The Indian Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Kolkata-based Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) has been awarded a contract by the MoD to build a single 75-metre long, 1,150-tonne littoral patrol vessel (LPV) which will be gifted by India to Mauritius/ The LPV, whose design is derived from the Indian Navy’s (IN) Project 25A Kora-class guided-missile corvette, will not be equipped with any guided-missiles, be it for air defence or for anti-ship strike. This latest order from the MoD is widely seen as an attempt to help GRSE survive financially until it bags the order to build three Project 17A guided-missile frigates (FFG) for the IN. The Project 17A FFG’s construction programme is already four years behind schedule, with even the FFG’s baseline design not being selected yet. The MoD has thus far only decreed that the first four Project 17A FFGs will be built by Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL), with the follow-on three FFGs being built by GRSE. What is also confirmed is that these FFGs will all be equipped with the IAI/ELTA-built EL/M-2248 MF-STAR multifunction radar and Barak-2 MR-SAMs. While MDL has teamed up with Fincantieri of Italy to propose a design derived from the Italian Navy’s Andrea Doria guided-missile destroyer, GRSE has joined forces with France’s DCNS to propose a design derived from the Fremm-class FFG. GRSE is also proposing to the MoD that the Mistral-class LPD from DCNS be selected and ordered (three units) for the IN. If this were to happen, then GRSE is expected to build them under licence. For reasons best known to the MoD, India’s private-sector shipyards are being prevented from bidding for contracts related to the construction of principal surface combatants like guided-missile destroyers, FFGs, guided-missile corvettes and LPDs, even though their price quotes are far lower than those submitted by the MoD-owned shipyards.
Thus far, GRSE has delivered the 125.6-metre long, 4,000-tonne Project 16A Brahmaputra-class FFG (three built for the IN); 91.11-metre long, 1,350-tonne Project 25A Kora-class guided-missile corvette (four built); 91.11-metre long, 1,350-tonne Project 25 Khukri-class guided-missile corvette (two built); 124.80-metre long, 5,665-tonne LST-L (five built); 46-metre long, 260-tonne Trinket-class FPV (four built); 48.01-metre long, 288-tonne waterjet propelled FAC (seven built); 21.85-metre long Griffon 8000TD hovercraft (eight licence-assembled for the Indian Coast Guard, another eight being licence-assembled); ten 48.9-metre-long, 325-tonne Car Nicobar-class FACs for the Navy; and four 46-metre, 260-tonne Bangaram-class FPVs for the Navy). It is presently delivering fifty-eight 12-tonne High Speed FRP Interceptor Craft and 30 5.4-tonne high-speed FRP Interceptor Craft for the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, plus four 110-metre long, 2,500-tonne Project 28 ASW corvettes (each for Rs7 billion).
In another development, GRSE has successfully re-engined the first of three 57-metre long 589-tonne Project 1241.2 Molniya-2 ASW corvettes (INS Abhay, INS Ajay and INS Akshay) of the IN. Sea trials of the re-engined INS Abhay have been successfully completed, with work involving the replacement of Russia-made M504 radial engines with high-power-to-weight MTU-1163 engines. Work is now underway to procure through competitive tendering three sets of ultra-low-frequency towed-array sonar suites (from either ATLAS Elektronik of Germany or US-based L-3 Communications/Ocean Systems) for installation on board these three ASW corvettes.—Prasun K. Sengupta