INS Kolkata commissioned. PM talks tough, but new warship lacks teeth - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 16 August 2014

INS Kolkata commissioned. PM talks tough, but new warship lacks teeth

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Aug 14

“No country will dare to challenge India after the commissioning of INS Kolkata”, declared Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, while commissioning what is touted as the navy’s newest and most capable warship.

“INS Kolkata will send a message around the globe”, he added.

In fact, the disquieting message from Saturday’s hyperbole-filled ceremony at Mumbai is that India’s prime minister and top security officials are backstopping tough talk with a warship that is not yet operationally ready.

The 6,800-tonne guided missile destroyer, INS Kolkata, has been commissioned by the prime minister without two key weapon systems --- the Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM) that shoots down incoming anti-ship missiles at ranges out to 70 kilometres, well before they strike the ship; and the Advanced Towed Array Sonar (ATAS), which is essential for detecting enemy submarines trying to sneak into torpedo range.

Until these systems are fitted on INS Kolkata, the destroyer cannot provide security to the fleet. Instead, it will rely on accompanying warships for protection against anti-ship missiles and submarines.

Project 15A was originally sanctioned with a budget of Rs 3,500 crore for building three destroyers. That cost has more than tripled to Rs 11,662 crore. Meanwhile the delivery date has slipped by four years from the originally scheduled 2010.

“INS Kolkata is entirely built in India and it is a symbol of our self-reliance,” said Prime Minister Modi at the commissioning.

In fact, while briefing the media on Aug 13, a senior naval officer had stated that only 60 per cent of the destroyer is currently built in India. This percentage will marginally rise for INS Kochi and Chennai --- which will follow INS Kolkata within a year --- but is unlikely to cross 70 per cent.

Foreign components include the Russian steel from which the vessel is built, its four Ukrainian engines, Russian propellers and shafting, and significant components of the LR-SAM and other weapons systems.

More worrying than foreign systems in INS Kolkata are systems that should be there but are not. Crucial for battle-effectiveness are two multi-role helicopters, which must fly in often blustery, rainy conditions to look out for enemy submarines and aircraft. With the navy running out of its vintage Sea King helicopters, INS Kolkata has been equipped with single-engine Cheetahs that are utterly inadequate for the job. Meanwhile, the long-running procurement of a “naval multi-role helicopter” from the international market has dragged on for years.

The Indo-Israeli project to jointly develop the LR-SAM for both navies began in 2006 and was to be completed in 2012 for three Project 15A destroyers --- INS Kolkata, INS Kochi and INS Chennai. Delay dogged the LR-SAM and, in 2014, with INS Kolkata four years late already, it was decided not to wait for the LR-SAM missile.

The LR-SAM’s guidance radar --- the world-class Israeli MF-STAR --- has been built into INS Kolkata, as have the “vertical launch units” that will carry 32 LR-SAMs. What remains is the missile itself, which the navy claims will be done within “a couple of months”.

Business Standard learns, however, that the LR-SAM will not be available for at least 6-9 months, or even a year if glitches turn up in testing. The potential for hiccups is evident from the fact (Business Standard, Aug 11, “Indian missiles languish in South Korea due to Gaza conflict”) that four LR-SAM rocket motors that were despatched to Israel for testing remain stranded in Seoul, since cargo delivery to Israel was suspended due to the Gaza conflict.

Meanwhile the failure to develop or import an ATAS, means that the Kolkata remains a sitting duck for enemy submarines that can lurk unseen, behind the peculiar temperature gradients that prevail in the warm, shallow waters of the Arabian Sea. The Kolkata shares this vulnerability with every one of India’s warships built since 1997, none of which have an ATAS.

Since the mid-1990s, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) worked fruitlessly on building an indigenous ATAS called Nagan. In 2012 that was declared a failure and shut down, and work began on another ATAS called ALTIS.

Meanwhile, German company, Atlas Elektronic emerged as frontrunner in a global tender to supply cutting edge ATAS to the navy. Predictably, allegations of corruption were raised against Atlas and the import was put on hold. On Aug 5, the defence minister told parliament that the complaints were being examined.

Once completed and with all systems functional, Project 15A destroyers will be --- tonne for tonne --- amongst the most heavily armed warships in their class anywhere. Its 32 LR-SAMs will provide unprecedented missile defence cover, which experts say could be the best in the world. Critics point out that contemporary destroyers carry 64 missiles; yet, none of those missiles have capabilities that match the LR-SAM.

In case an incoming missile or aircraft evades the LR-SAM, it will be engaged by a 76 millimetre Otomelara super-rapid gun mount (SRGM), and the AK-630 close in weapon system (CIWS). The navy, realising that the 76 millimetre gun lacks power, is considering acquiring bigger guns for its warships.

In addition, Project 15A destroyers carry 16 Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles that can strike ships or land targets at ranges out to 295 kilometres. They engage enemy submarines at ranges out to 100 kilometres with heavy torpedoes fired from an indigenous twin-tube torpedo launcher (ITTL); or with rockets fired from an indigenous rocket launcher (IRL) built by Larsen & Toubro.

Project 15A will be followed by Project 15B, in which Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai, is constructing four more destroyers for Rs 29,325 crore. The first Project 15B destroyer is to be delivered in July 2018, with the three subsequent ships following at two-year intervals, i.e. July 2020, 2022, and 2024. 


  1. No LR-SAM, no CIWS, no Towed array sonar, no varunashtra torpedo, no chopper. Even an enemy patrol boat has more fire power

  2. It is the right approach to commission a ship pending installation of SAM and ATAS, as a ship takes time to evolve as a cohesive unit and this training needs to start forth with. I am sure like other ships it would also have hull mounted sonars. For AMD it has many other options though not as effective as LR SAM. Next one year will also allow the machinery to settle down. Existing Helicopters can be carried on deck, till a suitable substitute is identified.

  3. Ajai,

    Why do you assume so much while writing on Indian Navy or Air Force, without any research?

    1. Who told you that ATAS from ATLAS is not being procured because of delay in tender finalization? Did you ask Indian Navy guys why they are not interested in ATAS any more suddenly? Have you heard about drone based LFDS? Dig more, you will find answers. Indian Navy doesn't want ATAS anymore.

    2. Indian journalists talking about INS Kolkata being the best in the world is quite funny. How many SAM missiles it has? Thirty Two. Even Chinese frigates have more SAMs than this destroyer. Most destroyers, even in Asia, have minimum 64 or 80 SAMs, while Korean and Japanese have more than 90. What is the range of this LR-SAM? 200 odd kilometers. Compare it with HQ-9 SAM of China which has 500-600 km range.

    And tell me, which destroyer today has a 76mm gun? American Zumwalt destroyers have 2x155mm gun now, but still you guys keep shouting Eureka !!!

    Come on, check your facts before bloating so much. Its similar to your claims of INS Vikramaditya being the best aircraft carrier in the world !!! Open your eyes and look at Liaoning, if not at USS Nimitz.

    At least journalists should write truthful articles and avoid unnecessary jingoism.

  4. MDL should be pulled up for this unacceptable 102 year difference while delivering the first and second destroyers in the 15B class. Hopefully it still makes it to the closing stages of WW1.

  5. @ Anonymous 16:28

    Ouch! That is withering sarcasm... of the kind that I love.

    Thanks for the alert. Have amended the year.

    I guess age is catching up :-)

  6. @ Cheng

    As the article says, the defence minister himself told parliament that the allegations about wrongdoing in the ATAS tender are being investigated.

    You're entirely wrong when you say the navy doesn't want ATAS. I don't assume anything; I talk to two-star and three-star admirals before I write.

    Of course, if you're the navy chief posting under an alias, I will bow to your superior clout.

    As for the SAM missiles that the Chinese destroyers have... they are not even in the same generation as the LR-SAM. The same is true for the Korean and Japanese missiles. Not a valid comparison.

    The range of the LR-SAM is 70 kilometres and it is the longest in the world at that. You are displaying your lack of technical knowledge when you say the Chinese missiles have 500-600 km range. Those are SSMs.

    Or do you believe that a missile is a missile is a missile... :-)

    You're right, the gun is underpowered. And it is likely to be retro-fitted with a 127 mm gun.

    Nobody of any credibility has ever claimed that the Vikramaditya is the best aircraft carrier in the world. That is your imagination.

    Even so, with all its shortcomings, it is a far superior fighting vessel than the Liaoning. Especially when manned by Chinese crew, who have little experience in operating carriers.

    The jingoism, my friend, is yours entirely. It is quite clear that you haven't read my article, which speaks almost entirely about the shortcomings of the INS Kolkata.

    Do read before commenting.

  7. @ Alok Bansal

    Jugaad is not acceptable in a professional navy, and especially not so in a Rs 4,000 crore platform. If one starts accepting jugaad, one is being unprofessional. And the Indian Navy has never been that.


  8. No B-1 either? I thought the orders for the B-1s had been placed recently.

    Apropos the 76mm replacement ... BAE Systems have withdrawn from the RFP leaving the sole remaining bidder Oto Melara whose parent company has been blacklisted. So where is the IN going to get its guns? Not to forget that govt policy does not allow single bid. So even if BAE were to re-enter the fray their bid would still be invalid as a single vendor bid.

    ATAS was reported to be costing around 50 cr and the govt is risking a 4000 cr ship because of that? Idiots.

  9. @Cheng: Lets not compare Indian ships with Japanese/American ships...Last heard, India has no plans to invade Tokyo/Washington DC. However clash with China is a distinct possibility....We are not bothered about how many SAM's Chinese ships carry because ultimately they are Chinese technology products at the end of the day...Also HQ9 range is 500-600kms is wishful thinking, it is 200kms to be precise....

    Liaoning at the hands of the Chinese navy is a sitting duck because the Chinese have no experience in how to operate an aircraft carrier unlike the Indian navy....

    Ajai, I have checked other sources like Wikipedia and some other I don't remember at this point but all of them say that Kolkata is equipped with 2X32 vertical launchers, so in total, we have 64 missiles onboard INS Kolkata...But you mentioned only 32 missiles...Not sure which report is correct...

  10. i like the fact that you engage with your readers...appreciate your engagement

  11. @Broadsword,

    My criticism is not only for you, rather it encapsulates entire Indian media. I have been looking at Indian media coverage on INS Vikramaditya and INS Kolkata and all one finds is anti-China jingoistic propaganda. Claims are being made that its the best destroyer in the world and best aircraft carrier which can do wonders, which a layman can believe but you know its not true. Your article is half critical but not true to the sense.

    1. Indian shipyards are lazy and have some serious problems. A destroyer in 10 years is not a proud moment, it should rather send your head hanging in shame. Type 052D destroyer is more capable than kolkata and was launched far later but commissioned earlier than it. By the time you have 3-4, Chinese Navy will have more than 12 of the same AEGIS class destroyers with more firepower. Its because Chinese shipyards are competing with each other, even under public ownership, so the delivery quality and frequency is high.

    2. HHQ-9 is a SAM and its better than American, Russian, French or many other versions. Don't believe me, ask Turkish government. Its SAM not SSM, its a better version of S-300 with AESA radar.

    3. Indian Navy is very small and it doesn't have long deployment experience. Chinese ships have learnt a lot from their Somalian deployment so soon we will have 10,000 ton destroyers. Chinese shipyards can do it because they are global scale ones. Your shipyards do not have the capacity but they keep increasing hopes and then end in abject failure. Its not different than comparing fighter aircrafts of China and India. India has only 300 good 4th generation aircrafts but you shout as if you are the largest and most modern airforce in the world.

    4. Do me a favour. Conduct a comparison between both countries - whether bean-counting or capabilities wise. You will find that the Indian Navy is one third capable of the Chinese Navy. This should bring modesty and responsibility in your analysis and comments. But Indian media makes it a crass jingoistic affair while we try to be as modest as possible.

    When we do the talking, American say we are becoming assertive. Funny hypocrisy. I am only asking objectivity and modesty, nothing more.

  12. @ Cheng

    Are you seriously holding me personally responsible for everything the Indian media reports?

    Well, in that case, you really should not have killed 30-50 million Chinese people during your disastrous Great Leap Forward (I know it was actually Mao, but I'm holding you responsible).

    No sensible Indian (and yes, we have fools, just like you have in China) believes that India can match China in warship production, or that the Indian Navy can be the equal of the Chinese navy when your GDP is 4 times ours.

    However, the question is: can the PLA(N) take on the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea? As long as India's navy can hold its own there, we are quite satisfied. Indian foreign policy and security policy is not about regional or global dominance. It is about protecting one's own neighbourhood.

    Anyway, I appreciate your comments, some of which are quite true. Indian shipyards have a long way to go.

    Thanks, Cheng.

  13. baby... born with 32...

  14. @Cheng: As pointed out by Ajai, we don't need to match with China in whatever China is doing because Chinese GDP is 4 times ours and China openly is preparing for a shooting war with USA in the Western Pacific..We only need to factor in whether we are able to decimate Pakistan and whether we are able to hold off Chinese access to Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean....Yes, we do need to increase more rapidly our defence preparedness but certainly not at the rate of matching 1 Chinese vessel with 1 Indian vessel...

    By the way, I don't think there are any other media other than Hindi news channels Aaj Tak and India TV which can say that India matches or exceeds China in terms of firepower...If you have based your judgements on India media from these channels, then I am astonished to see that you know Hindi although being a Chinese...Otherwise,plz share some links which corroborates what you are saying....

  15. Hi Ajai! I don't think the IN operates cheetahs. Probably it is a typo. It should be Chetaks.

  16. congis have wasted last 10 years shamelessly,

    either buy 100% american,russian or european ,but pls don't mix them up, its a complete BS whoever in navy does this is not a good thinker.

    not involving private shipyards is great loss of country n resources.


  18. @Cheng

    I have worked with many Chinese in London and I have never felt that we cant co-exist.

    Secondly China is a belligerent country which is not responsible to maintain world peace but in fact invade it. You have martial law and we are a democracy. Besides you have disputes with all neighbours. It would make your job easier if you had India as a friend rather than an enemy.

    From where I see Indian ship yards have come a long way in terms of improving their capability. Firstly we don't steal or cyber steal like your country does. Secondly just like India everything that is Russian is also in the Chinese Defence Forces. Only difference in lager numbers and different names.

    Back to ship building, we are behind China and have no visible chance of overtaking them.

    But here is a look at what we have done and this is something that has never happened before in our country. Now Chang don't be a freak and start comparing.

    1. 3 Shivaliks (Frigates)
    2. 3 Kolkata (Destroyers)
    3. 4 Kamrotas (Corvettes)
    4. 4 Saryu (Patrol Ships)

    Another interesting fact is our patrol ships and corvettes are as big as Frigates in other navies. So a little re-equip ting them could make them even more lethal.

    From an importers navy to a navy which is soon getting local is a giant leap which will only become better.

    In terms of surface war ships I think we are more than ready to "buy Indian stuff"

    @Ajai Bhai,

    We however need some improvement in the underwater capability. I think it would make more sense to buy 6 more Scorpenes and equip all 12 with AIP. Request you to please reply.

    Also out Multi role combat vessels (LHC)should have the F35 B.

    request a reply for once.

  19. Kolkata is not the the same class as 052D. Indians should be humble and self-contained as bullshiting for one new obsolete destroyer launched to shock the world is ridiculous. In fact, the technology or firepower of Kolkata is more or less the same or less than that of 052C, which was first commissioned in 2003 with 6 in active. While 052D is an upgraded version with better radar, gun, SAM, AS, etc. with 2 in active, 3 in sea trial and 5 under construction, hopefully the first batch of 12 ships will be all commissioned before 2018. While the first ship for kolkata class will be hopefully commissioned on 2018, the subsequent ships will be commissioned one for each 2 years until 2024, when China will have 12 052D, 12 052D+ and 10 055 destroyers.

  20. I wonder why most Indians including PM Modi like to bullshit how advance they but without looking at her messy infrastructure, poor sanitation as uncontrollable open defecation, high illiteracy rate especially female, terrible corruption, etc , which makes indian standard of living worse than Sudan.

  21. According World Bank report, there are more than 396M Indians classified as apoverty and over 77% of the whole population regarded as poverty and poor. Those poor guys mostly are living in slums and only in New Delhi have 3.6M living in slums, some even next to the international airport. Thus, why don't consider to do some changes to the slums.


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