Project 15-A: Ukrainian fiasco; Russian bailout - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 2 April 2009

Project 15-A: Ukrainian fiasco; Russian bailout

(Photos: courtesy Ajai Shukla)

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st April, 2009
Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai

To comprehend the size of a 6,800-tonne warship, one really needs to see it out of water. In Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL), we stare awestruck at two such vessels being built side by side, towering hulks of steel that are being welded and hammered into frontline destroyers for the Indian Navy. Then we are shown their eventual form at a nearby slipway, where INS Kolkata, the first destroyer of Project 15-A, is being kitted out for its commissioning next year.

MDL is fighting to deliver this Rs 11,000 crore project on time. Holding it back is a default by a Ukrainian shipyard in delivering the propellers that drive these warships and the shafting that delivers power from the engines to the propellers. After three years of waiting fruitlessly for the equipment to arrive from Ukraine, MDL placed the order with a Russian shipyard.

Ukrainian shipbuilders, set up in the Black Sea by the erstwhile Soviet Union navy, have been an important source of components for Indian warships. Each of the three Project 15-A destroyers will be powered by four Zorya reversible gas turbines from Ukraine, which have already been delivered. But they can only be installed after Russia delivers the shafting.

MDL Chairman, Vice Admiral HS Malhi told Business Standard, “The Ukrainian shipbuilding industry is a mature one, but we have this problem of non-delivery. The answer is only to increase the level of indigenisation, and to develop and cultivate our own vendor base. As long as we are dependent upon foreign vendors, late delivery will remain a risk.”

Business Standard has already reported on 6th March 09 on the delay to India’s Project 17 stealth frigate, INS Shivalik, because General Electric (GE) failed to get permission from the US government to install its gas turbine engines on the warship.

Russia is assisting Project 15-A not only with shafting and propellers, but also the know-how for pontoon-assisted launches. Conventionally, a ship is “launched” into water once its hull is completed, after which the superstructure — the upper decks and masts that together weigh several thousand tonne — is fitted on in deeper water. The shallow water near the slipways, where warships are built, cannot accommodate fully built warships, which require a deeper draught.

The INS Kolkata, for example, was under 3,000 tonnes when it was launched into water just 4.5 metres deep. But the next two Project 15-A vessels will weigh over 4,000 tonnes at launch because they will have pontoons — steel compartments welded outside the deck — that will lift the ship in the water like inflatable armbands do to swimmers. The pontoons are removed once the ship reaches deeper water.

Explains Commander HC Dhamija, project superintendent of Project 15-A, “This will provide added buoyancy, which will allow us to launch the ship into shallower water. There are a greater number of days when the tide provides us with 4.5 metres, so that makes planning a launch easier. If, for some reason, you miss the date with the highest tide, you are still left with some options.”

Russia has also provided the warship-grade steel for Project 15-A. Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) now makes warship-grade steel, but the manufacture of these destroyers began before SAIL production ramped up. SAIL’s current production is barely enough for the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) being constructed at Cochin Shipyard Ltd, Kochi.

The first Kolkata class destroyer is to be delivered in May 2010. The next two are scheduled for delivery at one year intervals, i.e. May 2011 and May 2012, respectively.


  1. The pictures showing the web for mounting the propeller is old design, because you have to align the shaft coming out of the exit with a welded-on web, which can be out of alignment easily. It's best to have a single piece with no shaft exposure to get good bearing life for the propeller mount.

  2. Thats some of the worst piece of welding i have seen, esp the 4th photograph where in the there are a lot of uneven bead.
    When GOI is investing crores and crores of money into building these ships, why cant they invest some money into computerized welding machines??

  3. ^^that is first arc welding round. After that ship is smoothened

  4. ^^^

    In this picture, which i believe is the last coat of paint, we can still see the uneven bead.
    We have to do a lot of work on quality control before we can go ahead with large scale production of vessels.

  5. ^^^

    that's not coat of paint. It's protective sealent wrapped around all the metal in 3 layers. Then it is scrapped using a rough-spinner and that smoothens everything including the rough welding. Then another 2 layers of Bondo-like materials used before the salt-water paint is used.

    i think

  6. Good article!

    But how they will be able to comm it next year?? The Barak-NG is not ready yet!!

  7. Good article!

    But how they will be able to comm it next year?? The Barak-NG is not ready yet!!

  8. MRSAM with israel

    since MRSAM is just 70 km range missiles and if drdo can build its motor and controls and if drdo can build 150km ROHINI radar

    and if there is no tech transfer for missiles seekers in this deal which anyway has to b bought directly from israel the same thing drdo could do at home by importing missiles seeker

    ROHINI 3D radar and it can b used with MRSAM without any problem
    if everything else can b made at home like 150km range rohini radar,missile motor and controls except seeker which anyway has to b bought directly from israel so what is the meaning to go for the deal with israel and that makes no sense and what kind of codevelopment is this

  9. french navantia charging australia $ 8 billion for building three aegis destroyers read this----->

    world class ships at indian prices

    the three 6,250-tonne destroyers, fitted with the hot-selling Aegis radar and fire control system, will set Australia back by Rs 32,000 crore (US $8 billion). At about Rs 11,000 crore per destroyer, that is almost three times the cost India is paying for its Kolkata-class destroyers
    so whats wrong with gorshkov and mig29k and helicopters in 2.9 billion US dollars
    what else can be cheaper than this

  10. the main problem on gorky was removing old stuff and building ski jump and its a much more complex procedure than availability or non-availability of the specified on-board weapon systems

    most of time was taken by building ski jump and hull strenghtening and only after this all other systems can b applied but now ship is getting ready for sea trials

    refitting gorky is as much as 60% of building new carrier as all other systems r new

    while building a new carrier except hull all these thing ---->
    gas turbines,generators,air conditioning and heating systems ,boilers,radars and weapons,electrical and wiring systems ,residential and medical facility,communication systems,arresting wires,water systems and pumps r also needed

    and all these things i mentioned r also being applied to gorky again as well and older systems have been removed and thats where it took time

    c how long itatilan cavor took 7 years to build and that was 27000 tons and building 37500 tons of carrier would take upto 9 years

    if a scorpene being built in india takes 7 years then gorky is much bigger task

  11. russia offered full tech tansfer for its S400 to turkey

    and we better should go for this system as well and it is much better than MRSAM

  12. Ukraine Stopped us. My guess it is Paksi behind this they had very good relation them.

    Any comment?

  13. We need GE engines for next 4 project 15A destroyes.

  14. I hope they use marine Kaveri for the next 4 P15A. It is of the same power as Zorya Dt59 turbines 4 of which currently power each of these destroyers.

  15. Mirza,
    The pakis don't hold as much clout with Ukraine as the Chinese do.
    The pakistanis just bought 300 odd T-80 tanks and are now buying a few IL-78 refuellers. But the Chinese have a supposedly long list of potential buys from the Ukranians.
    That having been said, I think this is more of sarkari style incompetence by the ukranians than any thing else.

  16. are u back in Arunachal Ajai?

  17. ne news about arjun MBT Mk II?

  18. To Anon@09 April 2009 14:42: Arjun 2 is unlikely. FAFV is next.
    Nothing is wrong with Arjun's turret. This is how Leo 2 turret looks like if you remove it's spaced armor add on plates. If it's you who asked.

  19. thanks @ harpreet

  20. By the time these destroyers are delivered they will not be modern. I expect there will be more delays .

  21. Ajai, are you hibernating in the Himalayas? Give us a hint if you are working on something. This is your blog, remember!

  22. can someone tell me which primary and secondary radar system these ships will have

  23. Primary radar is the Israeli MF-STAR. Secondary radar will be Thales LW08.
    CGI P15a

  24. and primary radar on shivalik class is fregat m2em

    not sure which radar going to be installed as secondary radar,on talwar class in commission has fregat mae radar

  25. indian goverment is running by the Shitt of holes leaders..... Either the Atal bihari or Manmohan Singh fails to secure the Border of INDIa ,they both shitt holes were n currently busy earning money from the outer sources ..... I would pray to God that India should scattered into many parts soon .....

  26. if India is not able to secure its borders thn wot's the benefit having such a huge army...... Sir do u hav any info about Twang..... i hav heard from very responsible sources that india making a helipad n all weather roads there to connect twang with the rest of India

  27. Shukla Sirji Why there is no naming on the great chola kings who were having strong naval power.It is like shying away from our own golden period.?


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