Navy’s first and oldest destroyer, INS Rajput, retires on Friday - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 20 May 2021

Navy’s first and oldest destroyer, INS Rajput, retires on Friday

China’s warship lead over India keeps growing, as it builds faster and bigger (Photo: INS Rajput)


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 21st May 21


Indian Naval Ship (INS) Rajput, the Indian Navy’s first and oldest destroyer, will sail into the sunset on Friday. The lead ship of India’s five Kashin-class destroyers, which was built by the erstwhile Soviet Union and commissioned in May 1980, will be decommissioned in Visakhapatnam after 41 years of service.


Beyond the nostalgia of decommissioning, in which the naval ensign and the commissioning pennant are ceremonially lowered for the last time at sunset, the navy will be preoccupied with a hard operational reality: Before the end of this decade, all five of its Kashin-class destroyers – called the Rajput-class in India – will be decommissioned. To replace them on the line there are only four new destroyers under construction.


True, the four new 7,300-tonne destroyers being built under Project 15B at Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) are significantly more muscular than the older Rajput-class vessels. INS Visakhapatnam, Mormugao, Imphal and Porbandar will bristle with weaponry designed to destroy targets in all three dimensions – on the surface, underwater and in the air.


They will be equipped with Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to strike ship and shore targets, Indo-Israeli Barak 8 missiles and US-made 127 mm Mark 45 naval guns to shoot down incoming anti-ship missiles and aircraft; and 533 mm heavyweight torpedoes and RBU-6000 rockets to sink enemy submarines. In a major capability upgrade, each destroyer will have two helicopters on board. These will include the newly-procured MH-60R Seahawk, a helicopter so packed with weapons and sensors that it is labelled a “flying frigate”.


Even so, naval planners in New Delhi are uncomfortably aware that, even after the four Project 15B destroyers join the fleet, India will have just 10 destroyers, against 50 destroyers that China’s People’s Liberation Army (Navy), or PLA(N), fields.


The PLA(N) has been commissioning three new destroyers every year, while Indian defence shipyards have been barely completing one destroyer every 2-3 years.


Furthermore, the PLA(N)’s new Type 055, Renhai-class destroyers are bigger and more heavily armed than even the latest Indian destroyers. Displacing 13,000 tonnes, the Renhai-class is categorised by the US Navy as a cruiser – a category of warships bigger and more heavily armed than a destroyer.


The Indian Navy, however, takes solace in a projected increase in its frigate numbers with seven frigates being constructed domestically under Project 17A and four more Talwar-class frigates under acquisition from Russia, of which at least two are to be built in India.


But here again, the PLA(N) has more than thrice as many frigates as India and is adding to those numbers faster.


INS Rajput and its four follow-on destroyers of the Rajput-class were constructed in the 61 Communards Shipyard in Nikolaev, which is in present-day Ukraine. Her original Russian name was “Nadezhny”, which means “Hope”.


She was commissioned as INS Rajput on May 4, 1980 at Poti, Georgia by India’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, Inder Kumar Gujral, who went on to become prime minister.


INS Rajput has participated in several operations, including Operation Aman and Operation Pawan, to assist the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka. She was a part of Operation Cactus in which the Indian military intervened in the Maldives in 1988 to foil a coup attempt by foreign mercenaries. INS Rajput also participated in Operation Crow’s Nest off Lakshadweep.


She was also the first Indian naval ship to be affiliated with an Indian Army regiment – the Rajput Regiment. 


Owing to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the decommissioned ceremony at Naval Dockyard, Visakhapatnam, will be a low-key event, attended only by in-station officers and sailors, with strict observance of Covid-19 protocols.



PLA Navy: Bigger by far


Vessel type

Indian Navy

PLA Navy






Aircraft carriers



India has one under build, China has two




India has four under build in Project 15B




India has 11 under build/acquisition











  1. Dear Aaji Sir, Not comparing the capabilities with PLAN, let's now discuss Rajput class lead ship. It had been illustrious and had been a dependable platform for Navy and country. The concerning matter is that whether this vessel can't be preserved as s museum or will it vanish the same way Viraat went, because of lower resolute. Such ships and thier history could be legendary in creating Maritime culture in a country having such vast coastline. Other than being a museum, if the operational costs could be maintained in a depleting sparse environment, it can be an auxiliary support vessel role for next 8 years. Would really appreciate to know your viewpoint on the same. Thanks

  2. Bye bye INS Rajput thank you for your service destroyer ship and it's crew from me and my uncle sushant gupta defsys.

  3. While making such a comparison, one has to bear in mind that the bulk of the Chinese fleet including both it's carriers will remain tied up in the Pacific against the US Navy and for its ambitions against Taiwan. How many ships they can actually afford to send in a face-off against us is moot. The real threat against us will remain their submarines (including SSBNs) with a max 4-5 destroyers + frigates to act as decoys.

  4. The predecessor INS Rajput was also a destroyer and did active duty during 1971 war. She has the distinction of sinking PNS Gazi. So calling the INS Rajput the first destroyer needs clarification.

  5. Technically the ex Soviet INS Rajput decommissioned on 21 May 2021 is not "the first destroyer of the Indian Navy" ! That honour goes to her predecessor by the same name INS Rajput (World War II vintage ex HMS Rotherham of the Royal Navy) which was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1949 and served the Navy till she was decommissioned in 1974. Incidentally it was the "old" INS Rajput that laid mines off Vizag that resulted in the sinking of Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war..


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