Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Warship enters Mazagaon waters

MUMBAI: INS Kochi, the second warship of Project 15A, was launched at Mazgaon on Friday morning even as small flags adorning her fluttered in the wind. With dock workers chanting "Ganpati Bappa Morya'' in the background, Madhulika Sharma, wife of Admiral Nirmal Verma, chief of naval staff, inaugurated the 163-m-long ship that entered the waters for the first time.

The process of equipping her with various armaments and weapons will start soon, and finally, she is scheduled to be handed over to the navy in August 2012.

This indigenously-designed warship will have state-of-the-art weapons and sensors, stealth features with the help of which enemy radar cannot spot it easily an advanced action information system and a host of other advanced features. It will also be fitted with the supersonic BrahMos surface-to-surface missile system. The warship's air defence capability, designed to counter the threat of enemy aircraft and anti-ship cruise missiles, will revolve around the vertical launch, long-range, surface-to-air missile system, which is being co-developed by the DRDO. It also has a multi-function radar system.

Even as the warship was launched amid fanfare, dock officials, in an informal interaction, said the almost-$ 4-billion licensed production of six conventional Scorpene submarines has been delayed. According to the original plan, the first submarine was supposed to be being delivered to the Indian Navy in December 2012. "But now, the process will be delayed for two years and the first one is expected to be ready only in December 2014 and the second a few months later,'' an official said.

While Mazagon dock officials attributed the delay to teething problems, defence minister A K Anthony, during the launch of India's first nuclear submarine INS Ari'hant at Vishakapatnam on July 26, had blamed it on "problems in the absorption of technology'' by the Mazagaon dockyard.

The Scorpene project got underway in 2005 when India and France signed an agreement for the licensed manufacture of six Scorpene submarines at the Mazagon dock.

While addressing the audience at Mazgaon after Kochi's launch, Verma said that "delays and cost overruns have been a major cause of concern to the naval headquarters”. ”Such situations have sometimes compelled the Indian Navy to resort to imports,'' he said.

Admitting to the two-year set-back, officials said the delivery time of the submarines to the navy had been brought forward from a year to eight months and the programme would definately be completed in December 2017, as it was decided in the original plan.

According to the officials, the first Kolkata-class warship launched in April 2006 at Mazagon dock is expected to be delivered to the navy in August 2011 and that will be followed by Kochi in August 2012.

Dock CMD H S Malhi said the organisation would complete 50 years in May 2010. "With orders in place the amount is likely to go up to Rs 80,000 crore to be executed till 2020 the Mazgaon Dock Limited is in the league of the world's largest and the busiest shipyards,'' Malhi said.

(Courtesy: TIMES OF INDIA)

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