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Delayed, over-budget anti-sub vessel Kavaratti ready to roar

By Ajai Shukla
October 11, 2019 13:04 IST
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Kavaratti will be commissioned before end-2019 -- three years later than contracted.
Ajai Shukla reports.


Workmen bustle over INS Kavaratti, a sleek anti-submarine warfare corvette nearing completion at the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata, on the monsoon-swollen Hooghly river.

The last of four corvettes built under Project 28, Kavaratti will be commissioned before end-2019 -- three years later than contracted.

Besides being late, Project 28 is also over-budget -- by an incredible 250%.

The four corvettes were sanctioned for Rs 2,700 crore (Rs 27 billion), but INS Kamorta, INS Kadmatt, INS Kiltan and INS Kavaratti will end up costing about Rs 7,000 crore (Rs 70 billion) in all.

Even so, there is no complaint from the ministry of defence, or from the usually demanding navy.

The admirals regard the delay as an acceptable price for making the Kamorta-class India's most highly indigenised warships -- about 90% 'Made in India'.

The ASW corvettes, which are designed and equipped to detect enemy submarines and destroy them with torpedoes, have also ended up far more silent -- and, therefore, better equipped to listen for submarines -- than originally envisioned.

Project 28 time-and-cost overruns mounted progressively.

The first delay was caused by the MoD's decision that INS Kamorta and its successors would be constructed from indigenous warship-grade steel -- called DMR 249A, and manufactured by the Bhilai Steel Plant.

Developing and producing DMR 249A in sufficient quantities took two years longer than anticipated.

Then, after constructing the first two corvettes (INS Kamorta in 2014 and INS Kadmatt in 2016), the navy decided that the third and fourth corvettes would have superstructures (the part above the deck) built from composite materials.

The lower radar reflectivity of composites makes the corvettes harder to pick up with radar.

Also, being far lighter then steel, composite superstructures have reduced the weight of INS Kiltan and INS Kavaratti from 3,150 tonnes to just 3,000 tonnes, thereby increasing their speed to 46 kilometres per hour (kmph) and their sea endurance to 6,400 km at a speed of 33 kmph.

However, that also imposed another year's delay, as Swedish firm Kockums taught GRSE workers the intricacies of building with composites.

Since composites cannot be welded, sheets must be held together with rivets that are finely calibrated according to the weight they support.

Over the course of Project 28, indigenisation levels have reached 90%, says Garden Reach chief Rear Admiral V K Saxena (retd).

These include the difficult areas of sensors and weapons, where import content is usually high.

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Ajai Shukla
Source: source