Josy Joseph, DNAINDIA.COM
December 05, 2006
The proposed acquisition would be worth more than Rs 30,000 crore.
NEW DELHI: In a bid to shore up the country’s naval strength, the Indian Navy is exploring possible avenues of acquiring several stealth warships from European shipyards. And if everything goes well, it would be one of the biggest military contracts in recent times.
The Request for Information (RFI), the first formal step in the process of military acquisition, has been issued to about a dozen European and Russian shipyards. The proposed acquisition would be worth more than Rs 30,000 crore.
Confirming the issue, Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, said it was prompted by the delay in acquisition of modern equipment that set in during the past two decades due to constraints on defence budgets and other factors, and the inability of Indian shipyards to deliver quickly.
However, “It is not necessary that we will take this route,” Mehta said. The other available option is for Indian shipyards to step up warship production to meet the projected force levels.
The RFI is for a set of seven stealth frigates, each costing about Rs 4,000 crores. According to a proposal, the first ship would be built in the foreign shipyard, while the rest six would be built at Mazagon Docks Limited in Mumbai or at Garden Reach Shipyard in Kolkata.
The project, called P-17A, is envisaged as the next generation ships of the ongoing Project 17 Shivalik class multi-role stealth frigates.
The first Shivalik class ship is expected in early 2007. Though the cabinet approved it in 1997, the Shivalik class construction was delayed by a few years owing to various factors. Project 17 envisages a total of 12 ships, and the seven ships for which the RFI has now been issued would form a part of the project.
The Indian Navy recently has been looking at both domestic construction and foreign acquisition of warships to make up for the shortcomings. India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier is under construction in the Kochi Shipyard, while another carrier is being readied in Russia.
After acquiring three Talwar class guided missile frigates from Russia, the Navy is awaiting three more ships of the same class, but with an advanced technology from Russia. These three ships are expected to join the Navy sometime in 2011. By middle of next year, the massive US landing platform dock Trenton would also join the naval services. A total of 30 warships in slated to join the Navy in a decade.