Stealth warship INS Satpura joins navy - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 20 August 2011

Stealth warship INS Satpura joins navy

Ajai Shukla
Mumbai, 22nd Aug 11

In a centuries-old naval ritual in Mumbai on Saturday, navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma commissioned into active service Indian Naval Ship (INS) Satpura.

“I wish the crew fair winds and following seas”, Verma intoned, in the traditional naval goodwill message, before raising the Indian flag on the Satpura’s helicopter deck and unveiling the ships plaque. The band struck up the national anthem, the tricolour was raised on the helicopter deck and INS Satpura became the 140th warship of the Indian Navy.

The INS Satpura, which follows the INS Shivalik into service, is the second of three Project 17 stealth frigates that are being built by Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai. It will be followed by INS Sahyadri early next year. These three “state-of-the-art surface combatants” as Verma called them — trace their design ancestry to three Talwar-class frigates that Russia built for the navy a decade ago. However the Shivalik-class, as INS Shivalik, Satpura and Sahyadri are classified (after the first vessel in the series), are significantly heavier than the 4,100-tonne Talwar-class frigates, giving them the capability to absorb, as well as deliver, heavier blows in battle.

Officially termed a guided-missile frigate, the Satpura weighs in at a muscular 6,200 tonnes. Frigates typically weigh 4,500-6,500 tonnes; the next-higher class of warships, called destroyers, begin at about 7,000 tonnes. The Satpura carries 24 Russian Klub missiles, which can hit ground targets more than two hundred kilometres away with pinpoint precision. The Indian Navy would have liked the Satpura to carry the more capable and lethal Brahmos missile, but that is too heavy for the frigate. Only the Indian Navy’s destroyers are currently armed with the Brahmos.

The Satpura is also equipped with the Israeli Barak air defence system, to ward off enemy aircraft and missiles. It has torpedoes to deal with enemy submarines, as well as an RBU-6,000 multi-barrelled rocket launchers that can be set to explode underwater. Posted on board the Satpura is a tiny aviation unit, with hangars and facilities for two Sea King, or indigenous Dhruv helicopters.

Driving this 142 metre-long warship through the water are two French Pielstick diesel engines. In addition, there are two General Electric LM-2500 gas turbines. This provides the advantage of fuel-efficient operation in the normal course, using the Pielstick diesels, while the gas turbines take over when bursts of speed are required, especially in battle. This is known as CODOG (combined diesel or gas) configuration.

But the Satpura’s key advantage is stealth. Its design reduces the vessel’s radar, infrared, electronic, acoustic and visual signatures, making it difficult for the enemy to detect it. The design skills needed for building stealth vessels like the Satpura have been honed by Indian shipyards over time, and are reaching their finest in Project 28, a line of ultra-stealthy, anti-submarine corvettes that are being built at Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata. Stealth will also form an important component of the seven Project 17A frigates that will start being built next year as the the navy’s next line of frigates.

Along with satisfaction at the Satpura’s world-class capabilities, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) remains concerned over the high level of imported components in these warships. According to the official navy figures requested by Business Standard, the total cost of Project 17A (i.e. the cost of three Shivalik-class frigates) will be Rs 7,883 crore. Of this, Rs 2,710 crore have been spent on foreign equipment, that includes the on-board weapons, sensors and radars, engines, transmission, etc.

During the commissioning, the naval chief admitted the Satpura’s indigenous component amounted to no more than 60 per cent. Much of that amount, however, goes towards the cost of labour etc. The high-tech equipment remains mainly imported.

Notwithstanding that, the navy justifiably claims credit for indigenising the crucial dimensions of design and integration. Vice Admiral Ganesh Mahadevan, the navy’s Chief of Materials, claims that indigenisation will rise dramatically in the next two lines of warships that are coming on stream next year, i.e. in Project 15B (four destroyers) and Project 17A (seven frigates).

An important driver in lowering the cost of imported equipment is the agreement with Essar Steel for manufacturing warship-grade steel. So far, owing to SAIL’s refusal to engage in the complex manufacture of the specialised metal, which the dockyards require in relatively small and commercially unviable quantities, shipyards were left with no option but to import from Russia. Now, Essar Steel will be manufacturing the few thousands of tonnes of warship grade steel that will be needed for Projects 15B and Project 17A.


  1. Ajai sir, are you sure that it is 24 Klub missiles. Actually it is generally thought that it is 8.

    Any info on P-15A commissioning?

  2. Hey Shivalik class carries only 8 Klub Missiles but you have mentioned 24 and you have not mentioned about the Surface to Air Missile....

    Plz state the status P15A...!!!

  3. hmmm... no pics of vls.

    In a previous post on satpura you mentioned it has a 257 crew complement. Does that mean these are deputed in batches on rotation or does the ship need 257 crew to run it every time it sails.

  4. Even though your a thin-skined cry baby at times, you right some damned fine articles and are one of the better defense journos from that part of the world.

    Well done.


  5. Thanks Ajaiji.

    Any news on P-15A?

  6. @Ajai sir

    I have a few queries would like answers to them

    1. first a typo, you said 'i.e. in Project 15B (four destroyers) and Project 1A (seven frigates).' it should read 17A.

    2a. You mentioned it carries 24 Klub missiles, where is the space?

    2b. You say Brahmos can be carried only on destroyers, if indeed this ship carries 24 Klub missiles will it not be good to replace 12 of them with 12 Brahmos?

    3. You say indigenous content on this ship is 60%, is it that difficult to indigenously manufacture the OTO Melara main gun in India since we are assembling these guns on Indian warships for close to 3 decades now?

    4. Last time when I asked how bigger the frigates will go? you said at the moment Project 17A ships are expected to be similar to these 3 ships, any updates on that?

    5. Last heard total number of Project 17 +17A ships will be 12, 5 under Project 17 and 7 under Project 17A. can you update on correct numbers.

    6. Will there be project 17 B?

    hope to get the answers


    Joydeep Ghosh

  7. I am quite curious... 24 klub missiles? I thought it had 8..

  8. @ Ravi

    I have mentioned the Barak...

    @ Anonymous

    Thx. Not "thin-skinned cry baby", but "do not suffer fools gladly"!

    @ Anonymous 09:18

    Project 15-A's first vessel, the INS Kolkata, is likely to take a year more. Look for it in the fourth quarter of 2012.

    @ Joydeep

    We have been manufacturing the Otomelara for many years now.

    Project 17A will have broadly the same specs as Project 17. There will be three ships in Project 17 and seven ships in Project 17A.

  9. Sir did you confuse with 24 Kub surface to air missiles with KLUB missiles..!!!

  10. Does not much smaller Talwar class carry Brahmos like INS TEg and follow on?

  11. Ajai

    The missile loadout is 24 Shtil SAM and 8 Klub if I am not mistaken. Easy enough to confuse.

  12. Sorry, folks, the confusion came from the Defence PR handout, which put the Klub missile loadout at 24. In fact, as so many of you have written in.... it is 8.


  13. sir ,

    there are 8 klub missiles
    32 barak or zenith missiles
    24 9M317 missiles (Buk missile system derivative )SAM


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