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INS Imphal commissioned today: Its capabilities, and the strategic significance of Visakhapatnam class of destroyers

Context- INS Imphal (Pennant D68), the third ship in the quartet of Project 15B, which collectively constitutes the Visakhapatnam class stealth-guided missile destroyers, is scheduled for commissioning into the Indian Navy on Tuesday, December 26.

What is Project 15B?

  • From 2014 to 2016, the Indian Navy added three Kolkata class guided missile destroyers, built under Project ‘15A’, which included INS Kolkata, INS Kochi, and INS Chennai.
  • These were an upgrade from the Delhi class ships, commissioned between 1997 and 2001 under Project 15. All these vessels were constructed by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDSL), a key Indian Defence PSU.
  • In 2011, a contract was signed for Project ‘15B’ to construct advanced versions of the Kolkata class destroyers. The first ship, INS Visakhapatnam, was commissioned in November 2021, followed by INS Mormugao in December 2022.
  • The fourth ship, to be named INS Surat, was launched last year. These ships, designed by the Indian Navy’s Warship Design Bureau and built by MDSL, are named after major cities across India and are identified by the lead ship, INS Visakhapatnam.

The construction of Yard 12706, now INS Imphal

  • A ship’s life is marked by four key ceremonies: keel laying, launching, commissioning, and decommissioning. The keel laying ceremony, which signifies the start of the ship’s construction, is when the first modular component of the ship is placed in the dock. INS Imphal, also known as Yard Number 12706, had its keel laid on May 17, 2017.
  • The next significant event is the launching, which is when the ship is moved from the construction site into the water. Yard 12706 was launched on April 20, 2019. It embarked on its maiden sea trials on April 28 of the same year and completed a thorough schedule of trials in the harbor and at sea, leading to its delivery on October 20.
  • This process was completed in a record six months, the fastest for a ship of its size. The ship is set to be commissioned on Tuesday, marking its entry into active service.

Technological Characteristics and Armament of Visakhapatnam class

  • The Visakhapatnam class ships, four in total, measure 163 meters in length and 17.4 meters in width, with a displacement of 7,400 tonnes. For comparison, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, is 262 meters long, 62 meters wide, and displaces around 43,000 tonnes when fully loaded.
  • The ships are powered by a ‘combined gas and gas’ (COGAG) configuration that integrates four gas turbines, allowing a maximum speed of 30 knots and a range of 4000 nautical miles.
  • These ships are manned by a crew of approximately 350, including 50 officers and 250 sailors. They offer superior ergonomics and habitability in the accommodation and working areas compared to previous classes of destroyers.
  • The Visakhapatnam class destroyers are equipped with multiple fire zones, comprehensive battle damage control systems, and distributed power systems for enhanced survivability and reliability in extreme operational and conflict scenarios.
  • They also feature a total atmospheric control system (TACS) for protection against chemical, biological, and nuclear threats.
  • These ships are equipped with a state-of-the-art combat management system that can assess threats, create a tactical picture, and allocate resources accordingly. They also have a secure network for handling data from all sensors and weapons systems.
  • The armament of the Visakhapatnam class includes BrahMos surface-to-surface cruise missiles and vertically launched Barak-8 surface-to-air missiles for long-range engagement. The ship’s forward bow deck houses a 127 mm main gun and four AK-630 30mm guns for close-point engagement.
  • The ship is also equipped with indigenously developed 533 mm torpedo launchers and RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launchers. It can operate two multi-role helicopters, such as the Sea King or HAL Dhruv, and has a rail-less helicopter traversing system and a hangar facility.

Strategic Significance

  • Destroyers are a type of warship characterized by their high speed, agility, and endurance. They are designed to be integral components of naval formations such as fleets or carrier strike groups.
  • Modern destroyers, which are fast, streamlined, and hard to detect, primarily serve to protect these groups from short-range threats on the surface, in the air, and underwater.
  • Guided-missile destroyers, armed with guided missiles, are particularly effective in anti-aircraft, anti-surface, and anti-submarine warfare.
  • Due to their speed, maneuverability, and firepower, guided missile destroyers play a crucial role in various naval operations, particularly offensive ones. The Visakhapatnam class, a successor to the Kolkata class, incorporates feedback from the Navy and several new features.
  • Its state-of-the-art stealth capabilities give it the radar signature of a much smaller vessel, and a high degree of indigenous components provides a strategic advantage.
  • The Visakhapatnam class is considered one of the most advanced classes of ships in the Indian Navy. It can operate as an independent offensive platform, even outside of large formations.
  • Equipped with modern sensors and communication facilities, this class is a key asset in network-centric warfare, which involves the use of information technology and computer networking to coordinate various force elements in a conflict scenario.

Source- Indian Express

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