Chennai the destroyer of enemies

Knapps

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21, Nov 2016

India's third indigenously designed guided missile destroyer in the Kolkata class, INS Chennai, has been commissioned by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in Mumbai. Armed with the nuclear-capable Brahmos and Barak-8 missiles, Chennai is the largest-ever warship built in the country. India, a country which paid the price of ignoring naval capabilities with two centuries of enslavement, is determined to raise one of the most powerful navies of the world.

What is the news?

INS Chennai, a Kolkata-class destroyer ship, was commissioned into the Indian Navy's combat fleet on November 21, 2016 by Defence minister Manohar Parrikar at the naval dockyard in Mumbai.

  • INS Chennai is the largest-ever warship to be built in India. Partly built at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd in Mumbai, the ship's construction also marks the end of the Project 15A to build Kolkata-class guided missile destroyers. Nearly 60% of the ship was built at Mazagon Dock, while weapons and sensors were brought from Israel and Russia.
  • According to the Indian Navy, the INS Chennai has an overall length of 164 meters and displacement of over 7,500 tons. The ship is a strong platform capable of undertaking a variety of tasks and missions, spanning the full spectrum of maritime warfare, the Indian Navy says.
  • True to its name, the ship's crest depicts the outline of the iconic Fort St George of Chennai in the background, a part of the adjacent beach and a sloop on blue and white waves. The crew of the ship abides by the Sanskrit motto 'Shatro Sanharaka' meaning Vanquisher of Enemies, epitomizing the warrior spirit and strong resolve to prevail and succeed in combat.
  • The ship will undergo certain additional sea trials of the ship-borne systems before being assigned to the Western Fleet and based in Mumbai. It will be placed under the operational and administrative control of the Western Naval Command.

Why is it generating a buzz?

This destroyer is really destructive by design.

  • INS Chennai is propelled by a powerful combined gas and propulsion plant consisting of four reversible gas turbines. This allows the ship to achieve a top speed of over 30 knots, which is approximately 55 km/hr.
  • The ship is designed to carry and operate up to two multi-role combat helicopters.
  • Her very high level of automation with sophisticated digital networks on board includes integrated ship data network, combat management systems, automatic power management system and auxiliary control system.
  • The destroyer is armed with supersonic surface-to-surface ‘BrahMos’ missiles and ‘Barak-8’ long range surface-to-air missiles. This implies that the ship possesses formidable prowess of missile technology.
  • In terms of undersea warfare, it boasts of indigenously developed anti-submarine weapons and sensors, prominently the Hull Mounted Sonar ‘HUMSA-NG’, heavyweight torpedo tube launchers, rocket launchers and towed array sonar capability.
  • To prevent the ship from being hit by the enemy’s missiles, the Chennai comes equipped with ‘Kavach’ chaff decoy system. It is also fitted with ‘Mareech’ torpedo decoy system for defence against torpedoes. Both these decoy systems have been developed indigenously.

Note: Kavach is a naval decoy system to distract radar-guided missiles from their targets and act as a system for self-defence. Maareech Advanced Torpedo Defence System (ATDS) is a state of the art indigenous system for torpedo detection and countermeasures used by the Indian Navy. The system offers a complete solution to detect and locate an incoming torpedo and to apply countermeasures to protect naval platform against torpedo attack.

When did the Navy induct other naval systems recently?

The Indian Navy earlier in November 2016 formally inducted four types of indigenously developed sonars that will boost its underwater surveillance capability. The systems included Abhay, which is a compact hull mounted sonar for shallow water crafts; Humsa UG, which is an upgrade for the Humsa sonar system; NACS, or the Near-field Acoustic Characterisation System; and AIDSS, or the Advanced Indigenous Distress sonar system for submarines.

The systems were designed and developed by Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory, a Kochi-based laboratory of DRDO.

With the induction of these four systems, the underwater surveillance capability of the Indian Navy gets a much needed boost, besides providing a fillip to the quest for self-reliance in this critical area of technology.

  • Abhay is an advanced active-cum-passive integrated sonar system designed and developed for the smaller platforms such as shallow water crafts and coastal surveillance/patrol vessels. It is capable of detecting, localising, classifying and tracking sub-surface and surface targets in both its active and passive modes of operation. The prototype of this compact sonar installed on board a nominated naval platform has successfully completed all user evaluation trials to demonstrate the features as per the Naval Staff Qualification Requirements.
  • Intensifying the command over the high seas is the Humsa-UG, which is designed for upgrading the existing Humsa sonar system. This system is proposed to be installed on seven ships of three different classes.
  • NACS determines the in-situ performance of the SONAR systems which are used to find the frequency-dependent 3-D transmission and reception characteristics of the SONAR. It is also used to measure the magnitude and phase characteristics of the SONAR transmission and reception electronics and the transducers.
  • AIDSS, a distress sonar, is an Emergency Sound Signalling Device which is used to indicate that a submarine is in distress and enable quick rescue and salvage. It is a life-saving alarm system designed to transmit sonar signals of a pre-designated frequency and pulse shape in an emergency situation from a submarine for a long period, so as to attract the attention of passive sonars of ships or submarines in the vicinity and all types of standard rescue vessels in operation. It is also provided with a transponder capability.

The Indian Navy plans to become a 200-warship force with around 600 aircraft and helicopters by 2027.

Where is the real benefit of a strong navy?

Naval Diplomacy entails the use of naval forces in support of foreign policy objectives to build ‘bridges of friendship’ and strengthen international cooperation on the one hand, and to signal capability and intent to deter potential adversaries on the other. The larger purpose of the navy’s diplomatic role is to favourably shape the maritime environment in the furtherance of national interests, in consonance with the foreign policy and national security objectives.

Navies inherently lean towards performing a diplomatic role on account of two characteristics.

  • The first is their status as comprehensive instruments of a country’s sovereign power, whereupon their very presence in or off a certain area signals the nation’s political intent and commitment to pursue national interests in that region. Hence, their presence or absence can be calibrated to send a political message to potential friends and foes alike.
  • The second characteristic facilitating the navy’s diplomatic role is in the very attributes of maritime forces, including access, mobility, sustenance, reach, flexibility and versatility. These combine to offer a variety of tools for furthering national interests and pursuing foreign policy goals. Naval forces can be readily deployed, can perform multiple roles and tasks that can be calibrated in visibility and intensity as per requirements, and can just as easily and rapidly be withdrawn, to send a countersignal.

The Indian Navy has emerged as an indispensable tool of diplomacy in recent years, making it an imperative for Indian policymakers and naval thinkers to consider anew the role of naval forces.

  • Despite a general understanding among Indian political elites that it was the oceanic dominance by European powers that led to their colonial ascendancy in India, the focus on land frontiers led to the dominance of the Indian Army in the national security discourse. Until the end of the Cold War, the maritime dimension of India’s security did not figure adequately in national consciousness. Indian policymakers did not perceive the advantage of building up maritime muscles as the country remained concerned with the north and north-western frontiers after Partition, rather than the seas.
  • But India is now making up for the lapses of the past. With India’s economic rise, it is trying to make its navy integral to national grand strategy. Barring unforeseen naval developments in other countries, by 2030 India will have the second largest carrier fleet in the world.
  • India, of all the nations, must remember the harsh lesson that history has taught it.
  • Since Rig Vedic times up to the last Chola kings, the Indian Ocean was literally India’s ocean. However, in the latter half of the previous millennium, India became dominated by land-centric rulers from Central Asia who had little maritime knowledge or interest. Consequently, India yielded control of the sea to the European powers.
  • The only exception was the Marathas. They enjoyed many tactical successes against the western navies. Notable among these was the Maratha blockade of British-held Mumbai port that led to the British East India Company ceding a ransom of 8,750 pounds.

“The aircraft carrier in the 21st century continues to remain the most conspicuous symbol of a nation’s maritime power,” says former Commodore and author C Uday Bhaskar. “Nothing projects raw combat power like these citadels of maritime power.”

Who is interested in India’s rise as a sea power?

Growing concern over China and its naval activity in India’s back yard — the vast Indian Ocean — have brought the once-distant US and Indian militaries closer than ever before.

  • India this year too has shown interest in the South China Sea. On May 18, four ships of the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet set out for a two and a half month long operational deployment to the South China Sea and North Western Pacific
  • Flagging the threat of sea-borne terror and piracy as two key challenges and underlining the need to respect navigational freedom against the backdrop of the South China Sea dispute, India’s sea power is more important than ever.
  • India’s naval policy is geared towards ensuring the freedom of navigation for shipping and safeguarding its interests in contiguous waters, Exclusive Economic Zone and island territories. The Navy would eventually like to emerge as a world-class blue-water force, equipped to meet regional challenges and to safeguard India’s maritime interests.

It is difficult to imagine now that the United States once threatened to launch a naval attack on India.

  • The US Task Force 74 was a US Navy task force of the United States Seventh Fleet that was deployed to the Bay of Bengal by Nixon administration in December 1971, at the height of the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. Led by the Aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the deployment of the task force was seen as a show of force by USA in support of the beleaguered West Pakistani forces, and was claimed by India as an indication of US "tilt" towards Pakistan at a time that Indian forces were close to capturing Dhaka.

But the US could not tilt the war in Pakistan’s favour because the Soviet Navy came to India’s rescue.

  • The Soviet Navy dispatched two groups of cruisers and destroyers and a submarine armed with nuclear missiles from Vladivostok; they trailed US Task Force 74 into the Indian Ocean from 18 December 1971 until 7 January 1972. The Soviets also had a nuclear submarine to help ward off the threat posed by USS Enterprise task force in the Indian Ocean.
  • India had signed a twenty-year co-operation treaty with the Soviet Union earlier that year. The Soviets did not disappoint when the friendship treaty was tested.

Note: Exercise Malabar is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners. Originally a bilateral exercise between India and the United States, Japan became a permanent partner in 2015.

How potent are India’s other ‘destroyers’?

  • INS Delhi: The Delhi class destroyers are classified as guided-missile destroyers of the Indian Navy. Three ships of this class are in active service. It is the third-largest warship to be fully designed and built in India, after the Kolkata-class destroyers and the Shivalik-class frigates. They will soon be superseded by the Kolkata class destroyers and the Vikrant class aircraft carrier. These ships have been built at Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai.
  • INS Kolkata: Kolkata class destroyers are follow-on of the legendary the Project 15 ‘Delhi’ class destroyers which pressed in to service in late 1990s. The vessel was conceived and designed by the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design.
  • INS Rajput: Rajput class destroyers are also known as Kashin-II class. The ships were built in the former Soviet Union. These ships are the first ships in the Indian Navy to deploy the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile systems. The role of Rajput class ships involves protection such as anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare for carrier task force defense against submarines, low-flying aircraft, and cruise missiles.

Other classification of ships are Aircraft carriers such as INS Viraat and INS Vikramaditya, Frigates like INS Shivalik, INS Brahmaputra, INS Kamorta and INS Talwar, Corvette ships such as INS Kora, INS Kukri and INS Veer. Destroyers are second only to aircraft carriers in projecting raw combat power.

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