In a big boost to Indian naval power, two new frontline warships – a frigate and a destroyer – will be launched next week.
Naval vessel Surat, a destroyer, and Udaygiri, a frigate, will be launched simultaneously at Mumbai-based Mazgaon Docks Limited in the presence of Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on May 17.
As India seeks to counter China’s growing influence, it is also focusing on its naval power. The navy has 130 ships and submarines, with another 39 ships under construction, in addition to the two frigates being built for the navy in Russia.
On the contrary, the Chinese navy has a combat force of about 355 ships and submarines, including more than 145 large surface ships. By 2030, it is expected to operate around six aircraft carriers, according to a report prepared by the Pentagon. While China induced 12-13 ships every year, India only ordered 2-3 ships per year, on average.
Budgetary constraints have curtailed Indian Navy expansion plans from a target of becoming a 200 ship force to the current target of 170 ships.
According to a navy official, the Project 15B class of ships are the next generation of stealth guided missile destroyers being built at Mazgaon Docks Ltd. And “Surat” is the fourth ship of the project which announces a major refit of the P15A (Kolkata Class) destroyers with an overall budget of Rs 35,000 crore. It is named after the commercial capital of Gujarat and also the second largest commercial center in western India after Mumbai. Surat city has a rich maritime and shipbuilding history and ships built in the city in the 16th and 18th centuries were known for their longevity (over 100 years).
“The Surat vessel was built using block construction methodology which involved building hulls at two different geographical locations and was assembled at MDL, Mumbai. The first vessel of this class was commissioned in 2021. second and third ships have been launched and are in various stages of outfitting/trials,” a navy official said.
The second is the frigate, Udaygiri. The warship is named after a mountain range in Andhra Pradesh and is the third ship of the Project 17A frigates. These follow on from the P17 (Shivalik-class) frigates with improved stealth features, advanced weapons and sensors, and platform management systems. Navy officials say Udaygiri is the reincarnation of the former “Udaygiri”, the Leander-class ASW frigate, which has seen many difficult operations in its illustrious three-decade service to the country from February 18, 1976 to August 24, 2007.
Under the P17A program, a total of seven vessels, including four at MDL and three at Kolkata-based Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd (GRSE), are under construction with an estimated cost of Rs 45,000 crore.
The Navy official maintained that various innovative concepts and technologies such as integrated construction, mega block outsourcing, project data management (PDM/PLM) project life cycle management have been adopted for the first time in the design and construction of indigenous warships in this project. Recall that the first two ships of the P17A Project were launched in 2019 and 2020 respectively at MDL and GRSE.
Ships 15B and P17A were designed in-house by the Naval Design Branch (DND). During the construction phase of the shipyard, around 75% of the orders for equipment and systems were placed with local companies, including MSMEs.
Apart from the ships under construction, a “necessity acceptance” has also been granted by the Ministry of Defense for another 43 ships and six Project 75 (India) submarines to be built in India.