Naval Designers' Journey From Nilgiri to Project 15B

The ships of Project 15B bear testimony to the acclaimed legacy of naval designers. With a displacement of 7,300 tonnes, each ship will be spanning 163 m in length and 17.4 m at the beam and will be propelled by four gas turbines to achieve speed in excess of 30 knots.

Issue: 02-2015 By Rear Admiral A.K SaxenaPhoto(s): By Indian Navy

In 1947, the newly constituted Indian nation acquired a Navy comprising just 33 ships that were inherited from the Royal Navy. India’s first Chief of Naval Staff, Sir Mark Pizey, had put in place a ten-year replacement plan of Indian naval ships, which also anticipated building of minor naval vessels. The first step towards executing this plan was setting up the Directorate of Naval Construction in 1954. The vision was to develop a “Builders” rather than just a “Buyer’s” Navy. The Indian Navy (IN) has since been in the forefront in indigenisation of its platforms, systems, sensors and weapons. As a result, the indigenous warship construction has come a long way since the modest beginning with commissioning of warship INS Nilgiri in June 72. At present warships are being built mainly in four defence public sector units, one public sector unit and three private shipyards. The aircraft carrier (Vikrant) is being built in Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), Kochi. Frigates and destroyers are being constructed at Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL), Mumbai and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata. The fast attack crafts (FACs), naval offshore patrol vessels and cadet training ships are constructed at Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) and GRSE, Kolkata. In order to encourage private participation in warship building, less weapon intensive platforms are being given to private shipyards in competitive bidding. There are not many countries in the world having capability to produce such a wide variety of warships ranging from FACs to aircraft carrier.

Directorate of Naval Design

Indigenous warship design capability in the Indian Navy (IN) began with the setting up of the Central Design Office in 1964. This later became the Directorate of Naval Design (DND) in 1970 and in 1976 was upgraded to be headed by Director General Naval Design (DGND). The Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design (Surface Ship Group) continues to take pride as being the sole repository in the entire nation with capabilities for warship design. Indigenous Design has provided a much needed fillip to the Indian industry, with the designs being tailored to accommodate a greater indigenous content of equipment and systems, to meet the national objective of Indigenisation. This organisation has done the country proud by mastering the art of warship design and has designed 19 classes of ships. To date, 121 vessels have been indigenously built and delivered to the Navy.

Today the organisation besides project management has developed in-house expertise through specialist groups in niche areas of design like stealth, hydrodynamics, structural design, HVAC system design, propulsion system integration, engineering systems, power generation and distribution, ergonomics, etc.


The indigenous designs of corvettes, frigates and destroyers have been realised at MDL. The shipyard has been instrumental in the metamorphosis of IN into the quest for blue water navy and has been a major supplier of warships. Since acquisition of MDL by the Government in 1960, the shipyard has played a yeoman role in execution of Indian naval projects like Nilgiri class frigates, Godavari class frigates, Khukri class corvettes, Delhi class destroyers, Shivalik class stealth frigates and the ongoing guided Missile destroyers of Project 15A and Project 15B. MDL has pioneered the building of warships and submarines and retains distinguished place as ‘Shipbuilders to the Nation’.

Project 15B

The first ship of Indian Navy’s prestigious Guided Missile Destroyer, Project 15B, christened ‘Visakhapatnam’ was launched on April 20, 2015 by Mrs Minu Dhowan, wife of the CNS Admiral R.K. Dhowan, at a magnificent ceremony at MDL. Four ships of the P15B class destroyers, a follow on class of P15A, Kolkata class, designed by Directorate of Naval Design, are also under construction at MDL. The sanction of the Cabinet Committee on Security for construction of these four ships was accorded on December 30, 2010 and subsequently the contract was signed on January 28, 2011. These ships are expected to be delivered to IN between 2018 and 2024.

The ships of Project 15B bear testimony to the acclaimed legacy of naval designers. With a displacement of 7,300 tonnes, each ship will be spanning 163 m in length and 17.4 m at the beam and will be propelled by four gas turbines to achieve speed in excess of 30 knots. These ships will be equipped to store and operate two multiple role helicopters.

The state-of-the-art equipment fit and the significant indigenous content are hall marks of technical excellence in warship construction. They also signify the paradigm shift in the Indian Navy’s zest towards its transformation to a full-fledged “Builder’s Navy”. The series production of these ships will also nurture a sound vendor base for future projects. These ships can truly be classified as a Network of Networks as they are equipped with Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS), Ship Data Network (SDN), Automatic Power Management System (APMS) and Combat Management System (CMS). While control and monitoring of machinery and auxiliaries is achieved through the IPMS, power management is done using the APMS. The CMS performs threat evaluation and resource allocation based on the tactical picture compiled and ammunition available onboard. The SDN is the information highway on which data from all the sensors and weapons ride.

As in P15A ships, stealth has been a major thrust area in design of P15B ships. Enhanced stealth features have been achieved through shaping of hull and use of radar transparent deck fittings which make these ships difficult to detect. The ship embodies features such as multiple fire zones, total atmospheric control system for air conditioning, battle damage control systems to enhance survivability and reliability in emergent scenarios. These ships have been designed for a complement of 50 officers and 250 sailors. The accommodation and working spaces have been designed with special emphasis on ergonomics and habitability. The ship’s ‘firepower’ consists of sophisticated weapons-sensor suite including vertically launch capable surface-to-air and surface-to-saurface missiles for long distance engagement of shore and sea-based targets. Within a few years, ‘Visakhapatnam’ will be transformed into a fierce floating unit ready to master the seas as a part of Indian Navy’s fleet.

Rear Admiral A.K. Saxena, DGND, is heading the Directorate of Naval Design at New Delhi. The Admiral is alumnus of IIT Delhi, Naval War Academy, Russia and College of Defence Management, Secunderabad. In his illustrious career spanning over three decades, he has held key appointments at Naval Dockyard (Mumbai and Visakhapatnam), Warship Overseeing Team (Mumbai), Directorate of Naval Architecture and Directorate of Naval Design at Delhi.