NEW DELHI — India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued a tender to local shipyards to build 16 shallow water anti-submarine warfare (ASW) vessels, a $2.25 billion program that would mark the first such effort by domestic yards.
The tender, in the “Buy and Make India” category, was issued last week to private sector companies Larsen & Toubro, ABG Shipyard, Pipavav Defense and Offshore Engineering, and to state-owned Goa Shipyard and Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers. The vessels would replace Russian-made Abhay-class corvettes commissioned in 1989 and 1991.
The domestic companies will need to tie up with overseas defense companies to acquire certain critical technologies, officials said.
“The domestic defense companies have the ability to build the shallow craft but will need to tie up with overseas companies, especially to procure a variety of sonars,” said a senior Indian Navy official.
An executive of Garden Reach said they are already searching for global partners but would not discuss which shipyards they are contacting.
Shyam Kumar Singh, retired Indian Navy captain, said he is confident domestic shipyards can build the vessels.
“Indian warship building has matured with the shipyards having acquired good capability over the years. So there is no risk as far as shipbuilding is concerned. This is an ASW platform. The main equipment onboard such a ship is the sonar. There are two sonars on such platforms, namely, hull mounted sonar and the low frequency variable depth sonar. The technology does not exist for such sonars in India and will need to be procured from abroad,” Singh said.
Under a policy change in 2013, MoD decided to explore all avenues to buy weapons and equipment first from the domestic markets and then, if needed, by direct purchase from overseas. In the case of the shallow craft, officials and analysts said, domestic industry has the ability to build the boats.
Anil Jai Singh, a retired Indian Navy commodore and defense analyst, said, “We have gained enough experience in building large warships over the years. These are going to be small platforms [about 750 tons]. It is also important that the private defense sector becomes competitive and is able to undertake construction of weapon platforms. This is a good project for them to ascend the learning curve in building weapon platforms, including system integration, as it is small and weapon integration would not be too complex.”
The ASW shallow water crafts will be used for anti-submarine warfare operations in coastal waters, low intensity maritime operations and mine-laying. The first Indian Navy official said requirements include the capability for sub-surface surveillance of coastal waters; coordinated anti-submarine warfare operations with aircraft; destruction of sub-surface targets in coastal waters; ability to carry out search and rescue, day and night, in coastal areas; and the ability to engage intruding craft.
The ship would be required to operate within 200 nautical miles of the base port.
The dimensions of the shallow craft with stealth capabilities include a draft not exceeding 2.7 meters in fully laden condition without the sonar dome. The vessel should have a speed of not less than 25 knots fully loaded and be able to carry at least seven officers and more than 50 sailors.
The vessels will be connected with the Navy’s network-centric warfare system, which will also be linked with other ASW assets, including airborne manned and unmanned platforms, the Navy official said.