-designed warships. When the Indian destroyer, the INS Mysore, participated in an International Fleet Review in the UK in 2005, the Duke of Edinburgh --- a Royal Navy officer himself --- came on board to congratulate the crew on what he called “the handsomest ship in the review”.

The first ship in this class, is the first Indian warship that is built with Indian steel. The Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) has finally mastered the art of mass-producing specially toughened warship-grade steel, called D40S. No longer will India shop abroad for thousands of tons of steel for each warship it builds.

Under Project 17, the Indian Cabinet approved the construction of a new stealthy multi-role surface ship in 1997. This was the first indigenous program to build ships with stealth features and it called for the eventual construction of 12 ships.

The Indian Navy ordered the first 3 ships in 1999. The INS Shivalik was launched in 2003, with the Satpura and Sahyadri susequently launched in 2004 and 2005. The first ship of the class Shivalik was launched on April 18, 2003 and the second ship Satpura on June 04, 2004.

The P17 is an enlarged and modified version of the Talwar {Krivak III} Class frigates. It was jointly designed by the Naval Design Bureau (NDB) and Russia's Severnoye Project Design Bureau (Severnoye Proyektno-Konstruktorskoye Bjuro - SPKB). SPKB's design influence can be observed in the Delhi Class destroyers and Khukri / Kora Class corvettes. France's DCN International (DCNI) has been involved in this project as a consultant undertaking signature management studies.

The stealth frigate is designed to avoid enemy radars and and works on principles of reducing the ship's signature, he said. The ships are fitted with a mix of Indian, Russian and Western weaponry systems alongwith both air defence and anti-submarine warfare capabilities. They also carry two advanced helicopters. The total length of the ship is 142.5 meters while its breadth is 16.90 meters. The total displacement of the ship is 4900 tons. It is powered by gas and diesel turbines. These warships are capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots.

The Shivalik Class ships have many more signature reducing features than other Indian Navy ships. It is extremely difficult to hide a 5000-ton behemoth like the INS Shivalik. There are stealthier warships than the Shivalik but they are smaller vessels. The Swedish Visby class vessels, amongst the stealthiest ships in the world, are mere corvettes, at 600 tons. The French Lafayette class frigates, almost as hard to detect, weigh in at 3600 tons. Russia’s Krivak class stealth frigates, three of which fly Indian Navy flags (they are termed the Talwar class), also weigh just 3600 tons. In contrast, the Shivalik --- 4900, tons when empty, 5600 tons when fully fuelled, watered, victualled, crewed and armed --- is significantly bigger, packing a heavier weapon punch than its smaller rivals.The Shivalik Class ships will have a lower infra-red signature due to Infra-Red Supression System (IRSS) design tools and training provided by Canada's Davis Engineering.

The Canadian IRSS is the most effective IR signature reduction device in service today. An Italian Radar Cross Section (RCS) prediction software may also have been used for this design. All machinery will be mounted on noise and vibration-proof mounts to reduce acoustic and vibration signatures. Few countries which make stealth frigates indigenously. India would thus be joining an exclusive club, which includes the US, France and Russia.

The nerve centre of this class of warship is the battlefield capability, it is an indigenous design triumph called the AISDN (short for ATM-based Integrated Services Digital Network). This is a backbone network that allows all electronic information from the Shivalik’s systems and sensors --- e.g. engines, navigation devices, radars, weaponry, radio sets and control systems --- to be transmitted digitally all over the warship on a common data base. Designed by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) in partnership with Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), this common carrier takes vital information to the Shivalik’s commanders in real time on multi-function displays.

Taking feed from AISDN, is another network, the Computer-aided Action Information Organisation (CAIO), which brings to the captain a complete electronic picture of the battlefield. This is the heart of the weapons exploitation system, laying out for the Captain all the information about targets being picked up by the warship’s sensors and radars.

When the radars detect an enemy aircraft, the CAIO will show it up on the consoles automatically. The CAIO includes a Decision Support System that will suggest what to use to shoot down the aircraft; the final decision, though, is that of the commanding officer. He could decide to use the 76mm gun; the command will go electronically from his console to that of the gunnery officer controlling the gun. Alternatively, he could choose to use a missile. Either way, the detection, the information, the allocation of a weapon to the target and the actual engagement itself, would all be done electronically.

Assisting the Captain in managing the battle would be a multi-function, touch-screen console called the Integrated Versatile Console System (IVCS), providing pinpoint navigational information, the ship’s course, position, and its engine parameters.

This class of warships are equipped for the nuclear and chemical battlefield. It is the navy’s first ship with a Total Atmospheric Control System (TACS), which filters all air going into the ship at all times, including the air being used by the engines. This would remove radioactive, chemical and biological impurities, protecting the crew and the systems. For this reason, it is centrally air-conditioned and has no portholes. There are also decontamination facilities on board in case the ship passes through an area where the radioactivity from a nuclear strike still lingers.

Mrs Harveen Krishnaswamy, wife of Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, Chief of Air Staff, launched India’s second stealth warship, INS Satpura, being built indigenously at the Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL). INS Satpura is the second of the Shivalik class stealth frigates.

The defence ministry has also approved Project-17A to construct seven more frigates at Mazagon Docks and GRSE in Kolkata, with even more stealth features, for around Rs 45,000 crore. In all, the Navy has around 30 new warships and six submarines on order as of now to maintain its force-levels at about 140 combatants. 

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