Construction of the country's first indigenous aircraft carrier has begun and it is scheduled to enter service with the Indian Navy by 2012. The force also is set to induct three stealth frigates and 27 other warships being constructed at different shipyards across the country.
At 37,500 tonnes, the aircraft carrier will be the biggest warship built in India, while the construction of the three stealth frigates - so named because they are virtually undetectable by radar - mark a new milestone in the country's naval design capabilities, navy officials said on Tuesday.
"The design of the carrier was a technological challenge hitherto not faced by the navy involving complexities in structural design, propulsion system and aviation facilities," Commodore KN Vaidyanathan of the Directorate of Naval Design (DND) told a select media gathering here.
Established in 1970, DND is a key element of the Corps of Naval Constructors that enters its golden jubilee on Friday.
The carrier will carry a mix of 30 combat jets and helicopters.
As for the 4,900-tonne Shivalik class stealth frigates, these "mark a watershed in the design history of the navy as they incorporate a technology available to a very few navies around the world," Vaidyanathan pointed out
The vessels, which are scheduled for delivery 2008-09 feature a "low ship signature and can operate at silent speeds for prolonged periods, making them virtually undetectable by radar," he pointed out.
Among the 27 other vessels on order are 2,500-tonne anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvettes, 6,640-tonne Kolkata class destroyers incorporating stealth technology, as also patrol boats, fast attack craft and seaward defence boats. These ships are due for delivery between 2008 and 2012.
From modest beginnings with the design of auxiliary craft, survey vessels, and seaward defence boats, the navy took a quantum leap forward with the construction of six Nilgiri class frigates between 1972 and 1981, with the last two vessels undergoing extensive design modifications. Notable among these was their ability to operate a Seaking medium lift helicopter, making them the smallest platform to do so.
The DND then got into the act by designing a modified version of the Nilgiri class frigates with a mix of Russian and Western weapons and sensors. This resulted in the Godavari class frigates, which were much larger than their predecessors but faster - in spite of using the same propulsion system. This was followed up with the Brahmaputra class frigates.
More successes followed with designs such as the Khukri class missile frigates and its successor, the Kora class.
Till the indigenous aircraft carrier, one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by DND, was the design of the Delhi class guided missile destroyer, of which three have been built. At 6,500 tonnes, this is the largest warship built in India till now and forms part of the Indian Navy's main strike force.
"These ships represent the cutting edge of technology and are recognised the world over for their design and operational capabilities," Vaidyanathan pointed out.