Rajnath orders the navy’s most capable warship INS Visakhapatnam

The Indian Navy commissioned its tenth destroyer on Sunday, the 7,400-tonne Indian Naval Ship (INS) Visakhapatnam. This is the lead vessel in a new class of four guided-missile destroyers that Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) is building under Project 15B.

Rajnath orders the navy’s most capable warship INS Visakhapatnam
Defence minister Rajnath Singh (left) and Admiral Karambir Singh at the commissioning of INS Visakhapatnam

The next three Project 15B destroyers will join the navy’s fleet at one-year intervals. They are named INS Mormugao, Imphal and Surat.

The tradition of naming the navy’s destroyers after Indian cities began with Project 15 – which yielded INS Delhi in 1997, INS Mysore in 1999 and INS Mumbai in 2001.

This was followed by Project 15A, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioning the lead warship, INS Kolkata, in MDL on 16 Aug 2014. INS Kolkata was followed by INS Kochi in 2015 and INS Chennai in 2016.

However, even after all four destroyers of Project 15B are commissioned, the navy will have to make do with just 10 destroyers, since three old Rajput-class vessels, which were bought from Moscow in the mid-1980s, are on the verge of being decommissioned from service.

In contrast, China’s navy – the People’s Liberation Army (Navy), or PLA(N) – has a fleet of 42 destroyers. These include four massive 13,000-tonne Renhai-class cruisers known as the Type 055; 21 modern 7,500-tonne Luyang III-class destroyers known as the Type 052; six older 7,000-tonne Luyang II-class destroyers known as the Type 052C; and eleven older and less capable destroyers of the Type 051C, 052B, 051B, 052 and the Soviet-era Sovremenny-class.

Undeterred by the PLA(N)’s an overwhelming numerical advantage, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh sharply criticised China, without naming it, for eroding the “rule-based and stable maritime order” and “freedom of navigation and security of sea lanes”.

Upholding the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982 as the basis for good order at sea, Singh stated: “Some irresponsible nations, for the sake of their narrow partisan interests, keep on giving new and inappropriate interpretations to these international laws from hegemonic tendencies. These arbitrary interpretations create obstacles in the path of a rule-based maritime order.”

“We envision a rule-based Indo-Pacific, with freedom of navigation, free trade and universal values, in which the interests of all the participating countries are protected,” he said.

The defence minister appreciated the navy’s self-reliance efforts, pointing out that 39 of the 41 warships and submarines on order, including the first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, are being built in Indian shipyards.

INS Visakhapatnam will be the navy’s most potent warship. It is propelled by four gas turbines that allow it to travel in excess of 30 knots (55 kilometres per hour). The warship incorporates stealth features, with a reduced radar cross-section (RCS) achieved through efficient shaping of the hull, full beam superstructure design, plated masts and use of radar transparent materials on exposed decks.

Its weapons and sensor suite is world-class, with protection against enemy aircraft and incoming anti-ship missiles being provided out to 70 kilometres by the eponymous Indo-Israeli Medium-Range Surface-to-Surface Missile (MR-SAM), coupled with the Multi-Function Surveillance and Threat Alert Radar (MF-STAR).

The destroyer’s ground attack capability and anti-ship capability is achieved through a bank of Indo-Russian BrahMos cruise missiles that are fired through vertical launch canisters to targets up to 295 kilometres away. The 76-millimetre main gun is built in Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, Haridwar.

Protection against submarines is provided by indigenous rocket launchers, torpedo launchers and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters. The ship is equipped with nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) warfare protective equipment, with its entire requirement of air being filtered through NBC filters.

INS Visakhapatnam has achieved a 75 per cent indigenisation level through an indigenous combat management system (CMS), rocket and torpedo launchers, and digitised control systems such as an integrated platform management system (IPMS), automated power management system (APMS), foldable hangar doors, helo traversing system, close-in weapon system and bow-mounted sonar.

Even the DMR 249A warship-grade steel that the Visakhapatnam is built from has been indigenously manufactured by the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL)

The ship has a total complement of about 315 personnel. Its first commanding officer will be Captain Birendra Singh Bains.

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