March 10, 2017

Harbours at risk: Indian Navy to be without minesweepers for at least 3 years

The Indian Navy will be without a single minesweeper till 2021 as the existing fleet of 6 vessels will be decommissioned by next year, a parliamentary panel report has revealed.

Navies use minesweepers to keep sea lanes mine-free, secure major harbours and destroy minefields near enemy shores while undertaking offensive action.

India could sign a Rs 32,640-crore deal with a South Korean shipyard for building 12 mine countermeasure vessels (MCMVs) in the country by March 31, but the first of those are likely to be delivered only in 2021. Any delay in hammering out the deal could further upset the navy’s calculations.

In its latest report tabled in Parliament, the standing committee on defence asked the government to make “sincere and concerted efforts” to equip the navy with the critical capability.

“The MCMVs are slated for de-induction by 2016-2018. 2016 has already passed and moreover, building the MCMVs will also take considerable time. The committee feels that the entire process of procurement of MCMVs will be delayed inordinately,” the report said.

The new MCMVs will be built at Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) in collaboration with Busan-based Kangnam Corporation under the government’s Make in India initiative. Though the deal was supposed to be closed last year, discussions on technology transfer to India caused some delays.

All 12 vessels will be constructed in India, and are expected to have 60% indigenous content. The construction of the first vessel is expected to begin in April 2018, and deliveries likely to be completed between 2021 and 2026.

After scrapping an earlier tender to import minesweeping vessels due to alleged irregularities, the government nominated GSL in February 2015 to build minesweepers in partnership with a foreign shipyard under the Make in India programme.

Until now, the GSL has spent Rs 800 crore on scaling up infrastructure to kick off construction of the vessels.

Facilities are being created for building glass-reinforced plastic hulls, a design that reduces the ship’s magnetic signature and allows safer navigation through waters that could be mined. The minesweepers will have a displacement of 800 to 1,000 tonnes.

Mines are deployed to limit the enemy’s ability to use the sea. These underwater weapons can detonate on contact, or be activated by magnetic and acoustic signatures.


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