Indian Navy to Buy Seven Corvettes for $2 Billion

17 November 2016

The Indian navy plans to acquire seven new-generation guided missile corvettes at a cost of $2 billion to replace its Russian-built 1241-RE missile boats, allowing only domestic companies to bid under the government's "Make in India" rules.

While the ships themselves must be constructed at an Indian shipyard, some major systems of the boats, particularly the weaponry, will be imported, an Indian Navy official said.

"I suppose most of the leading European and Russian shipyards will be in the fray," says Anil Jai Singh, retired Indian navy commodore and defense analyst.

"The imports could be the Short Range Surface to Air Missile SRSAM, surveillance radars, torpedoes and engines. The rest can be Indian -- that is, the gun, surface-to-surface missile systems, rockets, sonars, most of  the navigation communications and electronic-warfare systems," says Sujeet Samaddar, another former Indian navy official and defense analyst.

The Indian sea service wants the new corvettes to have longer range than the old boats, capable of offensive nuclear submarines attack, anti-submarine warfare, local naval defense, maritime interdiction operations, and visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS)operations, according to the a request for proposals sent to Indian industry.

"Missile corvettes are agile high-speed ships with considerable firepower, ideal for a littoral environment. These corvettes will probably have a potent anti-ship missile capability with an adequate point defense missile system and incorporating advanced stealth technologies," says Singh.

 The formal tender for the new generation corvettes will be given to domestic shipyards next year and is likely to be sent to state-ownedMazagon Docks Ltd., Garden Research Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd. (GRSE), Hindustan Shipyard Ltd. and Cochin Shipyard Ltd. Private-sector companies considered in the running are Reliance Defence and Engineering Ltd (RDEL) - formerly known as Pipavav Defence - as well as Offshore Engineering and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) Ltd., according to a Ministry of Defence (MoD) official.

So far only state-owned MDL and GRSE have built such complex corvettes in past, the Indian navy official noted."GRSE, Reliance and L&T should be the front-runners," says Singh.

The big-ticket ships purchase comes at a time when the defense budget for the last two years has been nearly flat, raising questions over financing.

"I understand the long-term prospective plan for 2017-32 has been prepared and budgetary support for the programs is included," says Samaddar.

That plan, unveiled early this year, calls for acquiring a range of futuristic technologies. These include naval missiles and guns, propulsion and power generation, surveillance and detection systems, futuristic torpedoes and directed-energy weapons, submarines and anti-submarine warfare, naval aviation, network-centric warfare equipment and combat management systems.

"By 2027, Indian Navy plans to have 200 warships from the present number of around 140," the Indian navy official said.