New Warship Building Strategy
Newer concepts in warship designs introduced weapon and electronics system modularity with interface standards to encompass modular ship design and construction, signature reduction and unmatched enhanced survivability. The modularity concept was developed to enable warships to tailor payloads according to operational needs, resulting in qualitative and quantitative jump in production levels, to an amazing 1.5 frigates per year.
REAR ADMIRAL (RETD) SUSHIL RAMSAY
IN THE RECENT PAST, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha, gave an elaborate overview on the current status of various indigenous warship building projects. Main features of his statement were that each of the programmes has severely suffered due to enormous cost and time overruns. All of the indigenous warship building projects are with three leading defence shipyards of the country and in percentage terms, the cost escalations alone have ranged between 157 per cent and 260 per cent. He informed the Lok Sabha that ‘acceptance of necessity’ for acquisition of six next generation stealth submarines under Project-75(I) has been accorded by the Defence Acquisitions Council. The proposal is being progressed. Cost details would be available on finalisation of contracts. However, it will take at least two to three years for the contract to be finalised and another seven years before the first boat is rolled out. Quite clearly, the time estimate for the fruition of the project would be injurious to the rapidly depleting force levels of submarine combat arm.
While he did not quantify the extant of time overruns of the projects, it is a well known fact that the existing system of assigning the indigenous warship projects by nomination to the three defence shipyards of the country has resulted in order books of each of the shipyards choked beyond their existing capacity for the next 15-20 years. The other prominent reasons ascribed were non-availability of critical construction materials on time, delays in acquisition of weapon equipment and systems from abroad, delays in finalisation of propulsion system and equipment, as also delays in finalisation of indigenous substitutes and its availability.
While each of the defence shipyards were compelled to initiate modernisation plans to induct newer shipbuilding technologies, facilities, practices, processes, capacity upgrades, and infrastructure augmentation to match up the order book position; execution of plans itself have caused protracted delays, due to lethargic and tedious decision-making, procurement and acquisition processes, etc. The prime objectives of planned modernisation programmes of defence shipyards are aimed at achieving the qualitative and quantitative augmentation of building and delivering quality warships at competitive cost with shorter construction periods, increased capacity, product mix and shortened delivery schedules. Regrettably, these objectives have fallen way short of the stated aspirations of improving productivity levels of defence shipyards.
Exhorting the need for imbibing newer concepts in naval ship design and construction, Commander Douglas C. Deans, a former naval architect of high repute recommends Modules and the Blocks that follow are built to very tight and exacting tolerances. They are continuously monitored during construction and assembled to form the Platform at exact positions using laser trackers., “The shipbuilding industry and the associated research and develop- ment (R&D) organisations are in need of a major renaissance and reformation led by young dynamic and innovative professionals who can think boldly and act beyond the conventional box. Like Lego sets, the next generation of ships designs can be reconfigured for new missions within weeks and even assembled if the modules are built and available at selected locations.”
Global Success Stories
Fully conscious of prevailing intense competition, unpredictable economic conditions and its impact on industrial growth,
Littoral Combat Ship USS Fort Worth under construction at Marinette Marine Shipyard