Major Weapon Requirements of Indian Navy

It can be appreciated that with ‘Make in India’ thrust there is every possibility that the best of weapon OEMs would come to India for production of advanced weapon systems for use by the Indian Armed forces as well as for sale to other countries

Issue: 5 / 2014By Rear Admiral Dr S. Kulshrestha (Retd)Photo(s): By Oto Melara, NSTL

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The Indian Navy (IN) is set to acquire over 80 new warships, including two aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines each, scheduled to join its fleet in the coming decade, with about five major combatants being commissioned every year. Major warship building programme of the IN includes:

Project 15A and 15B guided missile destroyers: The Mazagon Dock Ltd. is building Project 15A 6,800-tonne destroyers at a cost of $622 million each. First of its class INS Kolkata has already been delivered. The follow-on project 15B gave the Navy the option of placing orders for four more vessels in the same class. These ships carry short- and medium-range anti-air missiles, anti-ship and land attack missiles, 76.2mm gun, close-in weapon system (CIWS), heavy weight torpedo tube launchers, and anti submarine warfare (ASW) rocket launchers.

Project 17 and 17A: Under this project, three Shivalik class multi-role frigates with stealth features were planned for construction by the Mazagon Dock Ltd, all of them have been commissioned. The successor of these frigates is planned under project 17A involving seven vessels, at a cost of $578 million each. The modular construction method will be employed by the Mazagon Dock Ltd and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd (GRSE), who will deliver three and four vessels respectively. The Shivalik class of ships carry short- and medium-range anti-air missiles, anti-ship/anti-land attack missiles, CIWS, 76.2mm gun, ASW rocket launchers and triple tube heavy weight torpedo launchers.

Project 28 anti-submarine warfare corvettes: The corvettes being built under Project 28 have been conceived as the IN’s ASW vessels for the 21st century as well as being aimed at encouraging private participation in shipbuilding. The first of the series, INS Kamorta, built by GRSE has already been commissioned. Kamorta displaces 3,500 tonnes and is 110 metre in length and 14 metre at the beam. It has a maximum speed of 25 kt with an endurance of about 3,500 nautical miles. These ships have medium-range anti-air missiles, 76.2mm gun, CIWS, ASW rocket launchers, and heavy weight torpedo tube launchers.

Project 75I submarines: IN now plans to build all the six submarines indigenously.

GUNS

Traditionally naval ships have been equipped with a heavy gun (57mm calibre upwards), an auxiliary gun of up to 35mm calibre, and a small ca libre gun for close air/ missile defense, the number of turrets depending upon the size and role of the specific ship. These guns are not effective at very close ranges against surface craft due to inability of the guns to rapidly train, elevate, or depress to prosecute swarming targets from different directions at close quarters. Examples of some heavy guns include Oto Melara 76mm gun, (traditional /compatto/rapid), Bofors 57/70mm MkII / MkIII, CADAM Turret standard (Cadence Améliorée meaning “improved rate of fire”), / Loire 100mm / MK55 Mod 68, Oto Breda 127/54, Oto Melara 127/64, and Giat CADAM Turret. The auxiliary guns include, Oto Breda 40/L70 twin, Mauser EADS MLG 30/27 mm, Rheinmetall GDM-08 with MSP 500, Oerlikon Gam/BO 1, Allied Telesyn DS 30M automated small calibre gun system, Rheinmetall RH 202. The close in weapon systems includes; Mauser Oerlikon MeRoKa, Signaal GAU-8/A, GE / GDC MK 15 Mod 2, Raytheon / Diehl RIM 116 Block 1 HAS.

The Italian Oto Melara 127/64 LW light weight naval gun is used on board the Italian FREMM and the German F125 frigates. This rapid-fire gun can be installed on large-and medium-size ships, for surface fire and naval gunfire support, with anti-aircraft fire as its secondary role. The compactness of the gun feeding system makes it possible to install it on narrow section crafts. The gun can fire all standard 127mm/5 inches ammunition including the new Vulcano long-range guided ammunition. Vulcano is a family of extended range unguided ammunition and long-range guided ammunition for the 127mm naval guns and 155mm land artillery system.

The CIWS gun systems continue to be favoured as a terminal effort to tackle on coming ASCMs, despite the disadvantages they display with respect to the CIWS missile systems. In fact CIWS today have evolved to employ both guns as well as missiles. Some major CIWS are Mk 15 Phalanx (USA), Goalkeeper (Netherlands), DARDO (Italy), and the AK-630 (Russia). The US Navy has ~250 of the Raytheon’s Mk 15 Mod 21-28 Phalanx CIWS autonomous combat systems mounted on the US naval ships. It can be used also against small craft and for anti-air warfare. Incidentally, The US Navy’s requirements for the LPD 17 and LCS ship programmes included the need for weapon systems capable of defeating small, fast, highly manoeuvrable surface craft. The Mk 46 GWS was selected to provide these ships a capability against small surface craft. The Mk 46 GWS is a remotely operated naval gun system that uses 30mm high velocity cannon, a forward looking infrared sensor, a low light television camera, and a laser rangefinder for shipboard self-defence against small, high speed surface targets. The gun can be operated locally at the gun turret or remotely at the Remote Operating Console in the Combat Information Centre (LPD 17 class)/Mission Control Centre (LCS class).

Indian naval ships have the following main guns; A-190(E) 100mm, 100mm AK-100 naval gun, AK-176-M 76mm gun, AK-76/62 76mm gun, Twin mount gun (76mm), Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM). The auxiliary guns include; AK-630 6-barreled 30mm Gatling gun, AK-230 twin 30mm gun. The 76.2 SRGM is being manufactured at BHEL Hardwar under ToT from Oto Melara, Italy. BHEL is one of the largest engineering and manufacturing enterprise in India in the energy and infrastructure related sector. The AK-630 Gatling gun is being manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board.

IN has been searching for a main gun in the 127mm or higher calibres, which can be produced in India along with its ammunition. The ToT should also include production of future upgrades. The economics of scale can easily be achieved if a gun system compatible with requirements of the Indian army (on the lines of the 30mm BMP or the 12.7mm HMG) can be selected. With respect to CIWS the Indian navy needs to replace its 30mm gun in future with a higher caliber gun system compatible with the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force. The Defence Acquisition Council had cleared a proposal for 116 in number 30mm guns for the warships in 2012. A RFI for 30 in number 40mm guns with Electro Optical Firing Systems has also been issued.

Torpedoes

Lightweight torpedoes (LWT) are launched by surface ships, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircrafts. A few of the notable light-weight torpedoes include the European MU90 produced by Eurotorp, The Mk 54 by Raytheon and the A244S developed by WASS. The MU90 is a NATO-standard calibre (323,7mm) fire-and-forget LWT of 304 kg and 285 cm length, designed to counter any type of nuclear or conventional submarine. The US MK 54 torpedo is 271 cm to 287 cm, weighs between 276 kg and 293 kg, and has a diameter of 32 cm. Its processing power, coupled with the MK 48 ADCAP and MK 50 detection, editing and tracking algorithms, provides an effective weapon in both littoral and open-ocean waters. The A244/S is a 324mm diameter, 2.8-metre long, and 244 kg weight torpedo. It has a cruise/surge speed of 30/39 kts, with a range of 6 km and depth up to 600 metre.

A lightweight, anti-submarine torpedo TAL that can be launched from both, surface ships and helicopters has been developed by Naval Science and Technological Laboratory (NSTL), a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratory. It is being produced by Bharat Dynamics Ltd. (BDL), Hyderabad. It has a speed of 33 kt, a range of 7 km, and a warhead with an explosive weight of 50 kg. Twenty-five TAL torpedoes have been ordered by the IN. There is, however, a long-term requirement of a state-of-the-art LWT that can be produced in India.

Surface ships in ASW role mainly launch heavyweight torpedoes. Few of the notable heavyweight torpedoes include the US MK 48 ADCAP, the Russian 53-65 KE, and electrical torpedoes, the Italian Blackshark and the German Seehect. Hughes Aircraft produce the US MK 48 ADCAP wire guided torpedo. This thermal torpedo has a range of 30 km at 65 kts and 50 km at 40 kts. Whitehead Sistemi Subacquei has developed Blackshark. It has advanced ECCM, motor design and battery, giving it a speed of +50 km at +50 kts. Atlas Elecktronik manufactures Seehecht, DM2A4. It was the first torpedo to be fitted with a fibre optic wire guidance system. IN has issued an RFI for heavyweight torpedoes for its Scorpene submarines and warships in pipeline. The Indian Navy is also carrying out sea trials of Varunastra, heavyweight, electric-powered torpedo developed at NSTL. It is wire-guided and has a range of 30 km. The launch weight of Varunastra is 1,500 kg and it is capable of doing speeds up to of 38 kt. It has a 250 kg warhead. Varunastra may also be inducted once the trials are successful. A formidable heavyweight torpedo with ranges >80 km manufactured in India would go a long way to address the future needs of the IN.

Missiles

Some of the naval cruise missiles worth mentioning are the BrahMos, the Tomahawk, the Klub, and the Exocet. BrahMos is produced by BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd, which is a JV between India and Russia. BrahMos has the capability of attacking surface targets by flying as low as 5 metres in altitude and the maximum altitude it can fly is 14 km. It has a diameter of 70 cm and a wingspan of 1.7 metres. It can gain a speed of Mach 2.8, and has a maximum range of 290 km. With induction into the IN and the Indian Army (land attack version), it has also become a cross service missile. Further, it is likely to be inducted into the Indian Air Force and Indian naval submarines once trials are completed. Tomahawk by Raytheon is perhaps the most famous and widely used cruise missile. The current version is network-centric and can utilize data from a variety of inputs like UAVs, satellites and ground forces. Retargeting during its flight is possible due to its loitering feature. The Russian Klub is an anti-shipping subsonic missile with a supersonic terminal speed of 2.9 Mach. It has a warhead of 200 kg and a range of 220 km. Exocet missile, produced by MBDA, is a sea-skimming turbojet missile with a range of +180 km. It has a warhead of 165 kg. IN has ordered the submarine fired version of this missile, namely the SM 39, for the Scorpene submarines under acquisition.

There is a need here to mention Barak 8, which is an Indo-Israeli medium-range surface-to-air missile for anti-aircraft/ anti-missile/anti-UAV role. It has a length of 4.5 metres, with a diameter of 0.54 metre, and weighs 275 kg with a 60 kg proximity warhead. The missile has a range of 70 km with a maximum speed of Mach 2. This missile would replace Barak 1 missile.

Two other missiles, which are likely to be deployed by the Navy in future, include:

  • BrahMos Mark II, which is a hypersonic cruise missile currently under development by BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited. The BrahMos-II is expected to utilize a scramjet engine for achieving a speed of Mach 7. It is likely to be ready for testing by 2017.
  • Nirbhay is said to be an all-weather low-cost long-range cruise missile with stealth and high accuracy. The missile may have a range of 1,000 km and weigh about one tonne with a length of 6 metres. It will be capable of being launched from multiple platforms on land, sea, and air for induction into Indian Navy, Army and Air Force. It is likely to carry nuclear warheads also.

As far as indigenous manufacture of torpedoes and missiles is concerned, the Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) is one of India’s leading manufacturers of guided weapon systems. The manufacturing and testing facilities established at BDL are modern and tuned to cater to the stringent qualitative requirements of guided weapon systems. Special process facilities such as flow forming and electron beam welding have been set up and ensure reliable inputs. Environmental test facilities as motion simulators, walk-in test chambers etc., are utilized to test the products simulating the environmental conditions as encountered by the weapon system in operational conditions. It is a profit-earning Mini Ratna – Category-I company by the Government of India. BDL is poised to enter new avenues of manufacturing covering a wide range of weapon systems such as surface-to-air missiles, air defence systems, heavyweight torpedoes, air-to-air missiles etc., making it a world-class defence equipment manufacturer. It currently has orders worth over Rs. 18,000 crore. BDL is also the lead integrator for all missiles and torpedoes for the Indian armed forces.

In conclusion it can be appreciated that with ‘Make in India’ thrust there is every possibility that the best of weapon OEMs would come to India for production of advanced weapon systems for use by the Indian armed forces as well as for sale to other countries. It is also makes good business sense to establish a long lasting relationship to enable reaping benefits over decades due to requirements of regular spares, maintenance, retrofitting and upgrades.


The author is former DGNI and Senior Fellow at New Westminster College, Canada