The RFP for building 16 anti-submarine warfare shallow-water craft (ASW-SWC) to be built to an Indian design was issued in April 2014.
It was in December 2017 that Cochin Shipyard Ltd’s (CSL) offer (based on a warship design provided by Vik Sandvik Design India Pvt Ltd) was selected as the L-12 bid, with the L-2 bid coming from Kolkata-based Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd (GRSE).
The following year, India’s Ministry of Defence decided that both CSL and GRSE would share the cake by each building eight of the ASW-CWCs.
While CSL estimates its orders for the eight vessels to be worth Rs.5,400 crore, the contract inked yesterday with GRSE is worth Rs.6,311.32 crore.
The first ASW-SWC is slated for delivery by GRSE within 42 months of contract signature, following which two vessels will be delivered every year. Scheduled project completion period is 84 months. The contract with CSL was inked on April 30.
In a Sea Acceptance Test (SAT) performed by the Israeli Navy in early February 2018, a L-3 Ocean Systems-developed Helicopter Long-Range Active Sonar (HELRAS) dipping sonar was successfully converted for operation onboard the Elbit Systems-developed Seagull unmanned surface vessel (USV), which is represented in India by GRSE. Operating a dipping sonar on-board a USV significantly increases the operational working time and substantially enhances that detection capabilities and the effectiveness of ASW. The Seagull autonomous multi-mission USV features switchable, modular mission payload suites and can perform, in addition to ASW, mine countermeasures missions (MCM), electronic warfare (EW), maritime security (MS), hydrography and other missions using the same vessel, mission-control system and data-links. The Seagull USV thus offers navies a true force-multiplier by delivering enhanced performance to naval operations, reducing risk to human life and dramatically reducing procurement and operating costs.
The 42-month period timeframe given for the rollout of the first ASW-SWC is awfully long, considering that the vessel will displace only 750 tonnes. This in turn indicates that the Indian Navy has not yet decided on the fitment of various sensors and weapon systems due to go on board the vessels—this being also the case with all warships designed to date by the Indian Navy’s Naval Design Bureau.
This consequently has led to only 33% of a warship’s superstructure being floated at launch-time (usually within a three-year period), while the rest of the superstructure takes more than five years to be completed, thereby leading to prohibitive cost-overruns and highly visible compromises in build-quality. For this, the Indian Navy, and not the DPSU shipyards, is primarily to be blamed and held accountable.