MUMBAI: India on Thursday commissioned its first indigenously-built stealth warship with sophisticated features to hoodwink enemy radars and gained entry into a top club of developed countries having such capability.
Inducting 'INS Shivalik', the first of the three-ship Project-17 frigates, at the Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks (MDL), Defence Minister A K Antony called it a red letter day for the armed forces.
The 143-metre-long warship, with 6,000-tonne displacement, has "versatile control systems with signature management and radar cross-section reduction features." The other countries having the capability to build stealth warships are the US, the UK, Russia, France, China, Japan and Italy.
The Navy currently has a 130-warship-strong fleet which includes an aircraft carrier, 20 landing ships, eight destroyers, 12 frigates and 16 attack submarines based in four commands headquartered in Mumbai (Western Naval Command), Visakhapatnam (Eastern Naval Command), Kochi (Southern Naval Command) and Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar Joint Command).
Shivalik class warships can deal with multiple threat environment and are fitted with weapon suite comprising both area and point defence systems. It has sensors for air, surface and subsurface surveillance, electronic support and counter equipment and decoys for 'soft kill measures'.
"Shivalik is a steep jump in the indigenous design effort of the Directorate of Naval Design that has since 1954 designed 17 warships of different classes with 80 units built out of them. Currently, there are four designs from which 11 warships are under construction," he said.
See also India commissions its first stealth warship, joins elite club and India commissions its first stealth warship, though the Times of India article gives far more information.
For a target to be detected on radar, it must reflect radar energy back to an enemy detector. Stealth technology consists of minimizing this by 1) reflecting the energy in another direction, 2) absorbing it instead of reflecting it, or 3) transmitting it through the target - though this latter approach may be difficult with a large metal warship. Along with stealth features there are typically measures to reduce the target's heat signature and possibly its acoustic signature, as well:
"INS Shivalik has the latest stealth features to outsmart the enemy with low radar cross section, be it of the hull, infra-red or sound signatures," according to Navy's Director General for Naval Design Rear Admiral K N Vaidhyanathan.
India has two island groups, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the Indian Navy typically stages exercises where their forces have to protect these islands from an attacker, hence the need to project power, including landing ships, naval airpower, and submarines.
A powerful enough naval force would also be useful against India's traditional enemy, Pakistan, as the Indian Navy could conceivably execute a landing on Pakistan's coast, outflanking Pakistan's ground forces along the border. Realistically, the threat of such a landing might be more useful than a landing itself, as Pakistan's army might be tied up defending the coastline against possible Indian attack in many places.
An ability to intervene elsewhere in the Indian Ocean is also significant. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been dominated by the military since the early 1960's, and has been the scene of anti-government instability in recent years.
In the context of power projection, it is worth considering India's fossil fuel situation. It might be useful to begin by examining natural gas.