Navy gets delivery of Imphal, first warship with living spaces for women sailors | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Navy gets delivery of Imphal, its first warship with separate living spaces for women sailors

Oct 21, 2023 12:54 AM IST

The Indian Navy has received its latest stealth destroyer, Imphal, which is the first warship with separate accommodation for women sailors.

New DelhiThe Indian Navy on Friday received its latest stealth destroyer, Imphal, which is the first warship with separate accommodation for women sailors, officials aware of the matter said.

Some of the women Agniveers who graduated from INS Chilka, the Navy’s training facility in Odisha, and joined service in March 2023. (Rahul Singh/HT Photo)
Some of the women Agniveers who graduated from INS Chilka, the Navy’s training facility in Odisha, and joined service in March 2023. (Rahul Singh/HT Photo)

The development comes months after the navy began inducting women as sailors for the first time under the Agnipath recruitment scheme. To be sure, women officers are currently serving on board several warships that have separate berthing facilities for them.

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But not so for women sailors.

Imphal, constructed by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in Mumbai, will get the “INS” prefix after getting commissioned. It is the third of the four warships sanctioned under an important project called P-15B aimed at boosting the navy’s capabilities in the Indian Ocean region. INS Visakhapatnam and INS Mormugao have already been commissioned. Surat, the fourth one, is under construction.

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“Designed by the navy’s Warship Design Bureau and built by MDL, this ship (Imphal) is among the most technologically advanced warships in the world,” the navy said in a statement, calling it a potent and versatile platform equipped with state-of-the-art weapons and sensors.

The destroyer’s induction into service will enhance India’s maritime prowess in the Indian Ocean region, it said.

The ship has indigenous content of around 75% including its medium range surface-to-air missiles, BrahMos missiles, torpedo tube launchers, anti-submarine rocket launchers and 76mm super rapid gun mount. The destroyer has a displacement of 7,400 tonnes, length of 164 metres and top speed of more than 30 knots. It can carry a crew of 312.

The ship sailed out for maiden sea trials in April 2023 and has since undergone a comprehensive schedule of trials in harbour and at sea, leading up to its delivery in a record time frame of only six months, the statement added. “The time taken to build Imphal and for her trials is the shortest for any indigenous destroyer. The delivery of Imphal is an affirmation of the impetus being given by the government and the navy to the self-reliance campaign.”

Separate berthing areas for women sailors became a necessity after the entry of women into the navy’s personnel below officer rank (PBOR) cadre earlier this year. The navy’s first batch of Agniveers (recruited under the Agnipath scheme), including around 270 women, graduated from INS Chilka, the navy’s training facility in Odisha, and joined service in March 2023.

The Agnipath model marked a stark departure from the military’s decades-old recruitment system that ended after the government announced the new scheme last year. It seeks to recruit soldiers for four years, with a provision to retain 25% of them in regular service for 15 more years after fresh screening.

In 2021, the navy assigned four women officers to warships after a hiatus of almost 25 years. The numbers have grown to around 40 since. In a short-lived experiment, women from the navy’s logistics and medical branches were deployed on fleet tanker INS Jyoti in 1997.

Women in uniform are no longer on the fringes but are being assigned central roles on a par with their male counterparts across the three services. They are flying fighter planes, serving onboard warships, commanding front-line units, being inducted in the PBOR cadre, eligible for permanent commission, and undergoing training at the National Defence Academy.

The navy has been at the forefront of giving equal opportunities to women, said Commander Prasanna Edayilliam (retd), a woman officer who served the navy for 14 years. “Separate berthing facilities for women sailors in new warships will give them a springboard to launch their careers in a challenging environment. It will also allow the navy to deploy more women on warships,” Edayilliam added.

The navy has also completed a review of ranks held by sailors, inherited from the British, and is set to replace them with Indianised designations as part of a larger drive to jettison colonial military traditions, with gender-neutral changes to the ranks also to be announced shortly, as first reported by HT.

More than 65,000 sailors will now get new ranks.

Seven ranks in the navy’s PBOR cadre will be redesignated, including three existing titles that are not gender neutral. The ranks that will be made to align with Indian traditions are Master Chief Petty Officer Ist Class, Master Chief Petty Officer IInd Class, Chief Petty Officer, Petty Officer, Leading Seaman, Seaman Ist Class and Seaman IInd Class.

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