Monday, May 3, 2010

Stealth? 6000-tonne visibility - India’s latest warship begins duty with strengths & vulnerabilities

On board the INS Shivalik, Mumbai, April 29: In the bridge of India’s latest warship that sets new standards, Captain M.D. Suresh knows just how vulnerable his vessel, the INS Shivalik, is.
The smell of fresh paint pervades the warship with the chapati-maker and dosa-maker that will make life more comfortable for Shivalik’s crew.
From today, the INS Shivalik is on 24-hour standby to go to war (if called for). It is mounted with equipment and components that are to be standard figments in all class of warships for the Indian Navy for the next half century.
Yet, she is there for the enemy to take out if detected.
For all the talk of “stealth” about the INS Shivalik that was commissioned this morning, the warship’s first commanding officer said: “We are not invisible, understand? We can’t be; this is a floating mass of steel, 6,000 tonnes in weight”.
In military jargon, “stealth” implies a class of technology that renders weapon-platforms — ships, tanks, aircraft — difficult to detect.
But so much for war machines: new as they come with ever-greater capabilities, those who man them always feel vulnerable.
So it is with this frigate — a type of warship that compromises a little on firepower compared to the larger “destroyers” so that they can manoeuvre with greater ease.
The INS Shivalik goes one better. Despite her large size, it has “reduced” radar signature. It sails as if it were a walled-in vessel with hidden guns that cuts through the water.
“We’ve done 23 sea sorties with her beginning in the peak monsoon of June last year and we fired the guns in the first sortie,” Suresh said.
“My word, she was so stable,” he added. The makers and the sailors do not fully know the ship’s capabilities even if “ships are built to take damage”.
In the naval dockyard where it is moored now, the INS Shivalik is almost the size of the older and slightly larger INS Delhi. In front of it, the now-scrapped aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, and the navy’s only carrier, the INS Viraat, are berthed. Also moored are corvettes, the Russian-made Talwar-class frigates, a little more than half the displacement of the Shivalik.
This is where India’s maritime firepower is concentrated — the core of the western fleet in the western naval command. The Shivalik is for now unique — it is largely Indian-built.
Mazagon docks chairman-cum-managing director, Vice Admiral (retired) H.S. Malhi, said: “The steel was imported but its sonar to detect submarines and its combat management system (CMS), that is, the nerve-centre of its weapons capabilities, is wholly Indian.”
In the fo’c’s’le — the front part of the vessel below the deck where sailors generally live — the Shivalik has a gun mount with a stealth cupola. Like the slanted sides of the vessel itself, this too has sloping walls designed to deflect searching enemy radar waves.
Defence minister A.K. Antony posed for customary photographs under the front gun’s barrel after the Shivalik was commissioned today.
Behind the cupola are two circular mounts ringed by rocket launchers. In between the two is the Shtil (Russian-origin) anti-aircraft gun, now covered by a near semi-circular cap. The Israeli-origin Barak missiles — the ship’s close-in weapons system — is embedded in the deck.
“There are some features I cannot talk about,” Suresh said during a guided tour of his ship. “But I can tell you that some of our biggest threats are under water — from enemy submarines — and we have emphasised reducing noise wherever possible,” he added.
Suresh’s own quarters are below deck. He also has an additional quarter. Should an admiral board the ship, he will move into it.
Like the wardroom, the dining hall for officers is equipped with an LCD big-screen television and speakers from one of the best-known brands in acoustics.
At a deck even lower — the Shivalik has eight decks — in the galley, in the sailors’ kitchen and mess, the equipment is the same. The interiors and furnishings were contracted to the largest Indian companies in the business of interior designing.
On the way to the galley, Suresh turned the knob into a room that is full of computers and finds a packet of food on the floor. Two officers and four sailors are inside. “Let this be the first and the last time anyone eats outside the dining halls in the ship,” Suresh said.
In the galley, the chapati-maker is placed in a linear fashion, designed to churn out 400 chapatis an hour. With so many sailors in the Indian Navy coming from chapati-eating communities, the force had to address the issue.
“We had some trouble with it,” Suresh said. He assigned an engineer to look into it. The problem was the pair of automated rolling pins through which the kneaded dough was put did not flatten the bread enough. So the engineer replaced the rolling pins with a pair of flat-faced plates that clapped as the dough came through. That made the chapatis thinner and chewable.
“This ship can do about four weeks at sea without replenishment,” explained Suresh. “So crew comfort and recreation is essential”.
The dosa-maker in the galley turns out 500 dosas an hour. About 400 meals must be prepared in a day.
BY: SUJAN DUTTA(The Telegraph)

No comments:

Post a Comment