Vice Admiral HS Malhi, retired from the Indian Navy, calls the Indian Navy’s new stealth frigate, the INS Shivalik, the largest stealth frigate in the world. He should know, as chairman of the shipyard that manufactured it, Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL). He says the warship, displacing 6200 tons, is larger than the Talwar class (Krivak III) or the French Lafayette class.The admiral says the challenges his shipyard faced to minimize the signature of the Shivalik included ‘suppression of noise, vibration, infra red and magnetic signature’. MDL imported high strength steel for the Shivalik, but now hopes to have SAIL (Steel Authority of India Limited) produce the required grade of steel for future warship construction.
The Shivalik is also highly automated and allows a crew reduction of around 20 per cent.
And the second and third of this frigate class are to be delivered by the end of this year and next year, respectively.But Captain MD Suresh, captain of the Shivalik thinks a warship this size couldn’t get any stealthier. “It’s one generation ahead of the Talwar class,” he says after the commissioning of the warship, which took place last Thursday, also pointing out that it requires the same size of crew as the Talwar-class frigates, which displace 4,900 tons. His crew of 225 sailors and 25 officers have already done 23 sorties at sea as of the date of commissioning.
He was impressed at the Shivalik’s stability during trials held in rough seas under monsoon clouds. For Captain Suresh this means enhanced effectiveness of the weapon sensors. And he says the Shivalik is good to go, requiring just enough time to embark fuel, rations and crew and is ready to endure at sea in ‘excess of three weeks’.
But interestingly, the captain also points out the warship’s capabilities for data sharing with not only other Indian warships and aircraft, but also with the Indian Air Force, something which is, albeit, still being ironed out.
According to Captain Suresh, an IAF AWACS can share data with the Shivalik, allowing it to conduct conduct mandated operations in its area of deployment. This potential, once fully developed, could yield huge dividends in terms of operational flexibility, especially once, more of these and the follow-on Project 17A frigates, start flying the Indian ensign.
The Defense Acquisitions Council has approved the construction of seven Project 17A frigates, the stealth frigate class following on from the Shivalik. Admiral Malhi says the P17A class frigates are ‘likely to be longer and broader’ and will carry indigenous weapons systems like the Brahmos (jointly developed by India and Russia) and the Barak NG (jointly developed by India and Israel). According to him, MDL is to build four Project 17A frigates and GRSE (Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers) three such warships.
The admiral also says Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has now contracted with General Electric to build the LM 2500 diesel engines in India.