India: Shivalik frigates strengthening blue water navy

Thursday, July 26, 2012
On an overcast Monsoon day in Mumbai, the country’s latest warship, INS Sahyadri, built indigenously by the Mazagon Dock Ltd was inducted in to the Indian Navy. The tricolour and the naval ensign were hoisted, the national anthem played, and A K Antony, the Defence Minister, formally commissioned the bristling 6000 tonne warship, urging the crew to “promote peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region.

The commissioning of INS Sahyadri, the third and the final frigate of Shivalik class, formally marked the end of Project 17 of the Indian Navy.  Preceding the Sahyadri were INS Shivalik, commissioned in 2010 and INS Satpura, commissioned in 2011, all named after important mountain ranges in India.

Shivalik Class frigates are the first Indian warships to be built with stealth features and which are designated to be the lead frigates of the country's navy during the first quarter of the 21st century. They are an upgraded and superior version of the Talwar Class frigates. These frigates include unique stealth features and land-attacking capabilities. The structural, thermal, and acoustic stealth features make them less detectable to the enemy. The radar systems and engines are further modified to reduce and avoid detection and noise levels.

Shivalik Class frigates are 143m long and 16.9m wide. They have a displacement of 6,000 tons and run on gas turbines and diesel engines. They can carry a crew of 257, including 37 officers.

Project 17
Project 17 was conceptualized by the Indian Navy to design and build stealth frigates indigenously. In 1997, the Indian Government approved the order for three frigates and the Letter of Intent was released to the shipbuilders Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai in  February 1998.
The Directorate of Naval Design (DND) framed the initial design for the Project 17 Class frigates. The detailed designs were prepared by the Mazagon Dock Ltd. 

Production began in 2000 due to the delays on account of changes in the hull steel specifications, and delivery delay of high-strength D-40S steel from Russia. To overcome the steel supply problems, the required AB-grade steel was indigenously developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Steel Authority of India, which will help later generation warships.

Defence PSU Mazagon Dock Ltd began to build the vessels in 122 modules. In July 2001, the keel of the first frigate was laid, and it was launched and named Shivalik in April 2003. In February 2009, the frigate underwent sea trials before being commissioned into the Indian Navy in April 2010.The keel of the second frigate, Satpura, was laid in October 2002 and launched in June 2004. It was commissioned in August 2011. The keel of the third frigate in the class, Sahyadri, was laid in 2003 and launched in May 2005.

INS Sahyadri
INS Sahyadri is armed with a formidable array of surface, sub-surface and air-defence weapons.  These include long range anti-ship missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and anti-missile defence systems, which can detect and engage the enemy at extended ranges, thereby giving her significant combat power.  The two multi-role helicopters that are embarked on Sahyadri provide enhanced surveillance and attack capability.
The ship is mounted with  Fregat M2EM 3-D radar, an air search radar, HUMSA (Hull-Mounted Sonar Array) fire control radar and BEL Ellora electronics surveillance measures.

The Computer-aided Action Information Organisation (CAIO), provides the Combat Centre with a complete electronic picture of the battlefield, including target information from the Sahyadri’s sensors and radars. This goes to the ship’s Executive Officer (XO), the weapons chief, who electronically assigns a weapon to destroy each target.

The ship is propelled by two Gas Turbine engines, which enable her to generate speeds in excess of 30 knots (or over 55 Kmph), and two Diesel Engines for normal cruising speeds. The ship’s electric power is provided by four Diesel Alternators, which together produce 4 Mega-Watts of power - enough to light up a small town.

Mazagon Dock’s Plans for the Future
Having successfully completed the construction of Shivalik class frigates, Mazagon Dock Ltd, is looking ahead to future with confidence. Its order book is an envy of any defence ship builder in the world. Under construction in MDL’s berths are three destroyers of Project 15A —Kolkata, Kochi and Chennai — joining the navy’s fleet next year onwards. Also on order are four more destroyers of Project 15B, to be followed by four stealth frigates of the Project 17A. MDL is also building six Scorpene submarines, all of which are scheduled to join the navy between 2015 and 2018.
The warship builder has worked out a collaborative strategy for taking the nation towards self sufficiency in warship construction. Close on the heels of commissioning of INS Sahyadri, it has announced the signing of two Joint Venture agreements with two private sector shipyards, Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Co Ltd and Larsen & Toubro Ltd for construction of surface warships and conventional submarines, as per the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Defence.

With the Government placing increased attention on India’s maritime interests, there will be growing requirement of warships for the Indian Navy. Under these circumstances, the defence shipbuilders have their tasks cut out.

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