Project 28: Prestigious Indian anti-submarine corvette project delayed to build up private sector suppliers - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 31 July 2009

Project 28: Prestigious Indian anti-submarine corvette project delayed to build up private sector suppliers

(Photos: courtesy Ajai Shukla. Reproduce only with due credit to Ajai Shukla and Broadsword)

Photo 1:    The stern of the corvette taken from the ground.

Photo 2:   A view of the helicopter deck, looking rearwards at the Hooghly River, taken from where the hangar will be erected. .

Photo 3:  A view of what will be the helicopter deck, taken from the rear. The hangar being a part of the superstructure, has not yet been erected.

Photo 4:   The hull of the Project 28 ASW corvette. 

Photo 5:   A view of the forward main deck. Visible is the opening for the magazine of the Otomelara SRGM and the IRL system

Photo 6:   One of the two engine rooms. You can observe the seating onto which one of the ship's three engines will be lowered.

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st August 09
Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, Kolkata

In the hot Kolkata sun, on the banks of the Hooghly River, craftsmen from Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) swarm over what will be the Indian Navy’s most high-tech stealth warship. For GRSE, the navy’s order for four anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvettes is its flagship project. But Project 28, as it is termed, is two years behind schedule.

The first corvette was to join the fleet early next year. Business Standard discovered, during a first-ever media visit to this secretive project, that it will be delivered only in June 2012. The other three corvettes of Project 28 will follow at one-year intervals.

The major reason for the delay: the Indian Navy has stipulated such unprecedented standards of stealth for every piece of equipment on board that suppliers have struggled to develop engines, transmission, air-conditioning and power-generating systems that work silently enough to meet those requirements. Furthermore, the navy mandated that Indian suppliers would provide much of that equipment.

The Project 28 corvettes are 2500-tonne warships that will protect Indian Navy battle groups and coastal installations from lurking enemy submarines. In the deadly cat-and-mouse game between ASW corvettes and submarines, the stealthier vessel is usually the winner, detecting and destroying its opponent after sneaking up undetected. The challenge of Project 28 has been to minimise vibrations and noise from the ship’s machinery, propellers, and from water swirling past the hull.

Success has come late in developing some of this equipment. The Kirloskar group has delivered the engines, albeit after a delay. Earlier this year, DCNS of France supplied the Raft Mounted Gearbox, which almost completely suppresses noise from the power pack. But Wartsila India is still struggling to reduce vibration in the four diesel alternators that will power the corvette’s electronics.

Once all this is in place, six huge spaces will have to be cut open in the corvette’s hull, through which giant cranes will lower monster-sized equipment like the 65-tonne engines. Then the hull will be welded shut once again.

For the navy, which has implemented indigenisation as something of a religion --- the Naval Headquarters includes a full-fledged Directorate of Indigenisation --- the delay in Project 28 is a regrettable, but acceptable, consequence of its twin objectives: building cutting edge warships and, simultaneously, developing Indian warship building industry.

The Navy Chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta told Business Standard that the navy had carefully laid down stealth standards that were absolutely necessary in war. Admiral Mehta explained, “We cannot compromise operational requirements for suppliers who are having difficulties meeting standards. We cannot come second in war.” 

The navy’s top designer, Rear Admiral MK Badhwar, says the navy is determined to nurture an Indian supplier base, to develop increasingly high-tech products for warships. He points out, “Initially, they (the private companies) had real problems in meeting the sophistication levels that we were demanding. But we insisted and now most of them have done so. This is vital for an indigenous shipbuilding industry.”

All this has taken the cost of Project 28 from a sanctioned Rs 2800 crores (Rs 700 crores per corvette), to an estimated Rs 7000 crores now. This is approximately in line with cost increases for previous Indian-built warships.

GRSE’s Chairman and Managing Director, Rear Admiral KC Sekhar explains, “Fortunately our shipyard will not take a financial hit, since this was a cost-plus contract (in which the actual cost of construction of the first ship will be the basis for paying for the entire project). But we have learned valuable lessons. The complexity of the project was totally underestimated.”

The Project 28 corvettes, when they join the navy’s fleet, will be silent and heavily armed. An Otomelara Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM) on the bow can pour 76 millimetre shells onto aerial and surface targets. Flanking it will be two Indigenous Rocket Launchers (IRLs) that can fire at both submarines and ships. Submarines can also be engaged through six torpedo tubes. Two AK 630 Gatling guns, one on either side, can shoot down attacking aircraft. Finally, vertically launched missiles are likely to be mounted for engaging aerial targets.


  1. Hi Ajai,
    Loved the article.A little delay is fine as long as its a viable investment in the long run.The navy seems the most determined to build indigenous capability & its a good sign.The Air force & the Army can certainly take a lesson or two from the Navy.

  2. Hi Ajai,
    No need for me to say that "this was a brilliant article" as usual

    I wanted to ask your thought on this
    The admiral says India will add upto 125 war ships in the next 10 years.

    125 is too big a number to be achieved in 10years.
    It comes down to 12 ship/submarines per year.
    Can you throw some light on this fact ?

  3. Ajai,
    Could you pl. elaborate on the VLS missile ? Will it be Brahmos ?

  4. Hi everybody,

    This may not be news to die hard navy & defense enthusiasts.I found a pdf file detailing the navy's drive towards Indigenisation.Its from Oct 2008.

  5. Ajaiji, do you have info. about SONAR of project 28 corvettes? & is it of indigenous or foreign type?

  6. nice article ajaiji.

    Sounds like the navy wanted the shipyard to come up to global standards before it accepted products from them! good thinking on IN's part.

    Is this project going to take place like the other projects i.e first 4 ships will be followed by modified and improved units?

    The article states tht the corvette will have AShm's can u comment on them? Also wht type of air-defence setup will it hav apart from Ak-630? Barak-8?

  7. Ajai Saab,

    This is a really good and serious blog. The articles are well researched and presented without bias.

    Also the topics are serious unlike some other blogs related to India's defence.

    Keep up the good work.

  8. thanks ajai, good to see you keep your word even if it is to anons like us !

    excellent article as usual, just some Q's.

    you haven't mentioned AD set-up, surely it won't be just ack-ack guns in this age and time ??

    secondly, which VLS missile, have they decided yet ? In fact this is HOT NEWS since before this all reports spoke of no SS missiles for P28.

    lastly, any details on sensor fit, SONAR RADAR EW etc will be much appreciated.

    what is your opinion, do you think the ship will be ready by 2012 ?

  9. Many questions... let me see how many I can answer:

    Tejaswy: 125 warships in next ten years is ridiculously ambitious. They'll be lucky if they can do 30-40.

    VLS missile: This is indeed HOT NEWS, as fighterclass colourfully puts it. Type of missile: not decided.

    Sonar: Hamza mounted on nose and towed array at the rear.

    Follow on vessels: The current thinking is that they would go into Project 28A after the first four.

    Air Defence: NO COMMENT.

    Will the ship be ready by 2012? My guess is that it will. They seem to have dealt already with all the serious delays, except for the Diesel Alternators.


  10. Any CG of Project 28 corvettes?

  11. >>> Sonar: Hamza mounted on nose and towed array at the rear.

    Ajai its HUMSA not Hamza, made by BEL and designed/developed by NPOL (DRDO)

    It will be the HUMSA-NG.
    HUMSA NG -- HUll Mounted Sonar Array- New Generation.

    Its an acronym for the words in capitals.

  12. How does our P28 compare to PN F-22P frigates in terms of construction, stealth, propulsion etc. I know P28 will not be as heavily armed as they are not our principal combatant and will function under the protection of other frigates and destroyers. I wont be surprised if they have no SAM capability at all. Though I would like to see Barak-1 on board.

  13. Air Defence: NO COMMENT.

    now that is very intriguing !! more so since you carefully left out radar information which would have given an indication !

    things get curiouser and curiouser !

  14. GRSE itself looks worn torn isn't it.

  15. Can't expect anything better in the land of Union- Lal Jhanda Zindabad !

  16. Brilliant work Ajai!

    Excellent indigenization effort by the IN!

    This is one force that truly deserves more credit than people are giving them.

    They should just let the navy run the Arjun MBT and the LCA projects! :-)

  17. Photos 4, 5 & 6 does not enlarge? Ajai, can u pls take a look?

  18. I think we shud ask Sengupta to provide all the missing details including detailed graphics.

    Radars are to be BEL/DRDO/L&T Revathi for search and the Lynx for fire control. BEL supplies the CMS and CCS and AISDN.

    the vertically launched missile is very likely to be the Barak 1 new generation.

    L&T supplying IRL and ITTL

    graphics of ship to be found in the p-28 page at bharat-rakshak

    The Pak Navy F-22P is a GP FFG whereas the ASWC is a dedicated ASW platform. Firepower is more or less comparable except for AshM strike capability of F-22P with 8 SSM. F-22P CIWS may be more advanced/capable than AK630M but I cannot determine this for certain.

  19. How did you figure that the patrol ship the pakis call a frigate is better equipped?
    If Ajai's news about AShM is true then F-22p is no match for the P-28's. The CIWS on the F-22p is a chinese one and is generally poorer than the AK-630M.
    If the P-28 is equipped with the russian made Klub missile system which can carry both anti ship missile or anti sub torpedo (most likely) then P-28 is a nightmare for the paki navy.Its SAm will probably only be Barak-1.

  20. guys, ajai says "vertically launched missiles for engaging surface targets" how can that be barak-1 ??

    barak is a SAM for pete's sake !

  21. May be we are following the U.S model. Using the AAM's in Ash mode. Barak-8 or MRSAM may be capable of hitting both Air targets and ships. So instead of carrying dedicated missiles for both purpose carrying a single type of missile capable of dual role will give double the firepower in any scenario.

  22. SAM for AShM??? Thats the dumbest idea I have heard. The SAM ammo is barely 3-5 kg, hardly enough to do anything to a missile boat let alone a ship.I hope Ajai can clarify if he meant AShM or SAM.

  23. Apologies, ladies and gents, for that incorrect description of the VLS missile that will be fitted on the Project 28 corvettes.

    It will be, as so many of you have correctly pointed out, a surface to air missile system.

    The navy will decide which SAM to fit once the first corvette comes closer to completion.


  24. So if this ship does run into a paki sub which can fire exocets or even the f-22p with the C-802, all it can do is fire a few baraks and run for its life? Wow another khukri just waiting to happen.

  25. major goof up on your part ajai !!

    oops !!

  26. Su Market, you really believe that corvettes sail around the ocean alone, looking for Pakistani frigates that they can fight with?

    You know, reading up on hardware is of little use if you don't simultaneously read up on how that hardware is going to be employed in operations!!!

    Google "naval battle groups" and you'll get some of that.

  27. Hi ajai

    If it is with a CVBG then fine but my point is if a paki sub does sneak about into Indian waters then what? Wouldn't having klub 91RE2 give it an immense advantage. It really seems worth it to have Klub-91RE2 given that the corvette can only carry 1 chopper. Right now the only long range weapon it carries is 1 chopper and 533mm torpedos.


  28. the anti-sub klub is not a very capable weapon, it is extremely limited in which depth it can engage targets in.
    that said, it would have been good to have some anti-ship capability on the p28. it will not always move with a CBG. given our lack of MPA these corvettes will be frequently called out to sanitize the waters on their own. then they would need to operate jointly with the P25 or the much more capable P25A corvettes.

  29. The 91Re2 is very capable and can engage subs at depths exceeding the crush depth of subs. Its range is only 40 km but if the russian universal VLS is present then the ship can carry a mix of torpedoes and anti ship missiles. Yup currently they will need a P-25/25a for escorting them around Indian waters. The P-25's will retire around 2015-20. Then what?

  30. Curious about the IRL. Is this based on the Russian RBU systems, or is this a completely new system?
    This was the first I had heard about this..

    A great article of course, very informative...


    we can amass planes and subs and nukes but will they every help change the mindset

  32. But without any form of ASM wouldnt it be vulnerable to the cheen/paki FFGs and the stealth waterjet FACs they are getting from PRC now?
    it is a costly ship compared to a OPV and has stuff like barak1 and TT yet deleting the ASM armament is very strange.

    The 1400t Kora class corvette, has a similar gun , 2 xak630 and 16 Urans

    other than range, a better sonar, a helicopter hanger and a couple torpedo tubes, this ship twice the weight has nothing to show its superiority in.... :((

    the RN type23 carried 8 harpoons! ... issile.jpg

    perhaps its a evolutionary dead end and no further orders will be placed. however with a suitable fitment of ASW missiles, it can be a capable independent ASW ship...if anyone wants to attack our shipping routes this kind of ship can check for submarines.

    only tsarkar might have a credible comment on this mystery ship.


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