India’s Warship Building Capability
A major criticism of the warship construction programme in India lies in its huge time and cost overruns giving the impression that DPSU shipyards are inefficient as compared to their counterparts abroad. Only a mission mode holistic approach with active
A major criticism of the warship construction programme in India lies in its huge time and cost overruns giving the impression that DPSU shipyards are inefficient as compared to their counterparts abroad.
Current Indian warship building activity is not restricted to the four DPSU shipyards, apart from MDL, GRSE, GSL and HSL, orders are also on other government and private shipyards like Cochin Shipyard Ltd, Alcock Ashdown Shipyard, ABG Shipyard and Pipavav Shipyard
"Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made, for somewhere deep in their oaken hearts the soul of a song is laid."
- Robert N. Rose
THE FUNDAMENTAL STEPS IN warship building in India commences with the drafting of the Preliminary Staff Requirements (PSR). This is the result of deliberations between the Naval Staff and the naval designers, taking into account the needs of the Indian Navy based on future threat perceptions and the availability of technologies and industrial capabilities. The PSR includes amongst others, role, armament, sensors, overall dimensions, speed and endurance. Thereafter conceptual design work is undertaken; it includes sifting through various technical alternatives and selecting the most feasible one for the preliminary design. This has detailed schematics and calculations to provide the best design option as per the PSR. It is presented to Naval Staff highlighting areas of give and take with respect to the PSR. A desired preliminary design is arrived at, after detailed deliberations. The detailed design work follows thereafter. This involves detailed drawings, hydrodynamic modelling, modifications if required based on modelling studies, layout plans, detailing of specifications and commencement of dialogue with the building shipyard. The shipyard prepares for construction of the warship by making production drawings, procuring jigs, fixtures and equipment that may be required during production.
Current Indian warship building activity is not restricted to the four defence public sector undertakings ( DPSU) shipyards, apart from the Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL), Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd ( GRSE), Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) and Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL), orders are also on other government and private shipyards like Cochin Shipyard Ltd, Alcock Ashdown Shipyard, ABG Shipyard, and Pipavav Shipyard. Some of the naval orders on the Indian shipyards are:
● Mazagon Dock Ltd: Six Scorpene class and three Project 75 (I) submarines Four Type-17A stealth Three Type-15A destroyers Four Type-15B destroyers
● Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd, Kolkata: Three Type-17A stealth frigates Four Type-28 ASW Kamorta class corvettes
● Goa Shipyard Ltd: Four offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) Six mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs)
● Hindustan Shipyard Ltd: One Project 75 (I) submarine Two Mistral class LPDs ● Ship Building Centre (SBC): larger Arihant class nuclear sub
marines (not confirmed) zz Cochin Shipyard Ltd Indigenous aircraft carrier
● ABG Shipyard: Two training ships
● Alcock Ashdown Shipyard: Six Catamaran survey ships
● Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Co. Ltd: Five OPVs To be ordered
● Two Mistral class landing platform docks (LPDs) on private shipyards
● Two submarine support ships
● Two deep submergence rescue vehicle (DSRVs)
A major criticism of the warship construction programme in India lies in its huge time and cost overruns giving the impression that DPSU shipyards are inefficient as compared to their counterparts abroad. It is true that the DPSU shipyards have been favoured by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as far as placing of orders, many a time beyond their capacities is concerned, leading to the notion that other private shipyards may not be able to deliver the vital defence requirements. The observations by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) regarding award of contracts in respect of P-28 and P-15A ships to the Goa Shipyard Limited and Mazagon Dock Limited respectively, are indicators of this approach. The over-cautious view of the MoD, arises from the fact that the DPSU shipyards are completely under its control and also that private shipyards have not yet been able to develop the trust by consistent and reliable delivery of ships to the Indian Navy. The main reason for this lies in the difference between other manufacturing industries that have existing products before taking orders and shipyards, which can only construct specifically designed warships ‘after’ getting the orders. The credibility of Indian shipyards is yet to be established with respect to international competitors. However, according to them, high tariffs, taxes, duties and financing charges shackle them even before they can begin to compete.
Defence shipyards have been building ships by launching the hull in water after welding it and thereafter the shipyards artisans install machinery and equipment in highly cramped spaces. This has also contributed to inordinate delays in delivery of warships to the Navy as ships have taken nearly ten years to build. However, major defence shipyards like MDL and GRSE are already in the process of modernising by moving to modular shipbuilding wherein 300-tonne blocks are manufactured independently along with their equipment, electrical wiring, pipelines, etc and then fitted to neighbouring blocks precisely. It is expected that MDLs modular shipyard costing ` 824 crore would soon be operational, and it is estimated that in future, destroyers would be constructed in 72 months and frigates in 60 months. The main goals of modular construction of warships are threefold, first to enable mission flexibility and future upgradability for enhanced service life of the ship; second to achieve synergies in procurement, integration, equipment and system testing, and parallel ship hull construction; and finally, to enable reductions in life cycle costs and costly upgrades by simplifying complexities in future upgrades.
Fundamentally, modularisation comprises of three classes of modules, namely construction, large-scale functional and small-scale functional modules based upon their sizes and utility. The construction module comprises large pre-outfitted sections, which are joined together. Detail work like wiring, piping, venting, etc is carried out before joining the sections. This part of modularisation results in reduction in construction time as well as costs. However, dismantling later is not envisaged, as it would involve considerable disassembly of subsystems. Large-scale functional modules comprise packaged units like mission units that carry out major functions and may be nearly as huge as a shipÕs compartment. For example. the weapon module may include weapon launchers, armament handling systems and magazines. The large-scale functional modules can be easily replaced for modernisation or modifications. The small-scale functional modules are maintenance, repair friendly units and are small as compared to other modules. These are modules, which can be assembled and disassembled, as these units form the shipÕs support systems. This allows for exchange of systems and easy upgradation at a smaller level.
Modular construction coupled with fixed price contracts would reduce the construction periods and cost overruns. Long construction times associated with telescopic method of construction have led to flexibility in carrying out changes in designs and major equipment by the Indian Navy, which in turn has resulted in increases in costs and delays. Thus with modular construction and freezing of design in fixed price contracts, warship building in India is entering a new era of efficiency. However, the control of overall design, selection of major equipment and weapon sensor packages would remain with the Indian Navy. Today, capability and responsibility to design complex warships (with association of major equipment manufacturers and collaborating foreign shipyards), is available only with the Indian Navy. The shipyards have not developed this crucial expertise because of their dependency over the ages on the Indian Navy. This restricts them in their manufacturing and in undertaking value additions.
Kamorta being launched at GRSE, Kolkata