Yesterday, the Indian Navy, in the presence of Admiral RK Dhowan, India’s current chief of naval staff, launched its latest stealth guided missile destroyer with a ceremony held at Mazagaon Dock Limited (MDL), Mumbai. The 7,300 ton Visakhapatnam is the first of four planned Visakhapatnam-class (Project 15B) vessels, based on the older Kolkata-class destroyers design (Project 15A), to enter Indian service.
The other three vessels will be launched at an interval of three years at a total cost of INR 293.40 billion ($4.89 billion). According to Indian naval officials, the 164 m-long Visakhapatnam will be commissioned in July 2018. The Kolkata-class destroyer INS Kolkata (Project 15A) was commissioned in August 2014, with the two remaining vessels of the class to be commissioned by 2016.
According to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly:
Vishakhapatnam‘s key differences from the Project 15A class include the relocation of its sonar to the bow from the hull; the design of its mast, which houses its main radar, has also been revised to further reduce its radar cross section. Other changes include reshaping of the hull to accentuate its stealth features and the addition of a rail-less helicopter traversing system.
Indian naval officials claim that over 65 percent of the Vishakhapatnam is indigenously sourced, including 11 of its weapon and associated sensor systems, IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly reports.
The principal armament of the Visakhapatnam-class will be eight BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, which boast an operating range of 290km and were co-developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and the Russian defense industry.
In addition, the ships will be equipped with the Barak-8/NG — an Indo-Israeli surface-to-air missile (SAM) — jointly developed by Rafael-IAI and the DRDO. The weapon was successfully tested in Israel in November 2014. The Visakhapatnam can carry up to 32 of these medium-long range air defense missiles.
Furthermore, the ship boasts a license-built 76 mm Oto Melara Super Rapid Gun, four fully-automated Russian AK-630 close-in weapon systems (likely fitted on the vessel’s bow), and a yet-to-be-selected 127 mm gun (however, local media sources claim that the ship will just be armed with a 127 mm main gun instead of a 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount).
“The destroyer will also be fitted with IAI-Elta EL/M-2238 S-band (2 to 4 GHz) 3-D volume air surveillance radar (STAR) radar and a Thales LW-08 D-band air search radar,” IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly notes. The Multi-Function Surveillance Threat Alert Radar (MF-STAR) is the Israeli equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Combat System and allegedly on par with the Chinese “Aegis” system installed on the Type 052D Multirole Destroyer.
For antisubmarine warfare, the new stealth guided-missile destroyer features twin-tube launchers and RBU-6000 Smerch-2 rocket launchers. It can also carry two multiple-role helicopters (e.g., Sea King or HAL Dhruv helicopters). The turbines of the ship were constructed in Ukraine, whereas Russia was responsible for “propellers and shafting, assorted weaponry, sensors and radar.”
India’s new stealth guided-missile destroyer will be a multi-mission ship, capable of supporting expeditionary and surface strike groups. It will be a welcome new asset as India’s navy tries to deter Chinese intrusions into the Indian Ocean and particularly to boost India’s antisubmarine warfare capabilities. The Diplomat