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Force Magazine
Guest Column - Force Magazine
Designs on the Future
The strengths and limitations of building a home-grown navy
RAdm. N.P. Gupta (retd)
By RAdm. N.P. Gupta (retd)

When it was formed, the Indian Navy had a vision to truly become a builder’s navy. Initial historical steps in this direction were license production of Leander class frigates at Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) and setting up of an inhouse design organisation called Directorate of Naval Design (DND) headed by the Director General Naval Design (DGND). The DGND has played a crucial role towards achieving this goal. This article briefly reviews acquisition procedures and the role of design organisation in the process of acquisition.

What Has Been Achieved
Starting as a tiny design cell, designing yard crafts, the Indian Navy’s design organisation has blossomed into a centre of excellence credited with designs of highly sophisticated frontline war vessels, apart from numerous auxiliary vessels (small and big). To date, this amounts to 19 design projects under which about 80 ships have been built indigenously.

This includes survey vessels, landing ships, cadets training ship, Godavari class frigates, Brahmaputra class frigates, missile corvettes, Delhi class frigates, Shivalik class stealth frigates, Kolkata class destroyers, Kamorta class ASW corvettes and Indian aircraft carrier. In addition, Projects-15B destroyers have been recently ordered on MDL and Project 17A ships are expected to be ordered on MDL/ Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd (GRSE) shortly.

This quite clearly is an impressive range and complexity of sea-going naval vessels, to commercial and military standards.

Warships designed by the DND are capable, strong, stable platforms, providing excellent service to the navy, as has been amply demonstrated at sea. In particular, Indian Navy in the last 20 year has seen unprecedented design and construction activity, matched by not more than a couple of nations. Viewed overall, Indian Navy’s achievements (in which the DGND has played a singularly sterling role) in the warship design and construction have been a matter of pride for the navy and the nation. This has been achieved in a step by step progression, each step being a significant advancement in building capability to design most complex surface combatants.

Warship design and construction is now widely recognised as a success story. Surely it has not been easy, as the success has been achieved despite adverse conditions and constraints. These included poor support system, shortage of qualified and well trained human resource, attrition of talented and experienced designers, non-availability of homegrown standards/norms, issues related with indigenisation, complex decision making, virtually non-existent R& D support etc.

What Made It Happen
It is the vision of naval leadership in creating corps of naval constructors (naval architects) and setting up a full-fledged DND within Naval Headquarters that served as foundation for realising the goal of creating a builder’s navy. Other institutions to support shipbuilding activity for weapon integration, overseeing, EMI/EMC, trial teams, indigenisation, inspection agencies etc. have also been created.

built destroyer INS Kolkata being commissioned by the
Prime Minister earlier this year
Built destroyer INS Kolkata being commissioned by the Prime Minister earlier this year

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