World-class warships at Indian prices
Clearly the Navy proves that it is truly the Silent Service - just steadily going ahead with powerful indigeneous designs, with minimal backlash from the "import" lobby. Way to go!
Rear Admiral MK Badhwar, the navy’s design chief, explains how the navy got so far ahead of the army and air force in indigenising its weaponry. Shaken by the 1962 defeat at the hands of China, the army and the air force gratefully bought military equipment from whoever was willing to sell.
In contrast, India’s tiny navy took the far-sighted decision to build, rather than buy, its fleet. Today, the army and the air force are playing catch-up; latecomers to indigenisation, they are struggling with a technological leapfrog; attempting cutting-edge platforms like the Arjun tank and the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) without having first designed simpler weaponry.
The navy, in contrast, learned to walk before it tried to run. Starting with small landing craft in the 1960s, the learning curve rose through the increasingly complex design milestones of the Godavari class, the Brahmaputra class and the Khukri class frigates.
The first big DGND triumph came in the late 1990s, with the muscular 6,700-tonne Delhi class destroyers. Later this year, when INS Shivalik — the first of three 4,800-tonne stealth frigates — sails out of Mumbai’s Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) to join the Indian Navy, it will feature in defence journals as one of the world’s cutting-edge warships.
India hasn’t just learned to build world-class warships; it has also learned to make them incredibly cheaply. The three Project 17 stealth frigates being built at MDL — INS Shivalik, INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri — will each cost Rs 2,600 crore (US $650 million).
The three Project 15-A Kolkata-class destroyers, bigger and more heavily armed warships, will each cost the navy Rs 3,800 crore (US $950 million), including the cost of long-term spare parts.
How does that compare with buying a warship in the global market? Ask Australia, which is buying three destroyers from Spanish shipyard, Navantia.
The three 6,250-tonne destroyers, fitted with the hot-selling Aegis radar and fire control system, will set Australia back by Rs 32,000 crore (US $8 billion). At about Rs 11,000 crore per destroyer, that is almost three times the cost India is paying for its Kolkata-class destroyers.
Despite paying a fraction of the cost, says Admiral Badhwar, the Kolkata class is the more powerful battleship. He points out: “Other than (the Aegis radar), the Australian warship doesn’t have much…. We have got much more packed into the Kolkata-class destroyer.
And by the way, what's with all this fancy new look at BRF? Where's the grey and black BRF we all know and love(d)?