A visit to the INS Shivalik: India’s newest warship - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 20 March 2009

A visit to the INS Shivalik: India’s newest warship

(Photos: courtesy Ajai Shukla)

Business Standard, 21st Mar 09
On board the INS Shivalik

In a stable full of carthorses, goes the saying, it’s easy to spot the racehorse. We drive into the high-security Mumbai Port Trust and, in the distance, through a clutter of freighters, tugs and dredgers, we quickly pick out the sleek lines of the INS (Indian Naval Ship) Shivalik.

This is India’s newest and most advanced frigate, receiving its finishing touches from its manufacturer, public sector shipyard Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL). Before being commissioned as a frontline naval warship, the Shivalik is being put through harbour and sea trials, a rigorous process to ascertain that all its systems, weapons and sensors are working in perfect synchrony.

Business Standard is here on the INS Shivalik to take a first look at the first stealth warship that India has ever built. A stealth warship is designed to be near invisible to the electronic sensors that navies use to scan the oceans. It’s very shape evades detection by radar; it is engineered to give off minimal infra-red (IR) emissions; and every piece of equipment on board, from engines to toilet flushes, are designed to work silently so that the ship cannot be heard by the enemy’s sonar and acoustic sensors.

This stealth will allow the INS Shivalik to sneak up on the enemy, undetected, and destroy him with a range of high-tech weaponry at the disposal of its gunnery officers.

The Shivalik was born of a growing concern over India’s 7516 kilometers of coastline, and an Exclusive Economic Zone of 2 million square kilometers. India’s trade interests --- 90% by volume and 77% by value is transported by sea --- also demanded a more powerful navy. Policymakers also believe that a rising India must be able to protect major international trade routes (100,000 freight vessels annually; one billion tons of oil) which transit close by Indian shores. And so, carefully following a policy of indigenisation, India has launched a major warship building programme. Currently, 42 naval vessels are under construction; 38 of them, like the Shivalik, are being built in Indian shipyards.

Arriving at the Shivalik, it is hard not to be impressed. Even by the bristling standards of warships, the 142 metre-long Shivalik is a menacing looking man ‘o war. Conspicuously missing is the friendly sight of sailors going about their business on the decks; all that is hidden behind a wall of steel, which covers the ship’s sides, from the water level all the way up to the mast. This is part of the stealth design; the sloped steel plates absorb and scatter radar waves, preventing them from bouncing back to announce the presence of a warship.

Overall, the Shivalik conveys a dangerous beauty, which has become the hallmark of Indian-designed warships. When the Indian destroyer, the INS Mysore, participated in an International Fleet Review in the UK in 2005, the Duke of Edinburgh --- a Royal Navy officer himself --- came on board to congratulate the crew on what he called “the handsomest ship in the review”.

We are greeted at the Shivalik’s gangway (the ladder which links the ship with the jetty) by Captain RS Sundar, the Superintendent of Project 17, the navy’s 8000 crore rupee project to build three stealth frigates. INS Shivalik is the first of the three; also nearing completion at MDL are INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri, which are scheduled for completion in late 2009 and 2010 respectively.

The Shivalik, we learn, is the first Indian warship that is built with Indian steel. The Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) has finally mastered the art of mass-producing specially toughened warship-grade steel, called D40S. No longer will India shop abroad for thousands of tons of steel for each warship it builds.

Captain Sundar escorts us through the Shivalik with an enthusiasm that comes from working at the cutting edge of warship technology. Only a handful of countries --- the US, Russia, France, Sweden, Germany, the UK and Italy --- have mastered stealth technology. It is extremely difficult to hide a 5000-ton behemoth like the INS Shivalik. There are stealthier warships than the Shivalik but they are smaller vessels. The Swedish Visby class vessels, amongst the stealthiest ships in the world, are mere corvettes, at 600 tons. The French Lafayette class frigates, almost as hard to detect, weigh in at 3600 tons. Russia’s Krivak class stealth frigates, three of which fly Indian Navy flags (they are termed the Talwar class), also weigh just 3600 tons. In contrast, the Shivalik --- 4900, tons when empty, 5600 tons when fully fuelled, watered, victualled, crewed and armed --- is significantly bigger, packing a heavier weapon punch than its smaller rivals.

A walk around the Shivalik’s weapons stations shows up a true all-round capability. The Shivalik’s complement of weapons (see box) caters for enemy threats from all three dimensions. What makes this mix of weaponry unique is the extraordinary level of electronics engineering that allows all their radars and control systems, located in close proximity to one another, to function together without interference or jamming.

Besides the weaponry on board, the Shivalik’s two helicopters --- which operate from a flight deck to the rear of the frigate --- search for and destroy enemy submarines anywhere within their radius of operation. Two Sea King helicopters will fly from here, until Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) develops the naval version of the Dhruv. Flying slowly at low altitudes, they drop a “dunking sonar” into the water to detect tell-tale submarine sounds. Enemy submarines located are finished off with depth charges or torpedoes.

Captain Sundar then takes us into the bowels of the Shivalik through a series of waterproof hatches and ladders. There are four deck levels above water and four below; that makes the Shivalik is as high as an 8-storey building. In the lower decks lies the engine room, where two French-made Pielstick diesel engines power the warship for normal running. When quick bursts of speed are required, especially in battle, two General Electric (GE) gas turbines kick in, powering along the Shivalik at speeds in excess of 30 knots (over 55 kmph).

The GE gas turbines are now in the midst of controversy, as reported earlier by Business Standard. The new US administration has ordered GE to --- pending a review of relations with US allies like India, the UK and Australia --- stop work on commissioning the turbines. The Ministry of Defence is searching for a way to bypass this ban, perhaps by using a non-US GE agent to commission the turbines. This unexpected delay could delay the Shivalik’s commissioning by up to three months. But MDL remains optimistic: a blackboard on the deck counts down the days for commissioning: it says 58 days.

The Indian Navy is waiting.


Anti-air defence : Radar-guided Shtil missile system.

Point Defence : Two Barak-1 Vertical Launch Systems (VLS)
Missile System and Two AK-630 Rapid Fire Guns

Anti-surface : Eight Klub Vertical Launch System (VLS)
missiles cruise missiles, with a range of almost 300 kilometers

Anti-submarine : RBU 6000 rocket launchers, total 24 barrels. Also,
two onboard helicopters, with sonars and torpedoes

Main gun : OtoMelara 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM)
manufactured at BHEL, Haridwar. This can
fire at ground and aerial targets 15-20 km away]


Kochi shipyard : Indigenous aircraft carrier

Mazagon Dock, : Project 17 : Three Shivalik class frigates
Mumbai Project 15-A : Three Kolkata class destroyers
Project Scorpene : Six Scorpene submarines

Garden Reach : Project 28 : Four anti-submarine corvettes
Shipyard, Kolkata Ten fast attack craft
Two Landing ships for amphibious warfare

Goa Shipyard : Three OPVs (Offshore Patrol Vessels)

Private yards : Six survey vessels

The Shivalik in battle: a lethal video-game

“Network-centric” is the new buzzword that defines the high-tech combat of today. The Shivalik is supremely well equipped for the new digital battlefield.

In the days of cannon and sail, a warship’s Captain directed battle from the ship’s Bridge, from where he could observe what was happening as the combatants closed in, raking each other with cannon-fire. Today it all happens at far longer ranges. Battle, for the Shivalik’s Captain, would be a high-stakes video game conducted from an Operations Room, the enemy only a blip on a radar screen.

The nerve centre of the Shivalik’s battlefield capability is an indigenous design triumph called the AISDN (short for ATM-based Integrated Services Digital Network). This is a backbone network that allows all electronic information from the Shivalik’s systems and sensors --- e.g. engines, navigation devices, radars, weaponry, radio sets and control systems --- to be transmitted digitally all over the warship on a common data base. Designed by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) in partnership with Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), this common carrier takes vital information to the Shivalik’s commanders in real time on multi-function displays.

“This is as good, if not better than comparable systems on any warship in the world”, says Captain Sunder. “On earlier warships, weapons had a separate data bus, sensors had their own bus, and so on. Now, the AISDN integrates all that, and also information coming from sensors outside the Shivalik, such as from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS).”

Taking feed from AISDN, is another network, the Computer-aided Action Information Organisation (CAIO), which brings to the captain a complete electronic picture of the battlefield. This is the heart of the weapons exploitation system, laying out for the Captain all the information about targets being picked up by the warship’s sensors and radars.

This will also be transmitted to the ship’s Executive Officer (XO), the second-in-command after the Captain, and the man responsible for the ship’s weaponry. From his console, the XO electronically assigns each detected target to one of his weapons.

When the Shivalik’s radars detect an enemy aircraft, the CAIO will show it up on the consoles automatically. The CAIO includes a Decision Support System that will suggest what to use to shoot down the aircraft; the final decision, though, is that of the commanding officer. He could decide to use the 76mm gun; the command will go electronically from his console to that of the gunnery officer controlling the gun. Alternatively, he could choose to use a missile. Either way, the detection, the information, the allocation of a weapon to the target and the actual engagement itself, would all be done electronically.

Assisting the Captain in managing the battle would be a multi-function, touch-screen console called the Integrated Versatile Console System (IVCS), providing pinpoint navigational information, the ship’s course, position, and its engine parameters.

The ship’s movements are controlled through an Integrated Machinery Control System (IMCS) that links all the ship’s engines and other auxiliary machinery, via optic fibre cabling, to various control points. The Shivalik’s four generators, which together produce 4 Megawatts of power, enough to light up a small city, are controlled through the Automated Power Management System (APMS), which senses the requirement of power at all times. No sailors are needed to constantly monitor power requirement or to switch on and off the generators.

The Shivalik is also equipped for the nuclear and chemical battlefield. It is the navy’s first ship with a Total Atmospheric Control System (TACS), which filters all air going into the ship at all times, including the air being used by the engines. This would remove radioactive, chemical and biological impurities, protecting the crew and the systems. For this reason, the Shivalik is centrally air-conditioned and has no portholes. There are also decontamination facilities on board in case the ship passes through an area where the radioactivity from a nuclear strike still lingers.

Crew comfort on the Shivalik

Life on a warship can be tough. The living conditions during extended deployments out at sea have traditionally meant long watch duties, monotonous meals out of tins, and cramped living with little privacy. But now, officers and sailors who man (or woman) the INS Shivalik can look forward to better conditions.

The first clear improvement will be in the food. Of the Shivalik’s crew of 35 officers and 222 sailors, some 24 sailors are employed in cooking, cleaning up and managing the stock of food in refrigerated compartments called “cold rooms” and “cool rooms”.

The cooking arrangements on board are fully automatised. A McDonald’s-style deep fat fryer gleams in a corner. A stainless steel chapatti-maker turns out 500 chapattis per hour. A high-capacity dosa machine stands next to it, designed by the Central Food Testing and Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore. But one part of their design is clearly the navy’s: the damper spring on which each machine is mounted. It would never do to be picked up by an enemy submarine because of vibrations from a chapatti maker!

The sailors also say that, in heavy seas, the churning of the crew’s stomachs results in most of the food being fed --- either directly or indirectly --- to the fish.

Despite the high-tech fitments, some things never change in a traditional navy. The kitchen, the dishwashing room and the dining room are still called the galley, the scullery and the wardroom respectively!

We go across to the living area. In place of the wooden bunk beds and rusty tin wash basins of earlier warship cabins, the Shivalik’s crews will enjoy swanky, modular furnishings custom-manufactured in India by the marine division of Godrej. Built in standard sizes, these are fire-resistant, long-life and easy to maintain, clean and replace.

And in a bow to gender correctness, the Shivalik is India’s first warship with a cabin specially built for women officers. While similar in most respects to the men’s cabins, I was pointed out two significant differences: the ladies’ cabin has an attached bathroom, and also extra wardrobe space! I also noted that it was located right next to the Captain’s cabin.


  1. Have you left anything else to keep the ship a secret of IN?pleasealso publish the requencies of the radar,communication equipments,sonars and all other ESM systems,so that enemies dont have to take the trouble of intelligence gathering!

  2. Anonymous, do you think that this is secret stuff? Do you see the number of foreign vendors who are working on this project? All this info is avaialble from various open sources. Besides the Navy will only be too glad ot show off this ship to others. What exactly do you think happens during naval exercises - foreign sailors are actually do exchange visits aboard IN ships and operate equipment.

  3. Ajay, very well done Sir! Excellent writeup. Notice that the SSR is still missing! Wonder what this will be?

    A few minor points of correction:

    GRSE is bldg 4 P-28 ASWC, 8 WJFAC (2 have been commissioned) and 1 LSTL - this is the Airabat. She is awaiting acceptance/commissioning pending resolution of technical issues. Four more ASWC are planned by MoD/Navy.

    MDL: To your list, you can add 4 P-15B DDG that were sanctioned last month (Feb) and should be ordered soon.

    Lastly, GSL is building 4, not 3, NOPV. 5 more NOPV are sanctioned for construction at private yards.

  4. 5 more NPOV at the same yard after the first four. The private yards like the AGB shipyards are building about six OPV's for ICG. Don't know the exact details but it is somewhat similar like this.

  5. from the info this class looks so lethal..
    No wonder Obama Uncle and Emperor Hu wants to stall this project..

  6. BeasF137,
    Yap, make everything open, tell everything !!.

  7. Kannan
    You are mislead if you think the Obama administration wants 2 stall the p-17 project. GE did not possess the necessary State Dept clearances (TAA's) for provding technical services aboard a military ship in India. The work only got slowed down as Italy's Avio provided a workaround service until GE had sorted out the error and obtained the necessary approval from State. The problem has since been resolved (earlier this week) but Indian media is yet ot pick it up.

    besides, the same obama administration just approved the p-8I deal so I am sorry 2 say that your logic is very flawed.

  8. BeasF137! Do you know what
    happened during RED FLAG exercises at Nellis AFB? the americans and french have kept thier own avionics in wraps and quietly they have done signature analysis of our frontline fighter SU-30 which includes analysis of jet engine modulations!

  9. Simply superb Ajai-sir!!!!

    Absolutely fantastic info...

    do you have any other details on the stealth characteristics - simply because except for the obvious shaping, and noise reduction techniques, there doesn't seem to be other EM reductions that were reported... For eg, the mast is far from stealthy... are there any plans to reduce the signature in these areas?

    Did you hear of any plans to incorporate an AESA radar on the ships, if not now, in the near future? Also, why didn't they add the BrahMos, rather than the problematic Klub?

    Thanks for the report again... looking forward to more reports on the P28, P15B and others....

  10. P.S.... any idea about the Pennant No??

    P.P.S... with your permission. I would like to use the images on wikipedia, if possible. Will be mailing you about that sir.


  11. Ecellent info! Thanks Col Ajai.

    Is there any changes for the next two ships?? Like VLS Brahmos or VLS Shtil???

  12. Heard that the GE-engine problem has been sorted out?

  13. Anon , you said on 21 March 2009 13:27
    " Do you know what
    happened during RED FLAG exercises at Nellis AFB? the americans and french have kept thier own avionics in wraps and quietly they have done signature analysis of our frontline fighter SU-30 which includes analysis of jet engine modulations!"

    Anon, with all due respect, if the IAF did not figure out that this was gonna happen, then who is to blame. Surely not the USAF. But, have no worries, I am sure the AF boys were gathering signatures too.

  14. hello, can anyone tell me what are those lantern like things hanging from the projections on the main mast ,just below the radar? what's it used for?

  15. Ajaji, you are completly wrong to say that "only a handful of countries--the US,Russia,France,Sweden,Germany,the UK & Italy--have mastered stealth technology".China also mastered in stealth technology from 2005.You should mention it.

  16. No Brahmos to be fitted on the frigates?

    Also, does India have long range anti-ship missiles?

  17. So how many days left for it to enter into the action???

  18. krish
    i like the last sentence of yours of the entire post the " the women's cabin is next to captain's"

  19. thats a good feed ajai sir,

    you seem to be travelling a lot!!

  20. how are you related to Shivalik ?
    I have never seen so much info being published before !
    seen the trial videos ? they'll bowl you over ! 22 rounds fired for the first time ever.. never seen anything that awesome !

  21. " Do you know what
    happened during RED FLAG exercises at Nellis AFB? the americans and french have kept thier own avionics in wraps and quietly they have done signature analysis of our frontline fighter SU-30 which includes analysis of jet engine modulations!"

    I donno tht u know this or nt bt the French have, throughout the exercise, followed the American planes to gather information abt them. So, this is no new thing. And u don't need 2 worry cozz our IAF had switched of the Su-30s radars 2 stop the Americans and French 4rm knowing abt them. And tht was y they were criticized by an American officer 2 be nt being able 2 find their paths and enemies.

    And Plzzz, I request u all, 2 know a fact tht the world's 2nd most populated country, possessing an ocean of its own, and a highly vulnerable northern and north-eastern part, and having armed forces which rank in the range of top 5 at international level, isn't tht fool tht it would just visit another country or invite a country or make a public announcement, ever, 2 blow its secrets................(1)

    And, one more thing is tht India is a democracy and progress and development here is slow and it will always be slow bcozz ne new proposal needs 2 pass through many stages and people, bt plzzz don't forget tht the more stages they pass, the more refined they will be. And history has witnessed tht only Democractic Counties survive wars, and countries with other form of govt., sooner or later, collapse.

    So, respect ur country, its decisions, and be true ur nation.....

    Jai Hind.......

  22. A nice write up.



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