Official press-briefings of the type given by the Indian Navy (IN) on August 13 regarding the INS Kolkata D-63—the first of three Project 15A guided-missile destroyers (DDG) on order for the IN—are always important for two reasons: for what is disclosed, and for what is not. For instance, while the IN stated that INS Kolkata is 90% indigenous by cost, it never went beyond that (thereby repeating history, for, on April 29, 2010, the IN had claimed that the total indigenous effort accounted for 60% of the cost of producing each Project 17 guided-missile frigate (FFG). My personal estimation is that in terms of hardware, INS Kolkata can boast of less than 50% indigenous content. And each Project 15A DDG’s acquisition cost is almost US$950 million (Rs.38 billion), while that of each Project 17 FFG is US$650 million (Rs.26 billion). The cost escalation in these two shipbuilding projects has been about 225% for Project 15A, about 260% for Project 17, with the main reasons contributing towards cost escalations being: delay in supply of warship-building D-40S steel by Russia, escalation due to increases in expenditure of the services rendered by Russian specialists on account of inflation during the build-period, impact of wage revisions due from October 2003, and finalisation of cost of weapons and sensors.
INS Kolkata, whose keel was laid down on September 23, 2003, was launched on March 30, 2006. Therefore, detailed design of this class of DDG (using TRIBON CAD software) by a joint team comprising the IN’s in-house Directorate of Naval Design (DND)—which celebrates its 50 years of existence this year—and the MoD-owned shipbuilder Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL), should have been concluded by mid-2002. But this was not to be, since the weapon-and-sensor fitments were yet to be selected at that time. It was only on January 27, 2006 that India’s MoD-owned Defence R & D Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) inked the Barak-2 LR-SAM’s joint five-year joint R & D contract—valued at US$556 million—following 17 months of exhaustive negotiations. And the follow-on US$1.1 billion procurement contract for Barak-2 LR-SAMs and the three EL/M-2248 S-band multi-function search-and-target acquisition radars (MF-STAR)—the first naval active phased-array radars to become operational with a navy of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)—was inked in April 2009. As a result, it can be safely inferred that the DND had finalised only about 70% of the DDG’s design by 2003.
What cannot be denied, however, is that the IN’s DND and its captive centre of excellence—the Weapons & Electronics Systems Engineering Establishment (WESEE)—along with MDL, have succeeded in fabricating and delivering an engineering marvel, despite several institutional handicaps. For instance, designing and building the main mast housing the EL/M-2248 was no small achievement. This APAR comprises four 3 x 3-metre fixed-array faces (each weighing 1,500kg) based on a modular tile-array architecture providing full 360-degree coverage. Liquid cooling is used to dissipate heat at the arrays. The EL/M-2248’s on-board processors and power-suppliers together weigh 900kg and are housed within six cabinets--two for the processors and four for the power-supply hardware. The entire MF-STAR suite thus weighs 6,900kg. In addition to 3-D long-range airspace volume search, the EL/M-2248 simultaneously provides ASCM approach warning; target classification; maritime surface surveillance; active and semi-active SAM support; fire-control for the OTOBreda 76/62 SRGM; and multiple targets engagement capabilities. It can detect a combat aircraft flying at high altitude at ranges of up to 250km, while an incoming ASCM can be detected at ranges of up to 25km.
The INS Kolkata’s CMS-15A combat management system (CMS), developed by the WESEE, includes the IAI-developed Weapon Control System (WCS), which performs threat evaluation and resource allocation functions, thereby optimising the capabilities of the CMS. The WCS thus provides simultaneous long-range volume search, threat alert, target verification/acquisition, target classification, track-while-search, and dedicated track, multi-long-range intercept support, and kill assessment capabilities. It is also characterised by:
* Wide intercept envelopes against a wide variety of targets.
* Quick reaction, short response time and minimum intercept range, these being crucial in scenarios of late target detection, high-speed attacking weapons, and restrained response policy.
* Long-range area defence.
* Simultaneous multi-target engagement capability and multi-missile co-existence capability for ensuring effectiveness against saturation attacks.
* De-confliction and coordination capabilities in dense and complex scenarios.
* Advanced ECCM features.
* Built-in threat evaluation, resources allocation and engagement coordination with other on-board defence systems.
* 2-way data-link with LR-SAMs (housed within eight 8-cell modules each weighing 1,700kg) increases mission success and target selectivity by providing the missile with real-time in-flight targetting updates, and providing real-time kill assessment to support shoot-look-shoot operations.
* Multi-system interoperability (task force-level as well as carrier battle group-level operations), under which each system may operate either as a standalone unit, supported by own sensors for engagement and guidance; or integrated in a multi-warship task force. Joint task force-level operation enables coordinated engagement of threats, mission optimisation (engaging each target with the optimal interceptor, in the optimal time) and resource sharing.
* Advanced Net-of-Nets architecture to ensure interoperability with other air-defence assets, such as remote/airborne radars mounted on aerostats) and external command-and-control centres).
* The Barak-8 LR-SAM’s flexible dual-pulse motor propulsion system provides high manoeuvrability at target interception range throughout its wide envelope.
* High-performance missile warhead specially designed for catering to a wide variety of airborne targets, and which guarantees robust target destruction.
* Built-in fratricide avoidance for undertaking safe air-defence operations near friendly air-traffic.
* Gunnery support capability, including combined missiles/gun engagement.
Expected To Go On-Board In Future
Though it was way back in late 2007 that the IN was introduced to the concept of operating remote-controlled RHIBs equipped with dunking sonars, it was only in late 2011 that the IN decided to acquire such systems since, unlike active/passive towed-array variable-depth sonar, the dunking sonar-on-a-RHIB can be operated in both shallow and deep waters (up to an operational depth of 300 metres or 985 feet), are easily and quickly deployed, are much cheaper and impose no restrictions whatsoever on warship manoeuvrability, especially in situations when a warship is being engaged by wire-guided heavyweight torpedoes. It is for all these reasons that the IN in early 2012 refused to order either the NAGAN active/passive towed-array variable-depth sonar that was being developed by the DRDO’s Naval Physical & Oceanographic Labs (NPOL) or the ATLAS Elektronik-developed ATAS, which had earlier been selected after competitive bidding for the three Project 15 DDGs and three Project 1135.6 Batch-1 FFGs. The IN now plans to acquire a few ROVs from Textron Systems and equip them with the NPOL-developed LFDS, with all structural and systems integration work being done by a joint team of personnel hailing from NPOL and WESEE.
But what accounts for the long delays in commissioning INS Kolkata? Obviously, MDL cannot be blamed since it is the IN’s DND that was unable to freeze the Project 15A DDG’s design concept well before the commencement of hull construction. Another reason for the delay has been the WESEE’s inability to build either a dedicated shore-based facility for undertaking weapons-and-systems integration R & D, or to acquire a test vessel for on-board tests-and-trials of various sensors, weapon systems and propulsion sub-systems. Contrast this with what China’s PLA Navy (PLAN) has done for undertaking similar activities: at the PLAN’s Wuhan Naval Research Facility at Huangjia Lake southeast of Wuhan, a giant full-scale replica of the top-deck, island and citadel of the PLAN’s first aircraft carrier (Liaoning 16) was built, and a similar effort is now underway there to build a full-scale mock-up of the citadel and integrated mast of the PLAN’s futuristic Type 055 DDG.
In addition, since March 1997, the PLAN has acquired at least three test vessels, with the first of these being the 6,000-tonne Dahua-class vessel (Shiyan 891) that was built by Shanghai-based Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard and became operational in January 1998. The second such vessel—Hua Luogeng 892—was commissioned in August 2005. The third vessel—893—was commissioned in November 2011. It features a raised-bow breakwater to reduce water over the bow and a never-before-seen 30-feet-tall, 3-feet-diameter SATCOMS antenna on the forecastle. The ship has an enclosed foremast instead of the latticework mast structures found on 891 and 892. The foremast’s three yardarms feature new paired round flat-faced ESM antennae, plus radomes housing weapons targetting Ku-band and UHF-band data-link antenna.