Project 17-A: All seven new stealth frigates to be built in India - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 26 July 2009

Project 17-A: All seven new stealth frigates to be built in India

(Photos: courtesy Ajai Shukla)
The INS Sahyadri, a Project 17 stealth frigate for the Indian Navy, nearing completion at Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai)

By Ajai Shukla
Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata
Business Standard, 27th July 09

India’s largest warship builders --- Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL), Mumbai; and Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata --- have prevailed over the Indian Navy’s objections. Business Standard has learned that MDL and GRSE will divide between them the entire order for seven improved stealth frigates, code-named Project 17A.

The navy was insisting that the first two frigates of Project 17A be built abroad so that MDL and GRSE could learn how to build ships using new modular methods that are preferred by European shipyards. This would have raised the price of Project 17A by more than Rs 5000 crores.

MDL and GRSE countered that they possessed the technology and the experience for building cutting-edge warships entirely in India.

Each Shivalik class frigate of Project 17 was priced at Rs 2600 crores, and the navy plans to insist on the same price for Project 17A. Building abroad would cost at least twice as much as building at MDL and GRSE.

But the navy was focusing on early delivery, rather than cost. Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, insisted on presenting before the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the highest decision-making body in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the advantages of kicking off Project 17A in a foreign shipyard. But Defence Minister AK Antony stepped in to order entirely indigenous production.

At GRSE, a modernisation programme is underway to create the facilities needed for building Project 17A. The Chairman and Managing Director (CMD), Rear Admiral KC Sekhar, says a fully equipped modular yard with a 250-ton Goliath crane will be ready in mid-2011. By then, MoD sanctions will be in place and the navy would have completed the design of Project 17B.

Explaining the time-line, Admiral Sekhar said, “The MoD has informally told us that MDL and GRSE will build Project 17A; we are awaiting [formal sanction]. Once the navy finalises the size and design of the new frigate, we will decide our build strategy and costing. Then, hopefully, by the end of 2009, the MoD will issue a Request for Proposals (RfP); GRSE and MDL will submit separate quotes; and then the MoD will place a formal order on the shipyards. Construction should start by end-2011.”

This is the first time that India’s two major defence shipyards are sharing one project between them. And while MDL and GRSE are bidding separately, they are working in close consultation.

Admiral Sekhar points out that both shipyards have a common aim: to construct this largest-ever order of seven frigates without any delays. He explains, “We will have a common design for all seven ships of Project 17A. MDL can be the lead shipyard since they have more experience in building bigger ships. They can start work on the first frigate; after six months, we will start work on the second one.”

While MDL takes the lead in construction, GRSE will lead the design effort. A month ago, three companies --- GRSE; French shipbuilder, DCNS; and Kolkata-based IT engineering company, Vision Comptech --- formed a joint venture (JV) to design marine products, including warships, for customers globally. This JV is expected to work with the navy’s Directorate General of Naval Design (DGND) on the design for Project 17A.

If all goes well, say the shipyards, the first Project 17A frigates should be delivered to the Indian Navy by 2016-17.


  1. russians building the next batch of talwar class faster

  2. Would it be an indigenous design? Nothing like FREMM? No foreign collaboration?
    This article only repeats what you have already written before.

    BTW, any luck with INS Arihant design details?

  3. Col Shukla, what about the P28 details you promised ?

  4. Any news on INS Shivalik?
    This decision would indeed cause delay in acquisition. But it will allow the shipyards to sort out production issues with the first ship itself. Also indigenous content can be increased.
    Maybe one of it should have been built abroad.

  5. Ajai, did you seriously miss the ATV launch ceremony? Any hand sketches if you attended?

  6. No, Anonymous 09:12, this article definitely does not repeat what I've written before.

    My last article on the subject mentioned that the navy and the shipyards were at loggerheads over where the first two Project 17A boats would be built. This article provides the ending... and tells you how the shipyards won over the navy's insistence.

    Do you guys read, or just look at the pics?

  7. how old are these pictures?

  8. ajai... please update us on lca trainer, lsp3 and lch

  9. Ajai ji,
    You do a fantastic job !!, kudos

  10. Ajaiji, ever since you left for Arunachal, there has been almost no good coverage on the LCA..and now the PV-5 is delayed, and so is LSP-3. Could you write on the LCA again by getting in touch with contacts you made while you were in Bangalore, visiting the HAL facilities ?

  11. Ajai saab, when do you plan on publishing the P-28 pics/ story?

    An update on the Shivalik/ P-17 project would be welcome too. Perhaps you can share pictures of the completed Shivalik now.

    Will you be covering the launch of yard 12702 (2nd P-15A) at MDL towards September end?

  12. Even the French made Moroccan frigates look more futuristic. The Navy seems content in amalgamating Russian hull designs with Western C4.
    The basic idea of stealth in Naval parlance is making a ship look like anything but a ship. The Navy must incorporate this philosophy in its future designs-make ships that don't look so. With its huge kitty, gaining the necessary design-fabrication tools isn't too difficult.

  13. Hi Ajay, excellent post, but pardon me for the below because I wanna expose the scumbag Prasun Sengupta.

    He has turned on 'comment moderation' eversince Arihant was launched, because the Chor was dead wrong in his predictions on the ATV, as it was then known.

    Refer to this:

    Here are what some people asked him:

    Shriya @ 10.14 am: ...but in the mean time can u pls explain what does it look like [ i really hope it looks like the Borei class in construction in Russia ]

    Chorgupta: Shriya, you are assuming that since Russian design houses are involved with the ATV project, then automatically the ATV will externally resemble a submarine being built for the Russian Navy. In reality, the ATV's design is totally different and there's no external resemblance whatsoever. The Borei-class you refer to is an operational submarine whereas the ATV is merely a technology demonstrator.

    He later went on to say: No it won't look like a real SSGN because it isn't, it is only a technology demonstrator.

    Shriya @ 10.15: YES PRASUN!!!!!!! please share the pictures a s a p!!!!

    To this Chorgupta said he'll post it in 2 months but never did, and later went on to say 'he doesn't wanna gain publicity'. Now he has removed his comment where he said he'll post it in 2 months. The prove that he said this lies in Shriya's comment @ Sunday, December 07, 2008 11:29:00 AM: It's ok I will wait the 2 months out in confidence youll share the rendering with us.

    Guys - see this fast. If what I say here and what you see don't match, the chorgupta has simply removed the specific posts!

    (but I have a copy of that comment page and if changed, I'll post the entire comment page here. Or if Ajai too starts being bias (which I'm pretty sure he won't - he's a class ahead of that silly Chorgupta) - I'll just create my own blog called and publish there.

  14. Chorgupta: Therefore, kindly....for the umpteenth time....please understand this: the ATV belongs to the DRDO, & NOT the Indian Navy. Therefore, no serving official from the Indian Navy is qualified to even talk about the ATV.

    So what do u say now Chorgupta? The navy is manning it for your info. Nutcase

  15. Excuse me, but why have people started using this blog as a battleground for some private war?

    I will, henceforth, delete any posts that do not relate to ANYTHING that I am covering or writing about.


  16. 100% agree with Ajay, what Prasun Sengupta saya in his blog is his wish, why discuss this in Broadsword?

    Also, remember, this is Ajai's blog, he can say what he wnat's to say, isint that what blogs are ment for?

    Please stop talking bad about Prasum in this blog & Ajai in Prasum's blog - respect each other's comments

  17. sorry Ajai, but I'm just upset at the kind of lies prasun said... in fact Prasun was also a regular commentator on your blog - with his same lies before he was driven out only to create his own.

    Ok anyway lets put that aside and Ajai, I apologise for any wrong on your part but I just want people to know what was so confidently predicted ended up false.

    Looking forward to your coorperation.

    With respect,


  18. As always with you, Ajai, we enjoy a pleasant, complete and accurate article.
    Thank you for being on the Web, sincerely!

    Shivalik and future P17-A will be beautiful ships. I hope India and DCNS will succeed in establishing a good partnership for surface ships. FREMM is actually an interesting concept that could allow the IN to get a modern land-attack capability at a quite interesting price (nearly €380 mln, i.e the theorical price of a Shivalik). However the complete multirole version is a bit more expensive @ nearly €550mln... if my memory is good...

  19. Hi Ajai, I regularly read your excellent blog/article. I was curious to why you missed ATV reporting. Its big event.

  20. Sir,can u give us any information about any serious diffrence(or rather upgradation)between the ships of P17 & P17a except the modular construction(specially if there is any upgradation in the firepower)!!

  21. To Broadsword

    CAG report criticised the ‘unprecedented’ price hike of the gorshkov
    yu know that criticising is very easy,but upgrading a old ship or building a new one is very difficult.

    a worker on the ship undergoes lots of bending,crunching,kneeling,climbing,standing for long hours and other streneous movements and doing this for 8-10 hours and 6 days a week and doing for full year.

    and do yu know how much pain it feels in lower back when yu stand for this period of time

    so its very very phisical work and that worker comes to home and his body is compeletely broken and he/she takes a 2-3 pegs of alcohol and just sleeps to be ready for next day

    and in indian shipyards a welder gets mere 5000 rupee basic pay(in some shipyards its even less) and he has to work for 6 days a week for upto 10 hours,
    if he and his family lives in mumbai this money is nothing to live decent life and also pay income tax from this money

    in US welder gets 35-40/dollars an hour and around same wage in UK,FRANCE,ITALY for the same work and they do work only 8 hours a day and 5 days a week.

    ompared to what indian welder gets

    so CAG guys just sitting in their AirConditioned sarkari offices shouting for price hike/delays is very easy thing to do.

    so drag those CAG guys and tell them to weld for long periods of time in extreme heat conditions and stand,climb,kneel,lift heavy weight,crunching for extended periods to help those people and get 5000 basic pay per month

    only at that time this will be fair.

  22. a worker on the ship undergoes lots of bending,crunching,kneeling,climbing,standing for long hours and other streneous movements and doing this for 8-10 hours and 6 days a week and doing for full year.
    worker meaning(welders,mechanics,electricians,hull technicians etc) those who build or upgrade ship

    ( not the navy personnel)

  23. Hi Ajaiji,

    There is a news that Israeli navy has dropped plans to purchase U.S. made warships and instead is exploring the possibility of a home-grown military shipbuilding industry this is due to the costs for the LCS ships skyrocketed to $637 million, and costs for the corvettes were estimated at $450 million, both deemed prohibitive to the Israeli navy.

    Why don’t we offer them to build the ships here in India as we both have very close ties especially in Defense Sector even joint ship building and Designing Bureau?

    What do you think about this idea?


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