Saturday 25 September 2021, 03:04 PM
Indigenous Warship building -Marching Towards Self Reliance
By Rear Admiral Anil Kumar Saxena NM, Retd. | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 4/15/2021 1:44:27 PM
Indigenous Warship building -Marching Towards Self Reliance

India has come a long way since the license production of Leander Class Frigates, and it is a matter of great pride that today we have the capability to design and build any kind of warships including an  Aircraft  Carrier.  It  has  been  an  arduous  journey  beginning  with  small  auxiliary  ships  to destroyers and stealth frigates, full of learnings in , also full of constraints but the journey has been reasonably  successful  one.  The  Corps  of  constructors  (  now  known  as  the  Directorate  of  Naval Architecture  ),  which  was  formed  in  1954  with  12  officers  has  now  grown  to  a  strength  of  more than 350 uniformed officers and is the largest pool of trained and experienced Naval Architects in the country. Today the Indian Navy can proudly claim to be the only Uniformed service in the world having in house capability to design their man of war.

Till  date,  the  Indian  Navy  has  developed    about  20  types  of  designs  ranging  from  small  crafts  to destroyers to Air craft Carrier to which about 100 ships have been built. The  next  logical  step  taken  by  the  Navy  was  to  build  on  the  existing  strengths  in  ship  design  and construction and venture into more challenging projects using new concepts and latest technologies with more emphasis on increased indigenous content. The staff requirements for new shipbuilding projects were framed accordingly taking these factors into account,  which paved the way for design of new class of destroyers, frigates, corvettes and our first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier.

Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC)

Warship  building  is  a  complex  process.  Unlike  the  commercial  ships  of  merchant  marine,  a warship,  in  addition  to  float  and  move,  has  to  perform  the  ‘fight’  role  in  hostile  sea  environment. And  design  of  an  aircraft  carrier  adds  another  dimension  of  aviation  which    among  other  things require  systems  for  Aircraft  launch  and  recovery  operations.  In  any  warship  the  payload  around which design is developed is weapons and sensors. But in case of an aircraft carrier,  the payload is the aircrafts( both the fixed and rotary wing) and the design revolves around these. Also , building of  an  aircraft  carrier  requires  huge  resources  in  terms  of  manpower,  finances,  infrastructure  and technology.  Decision  to  build  an  aircraft  carrier  therefore  takes  time  and  the  design  of  the  ship  is finalized after several iterations considering geo political scenario, threat perceptions and economic conditions.  The  finalization  of  IAC  also  went  through  similar  iterations  as  brought  out  in  the succeeding paragraphs.

The Sea Control Ship (SCS)

The  idea  of  an  indigenous  aircraft  took  shape  in  1979-80,  when  the  Directorate  of  Naval Design (DND) prepared a concept design of a ‘Helicopter Carrier’ based on the hull form of a merchant ship , MV Harshavardhan. Subsequently,  in  1985,  Outline  Staff  Requirements  (OSRs)  were  formulated  for  a  Sea Control Ship (SCS) of approximately 35,000 tons, with Short Take-off but Vertical Landing (STOVL)  facility  for  aircraft  operations.  The  concept  design  was  prepared  by  DND  along with the French company DCNS with two options, one with a ski jump and the other with two  conventional  catapults  for  assisting  Take  off  and  arrested  Landing  of  aircrafts.  This ship,  the  SCS,  was  to  be  250  metres  (m)  long  and  56  m  in  beam  (width)  displacing  about 37000 tons.However, the severe resource crunch faced by the nation then constrained the Indian Navy in taking this concept design study further.


Air Defence Ship (ADS) – a Scaled Down Carrier

Notwithstanding the fate of SCS, the Directorate of Naval Design (DND)   continued evolving  alternate  designs    and  in  1991  came  up  with  a  carrier  in  the  form  of ADS displacing only 16000tons , capable of carrying 14 aircrafts and helicopters.ADS  design  was  further  modified  to  include  the  Light  Combat  Aircraft  (LCA)  in  the  aircraft complement which required the ship’s length  to be increased by 15 meters.The  iterative  designing  by  naval  designers,  continued  till  1998  when  the  blueprint  for  the ADS was evolved based on the anticipated induction of the naval version of the LCA (LCA ‘N’). This ship was to displace 24,000 tons and was designed with a ski jump to operate Sea Harriers and the LCA.

Development  of  Mig-29K

In  late  nineties  the  Russians  developed  the  ship-based version  of  MiG-29,  called  the  Mig-29K  (  K  stands  for  Karabal  in  Russian,  meaning  ship). The  DND  therefore  converged  its  design  to  the  Short-Take-Off-But-Arrested-Recovery (STOBAR)  option,  wherein  the  launch  was  to  be    from  a  ski  jump  but  recovery  with  the help of arrester gear. These requirements dictated an optimum launch runway of 200 m with an overall length of 255 m and 37500 tons displacement of ADS.

Nomination of Shipyard

Nomination  of  Cochin  Shipyard  Limited  to  build  the  IAC  was  based  on  the  availability  of the  required  infrastructure  and  dry  dock  facilities  and  also  their  well  known  shipbuilding capabilities demonstrated in merchant ships.

A technical audit by DCNS  also confirmed the Shipyard’s capability to build a carrier of the intended parameters. The thrust for indigenisation has resulted in almost   75 % equipment of IAC being sourced from   Indian   manufacturers   (   both   from   public   and   private   sectors)   including   main propulsion  and  various  auxiliary  machinery,  fittings  and  control  systems.  Even  the  steel used   for   construction   was   developed   by   Defence   Metallurgical   Research   Laboratory (DMRL)    Hyderabad  and  produced  by  Steel Authority  of  India(SAIL).  This  Development eliminated the dependence for steel on other countries for building of warships, as today all the warships under construction are being built with different grades of indigenous steel.

The Finalized Carrier

In its final shape, the IAC will have a length of 260 m and maximum beam of about 60 m.  The ship is 18 storeys high from keel to top. The steel used in the hull itself (about 21,000 Tons)  can  create  3  Eifel  Towers.The  flight  deck  covers  an  area  roughly  the  size  of  two football fields. The ship can generate 24 Mega Watt of Power ( sufficient for a colony like RK Puram). The cabling  length  alone  is  close  to  2300  Km.  If  we  were  to  stretch  it  out  we  could  cover  the distance from Delhi to Bangalore. She would have two take-off runways and a landing strip with three arrester wires, and would be capable of operating aircrafts with STOBAR as well as  a  range  of  helicopters.  The  Carrier  has  been  designed  with  a  very  high  degree  of automation for machinery operation, ship navigation, and survivability. With  completion  of  new  Vikrant  ,the  Indian  Navy  will  not  only  extend  its  reach  of  naval operations but will also facilitate creating a mature eco-system for future shipbuilding.

Project 15A (Kolkata Class Destroyers)

After the highly successful design of Delhi class destroyers three follow on ships of Kolkata class i.e  Kolkata , Kochi and and Chennai were built and delivered by MDL in 2014, 2015 and  2016  respectively. The  underwater     hull  and  propulsion  of  these  destroyers  were retained  same  as  that  of  the  Delhi  class,  however  the  weapons  and  sensors  underwent complete change. These ships were one of the few warships of that time in the world to have multi  functional  conformal  array  surveillance  radar  which  also  provided  target  data  to weapons. These ships were also equipped with vertical launch   capable Surface to Air   and  Surface to Surface missiles.While the ships of Delhi class had both Soviet and Western design features, the indigenous content  in  Kolkata  Class  underwent  a  quantum  jump.  Large  number  of  major  equipment including  weapons  were    developed  indigenously  for  these  ships  which  included  Rocket launchers and Torpedo  launchers , Combat management system, Foldable hangar doors and Helo  traversing  system,  Close  in  weapon  systems,      Boat  Davits,  Automatic  Power Management  system,  Energy  Distribution  Centers  and    Bow  mounted  sonar. The  stealth features  of  Kolkata  class  ships  were  enhanced  compared  to  Delhi  class  by  shaping  of  hull geometry suitably   and use of radar transparent deck fittings as well as use of TACS( Total Atmosphere Control System).


P28 (ASW Corvettes )

Four Anti  Submarine  Corvettes  of  Project  28  ships  have  been  indigenously  designed  with contemporary global   standards   of   structures,   stealth   and   automation   with   maximum indigenous equipment and material.All four  ships Kamorta, Kadmat, Kiltan and Kavaratti were ordered on GRSE and all of them have been delivered between 2014 and 2020. These ships  have    90%  indigenous  content.  The  ships  have  been  constructed  with  indigenously developed special grade high tensile steel. Superstructure of last two ships of the project has been made of composite material first time on a Indian Naval ship to improve stability. The weapon suit of the ship will be capable of engaging ships, aircrafts and shore targets besides having  sound  Anti  Submarine  Warfare  (ASW)  capability.  The  ships  are  also  capable  of deploying  a  helicopter  adding  considerable  punch  to  the  ship’s  Anti  Submarine  warfare capability. The stealth  features of Project 28 ships have been enhanced by using a full beam superstructure  with  contemporary  X  hull  form  and  optimal  sloping  geometry  to  reduce Radar  Cross  Section  or  the  visual  signatures.  Indigenously  developed  Infra  Red  Signature Suppression devices have been fitted in Engines’ exhaust to reduce thermal signatures. The ships’   hull   form   is   highly   efficient   with   excellent   sea   keeping   and   maneuvering characteristics  . 

To  reduce  the  noise  level  CODAD  (  combination  of  diesel  and  diesel)  propulsion  has  been  used  and  mounted  on  a  raft.  The  ship  is  also  provided  with  operator friendly  Total  Atmosphere  Control  system  (TACS)  to  enable  operations  during  a  nuclear, chemical or biological fall out with improved habitability and fully air-conditioned modular accommodation.

Project 15B( Visakhapatnam Class Destroyers)

Having built the destroyers of Delhi class and Kolkata class, Indian Navy planned to boost it’s  Fire  power  significantly  by  ordering  four  additional  destroyers  of  7400  tons. These  are follow on of Kolkata class and designed   by DND under project 15B, to be built by MDL. The  Key  design  improvements  in  these  ships  include  Integrated  Platform  Management system  (IPMS)  and  Integrated  Communication  System  both  being  developed  indigenously. The   ships   have   been   designed   to   improve   Survivability,   Sea   keeping,   Stealth   and maneuverability. While  the  hull  design  has  been  retained  same  as  that  of  Kolkata  class  the stealth   features  have been improved by shaping of hull and use of radar transparent deck fittings,  plated  masts  and  canted  bull  work  at  all  exposed  locations. 

The  ships  are  packed with  an  array  of  state  of  art  weapons  and  sensors  from  diverse  sources,  with  significant indigenous.The  indigenous  content  on  these  ships  is  likely  to  go  up  to  75%  with  use  of indigenous  steel  and  many  equipment  including  weapons  and  sensors  developed  by  Indian industry either with their in-house expertise or through Transfer of Technology (TOT)from foreign firms. For example Surface to Air and Surface to Surface missile systems are being developed through TOT and Joint Venture respectively. Four ships are likely to be delivered between 2021-2025.

Project 17A ( Nilgiri class Stealth Frigates)

Project 17A stealth Frigates are the follow on of Project 17, the Shivalik class Frigates . A total of seven ships are being built,   four by MDL which is also performing the role of the lead shipyard and balance three by GRSE. These ships although said to be follow on  of P17 but have substantial differences in design from the parent class. Most of the   weapons / sensors on P17   came from Russia , however the same on P17A have been substituted by indigenous  and western systems. The ship size has    also  been    enlarged  by  a  4.5%  Geo  symmetric  expansion.  The  combat  capability  of these ships will be much superior  with fitment of higher caliber  Gun, upgraded versions of  vertically launched supersonic surface to surface missile systems , long range surface to air missile systems and indigenously developed torpedo launchers and rocket launchers. Many new technologies and construction methodologies are being used on P17A to reduce the  build  period.  These  include  use  of  Virtual  Reality  Lab  (  VRL)    to  arrive  at  optimal layouts  of  highly  congested  compartments  in  a  virtually  immersed  environment  and  to reduce  rework  onboard  ship  as  well  as  Product  Life  cycle  Management  which  uses  the concept of digital twin or duplicating the ship digitally. As for as ship construction is concerned , first time integrated construction is being used in warshipbuilding  where  in  a  large  amount  of  outfitting  will  be  done  in  the  more  conducive environment of the work shop in modular blocks and these blocks will then be assembled on the slipway. The other shipbuilding concept which is being used in this project is Parallel construction in which  multiple  blocks  will  be  simultaneously  manufactured  in  different  geographical locations and then consolidated at MDL.P17A ships when delivered will not only be superior in combat capability and technology and  have  higher  indigenous  content  but  will  also  set  new  benchmarks  of  shortened  build periods.

Frigates of 1135.6 Project

To  meet  the  urgent  requirement  of  frigates  the  Indian  Navy  procured  three  Frigates  of Talwar class in 2002-2004. These ships were based on the Russian design of Project 1135.6, much  smaller  than  P17  frigates  and  with  limited  stealth  features.  Most  of  the  material  and equipment  on  these  ships  were  of  the  Russian  origin.  After  observing  their  satisfactory performance  in  Indian  conditions,  three  more  frigates  of  same  design  were  ordered  under Teg  class .

Since  project  17  frigates  were  to  be  delivered  in  2010-12  and  all  Leander  class frigates  were  gradually  getting  decommissioned,  the  Navy  decided  to  fill  the  gap  by procuring four more ships of 1135.6 design with two being built in Russia and two in India at Goa Shipyard Limited(GSL). These ships though designed by Russian design bureau will have  about  60%  indigenous  content  and  delivered  by  2026-27.  With  rolling  out  of  two frigates by GSL , India will have another line of production for small frigates.

Way Ahead

As  for  as  warship  building  is  concerned  the  seeds  of  Make  in  India    were  sowed  in  early sixties  itself.  India  has  certainly  crossed  the  learning  phase  and  is  now  fully  equipped  to  build all types of warships and  auxiliary ships for domestic use as well as for export. While MDL’s  hands  were  full  with  production  of  weapon  intensive  platforms  ,  the  GRSE  , GSL and HSL   took up construction of   smaller ships such as Survey vessels, ASW shallow water  crafts,  Diving  vessels,  Offshore  Patrol  vessels,  Fast  Patrol  vessels  etc.  Some  of  the private shipyards also started shipbuilding activities and orders were placed on them for less weapon  intensive  platforms.  However  except  L&T  none  of  them  have  been  able  to  sustain operations.The  way  ahead    is  to  use  the  combined  capacity  and  experience  of  our  public  sector  and private    shipyards  to  build  ships/  boats  not  only  for  Indian  Navy  and  Coast  guard  but  also for Army, Marine police as well as for the commercial world. Export of ships , of which all shipyards  have  previous  experience  ,    needs  to  be  progressed  aggressively  for  supply  of warships  to  friendly  countries  and  auxiliary  ships  globally.  This  will  help  in  creating volumes  for  our  materials  and  equipment  and  make  it  more  cost-effective  for  Indian Shipbuilding to be competitive in the global market.

R. Adm. AK Saxena (retd.)

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Indigenous,Warship,building,-Marching,Towards,Reliance

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