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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Naval and Maritime EXPO 2013

The following is a show report on the Naval and Maritime EXPO 2013, being held in Kochi, Kerala, from September 23 to 27, about which the ‘desi’ broadcast/print media is either not aware of, nor does not want to be aware of, or couldn’t care at all!
The Indian Navy (IN) seems to have belatedly learnt that it pays to standardise on sub-systems. And that’s why the very same SAGEM-built SIGMA 40 ring laser gyros that equip the Navy’s existing four Class 209/Type 1500 SSKs will in future also be installed on board the eight surviving Type 877EKM SSKs. In addition, the L-3 KEO-supplied Model 86 non-hull penetrating masts that are already on the four Class 209/Type 1500 SSKs will also be installed on the Type 877EKM SSKs. US-based L-3 KEO also owns Italy-based RIVA Calzoni, which has supplied such periscopes and masts for the nuclear-powered S-2/Arihant, S-3 and S-4 submarines. The SIGMA 40 RLG-INS is also on board the three Project 17 FFGs, three Project 15A DDGs, four Project 28 ASW guided-missile corvettes, as well as on the six Project 1135.6 FFGs, the S-2/Arihant and on Project 71/IAC-1/Vikrant. The four Project 15B DDGs and seven Project 17A FFGs too will use this RLG-INS.
Terma of Denmark's combined S/X band coastal surveillance radar for India
Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Co Ltd is presently building advanced OPVs (AOPV), which was approved by the CCNS and DAC immediately after 26/11 and for which a global tender was released on March 31, 2010. Seven contenders responded with tender bids and on June 7 the same year, and Pipavav was selected as the preferred bidder. For executing this project, Pipavav has contracted Alion Canada to provide marine engineering, naval architecture and vessel design/construction expertise.
After waiting for almost a decade for the DRDO-owned NPOL to deliver the Nagan low-frequency active towed-array sonar, the IN has decided that enough is enough, and was awarded Germany-based ATLAS Elektronik the contract for supplying its ACTAS ultra low-frequency active/passive towed-array sonar for the IN’s three Project 17 FFGs, three Project 15A DDGs four Project 28 ASW corvettes, and the three upgraded Project 1241PE ASW corvettes (INS Abhay, INS Ajay and INS Akshay), which were also re-engined with MTU-1163 diesel engines two years ago by Kolkata-based GRSE. The ACTAS is also likely to be acquired in future for the IN’s six Project 1135.6 FFGs, seven Project 17A FFGs and four Project 15B DDGs.
Companies that lost out to ATLAS Elektronik included L-3 Communications’ Ocean Systems Division (offering the CDS-100 LFATS) and THALES (offering the CAPTAS). However, for the ultra low-frequency dipping sonar requirement (some 40 units for the to-be-upgraded Sea King Mk42Bs and Ka-29PLs, plus the 16 SH-70B Seahawks that will be ordered in future), the IN is likely to go for the HELRAS from L-3 Communications’ Ocean Systems Division. In other words, the NPOL-developed low-frequency Mihir dipping sonar too has been declared as being unworthy of operational induction by the IN.
For the IN’s requirement for two deep submergence rescue vehicles (DSRV), the Remora from Canada’s Ocean Works and the LR-7 from Rolls-Royce have been shortlisted. The offer for two Project 18270 Bester-class DSRVs from Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corp has been rejected. The process to acquire the DSRV was started more than six years ago, and bids were invited for a second time in 2010, after an anonymous letter of complaint addressed to the MoD had alleged that the Remora DSRV, which was selected way back in 2008, was chosen by dubious means.
Meanwhile, all four OEMs bidding for the Project 75I single-hulled programme—Spain’s Navantia, Germany’s TKMS, France’s DCNS and Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corp—have given in writing their ability to incorporate two separate plug-in in each of their SSK offers, with one plug-in containing an AIP system that is specified by the IN, and the other plug-in containing eight cannisters containing the vertically-launched BrahMos-1 Block-1 supersonic anti-ship cruise missile. This, however, is easier said than done. This is because, while all four OEMs have adequate expertise in terms of supplying the AIP plug-ins, none of them have any experience in incorporating VLS cells for missiles like the BrahMos-1 Block-1. Therefore, should the IN choose to insist on the BrahMos-1 for installation on board the six Project 75I SSKs, it will not only inflate the acquisition costs of the SSKs, but will also pose SSK hull re-design challenges that may further delay the service-induction of these six SSKs.
In my personal view, therefore, if the IN insists on the BrahMos-1, then the IN should also specify that the Project 75I SSKs ought to be double-hulled vessels. And if that happens, then the only logical options available come from TKMS and DCNS. In fact, the latter had unveiled its conceptual SMX-21 SSK at the Euronaval 2002 exhibition in Paris, and it was then touted as being the solution for maximum weapons storage without increasing the SSK’s displacement. Based on twin pressure-hull architecture, the concept allows to load up to 30 heavyweight weapons within a hull that displaces only 2,700 tonnes, thanks to ‘mission modules’ located between the hulls. This architecture allows great flexibility and can accommodate every type of mission, by simply changing the modules. Strong safety improvements are made by separating the crew-living areas from potentially hazardous zones.
For the four Class 209/Type 1500 SSKs, the IN has shortlisted two types of ASCMs: a combination of Novator 3M-54E Klub-S supersonic ASCM and 3M-14E LACM, and Boeing’s UGM-84A Harpoon.
Lastly, a word of caution for all those miserably ill-informed jingos who are under the erroneous impression that China has developed the DF-21D MRBM as an anti-ship ballistic missile. For, just consider the sheer challenges in terms of target acquisition: In case of the South China Sea, three bands of 46 satellites each (138 spacecraft in all) operating in 40-degree inclined polar orbits would be required to provide constant fleet monitoring. The size of the satellite constellation is driven by the need for continuous coverage and high resolution. High resolution dictates low-earth orbits. Low-earth orbits in turn dictate how many satellites must be in each band to avoid gaps in coverage, and also how many bands there must be to cover the whole sea given a 300nm field-of-view per band. Continuous coverage could be achieved from higher altitudes using fewer satellites, but resolution would deteriorate to a point where it was no longer suitable for use as targetting data.