Vizag-based Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL) recently released a global tender (http://www.indiacgny.org/pdf/tender_Technical%20Specifications%20&%20Appendix%20-%20A%20to%20F(1).pdf) for the design, integration, supply and commissioning of the CODAD main propulsion system for what is believed to be a missile-tracking vessel for the DRDO. The vessel will have an overall length of 175.77 metres, draft of 6.45 metres, moulded breadth of 22.7 metres, displacement of 14,700 tonnes, maximum cruise speed of 21 Knots, normal cruise speed of 14 Knots, endurance of 14,000 miles at 14 Knots, or 7,000 miles at 21 Knots, and a crew complement of 300.
This vessel, which has been designed by the Indian Navy’s Naval Design Bureau, will also host an on-board L-band volume-search radar and an X-band active phased-array precision-tracking radar. The vessel will complement the DRDO’s two projected missile test ranges that will come up in future at Rutland Island (part of the Andaman and Nicobar island-chain), and at Nagayalanka in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh.
In another development, it has emerged that private-sector shipyards like the Surat-based ABG Shipyard and the Bhavnagar-based Alcock Ashdown Shipyard Ltd are facing severe liquidity crunches, which in turn will only serve to delay the delivery of vessels already ordered and paid for by the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard. While ABG has to deliver three training vessels to the Indian Navy, Alcock Ashdown Shipyard Ltd, which was awarded the order to build the six 500-tonne, catamaran-type naval survey vessels based on an Australian design, has so far delivered only one—INS Makar—while delivery schedules for the remaining five vessels are now uncertain.
Also uncertain is the timely availability of the DRDO-developed Varunastra heavyweight torpedo, which was originally due to arm vessels like the three Project 15A and four Project 15B DDGs plus the four Project 28 ASW corvettes and the S-2/S-3/S-4 SSBNs. It is believed that the principal reason for the Varunastra’s unavailability is its sub-optimal performance in the high seas. This is due to the DRDO’s failure thus far to establish its own deep-sea floating underwater weapons testing-cum-calibration range off Rutland Island—a deficiency that should have been overcome two decades ago! Non-availability of such a range has also hindered the DRDO’s ability to develop a network of SOSUS-type seabed-based low-frequency sonars.
Meanwhile, Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) has delivered the first two of 20 fast patrol boats that it was contracted to supply in early 2011 for the Indian Coast Guard. Each such vessel comes equipped with a waterjet-based propulsion system, plus Northrop Grumman-supplied hardware for the bridge.
Lastly, it is appearing increasingly likely that the Indian Navy will defer the issuance of the RFP for six Project 75I AIP-equipped SSKs and will instead issue the RFP for four LPHs. If this happens, then the Indian Navy will most certainly increased its orders of MDL-built Scorpene SSKs from the present six to at least 10 (i.e. through a follow-on order placed with MDL), with the additional four Scorpenes being equipped with an AIP plug-in that is specified by the Navy. What this also means is that such a step will also result in a fair amount of financial savings, which in turn could well be utilised for the LPH procurement programme, and this will also buy the Indian Navy some more time for finalising its projected SSN procurement plans.