Thursday, January 20, 2011
2 new fleet tankers to boost naval presence
NEW DELHI: With the induction of a spanking new fleet tanker this month, to be followed by another one in June-July, Navy is all set to get a major booster dose in its blue-water warfare and strategic reach capabilities.
Much like mid-air refuellers extend the operational range of fighter jets, the two Italian-made fleet tankers will enable destroyers, frigates and other warships to operate for prolonged periods on the high seas without returning to harbour for replenishment.
"Fleet tankers constitute an essential part of the Navy's blue-water or deep-strike capabilities. The tankers can also be used for evacuation and disaster relief,'' said an officer.
The first tanker, christened INS Deepak, is being inducted under the April 2008 contract inked with M/s Fincantieri Cantieri Navali of Italy for 159.32 million Euros. It will join the two older fleet tankers, INS Jyoti and INS Aditya, being operated by Navy.
INS Deepak will be commissioned at Mumbai on January 21, with the second one INS Shakti slated to arrive by June-July. With a full-load displacement of 27,500 tonnes, the 175-metre long INS Deepak will be able to carry 17,900 tonnes of cargo, including 15,250 tonnes of fuel. Equipped with four AK-630 guns, the large ship has an endurance of 10,000 nautical miles at a speed of 16 knots.
Induction of the tankers is in tune with India's endeavour to build a powerful three-dimensional blue-water Navy to protect its geo-strategic interests stretching from Hormuz Strait to Malacca Strait. India, of course, is also jostling for strategic space with the expanding Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean.
Armed with its maritime capability perspective plan 2005-2022, Navy wants to ensure its force-levels do not dip below the existing 130 warships, 65 of which are "major combatants'', with older vessels slated for progressive retirement.
Consequently, it currently has over 40 warships on order at Indian shipyards, which include the Rs 23,562-crore project for six Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) in Mumbai and the 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier being built at the Cochin Shipyard.
Then, of course, there is the ongoing refit of the 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov or INS Vikramditya for $2.33 billion as well as construction of three additional Talwar-class stealth frigates (Teg, Tarkash, Trikhand) for around Rs 6,000 crore in Russia.
The Cabinet Committee on Security last month also cleared the Rs 35,000-crore construction of four guided missile stealth destroyers at MDL after the three Kolkata class 6,700-tonne destroyers already being constructed there are finally delivered in 2012-2014. The government has also cleared the Rs 45,000-crore construction of seven more stealth frigates at MDL and GRSE (Kolkata).
The biggest programme, of course, will be the over Rs 50,000-crore `Project-75-India' to acquire six new generation stealth submarines, equipped with tube-launched missiles and air-independent propulsion, but it is still two years away from being finalised.