INS Kolkata, Biggest Naval Destroyer, Still Not Battle-Ready

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The INS Kolkata is 163 metres long and can travel at speeds above 30 knots.


Mumbai:  On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioned INS Kolkata at the Naval base in Mumbai.

But the 7,500 ton warship - intended as the country's  biggest and most powerful guided missile-destroyer -is missing basic weaponry, which leaves it virtually defenseless against incoming missiles and submarines.

The ship went into construction in 2003, but 11 years later, it is still not battle-worthy.

One of its primary weapons, a long-range Israel-built surface-to-air missile called the Barak NG is still being developed, which means the INS Kolkata is vulnerable to attacks from enemy missiles. The Barak NG is designed to detect an incoming missile or aircraft 70-100 km away and intercept it up to a range of 500 metres.

India's Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) signed with Israel for  $ 350 million to co-develop the missile, but the boosters being built in India, which are meant to propel the missile at the speed speed of 2 mach (twice the speed of sound), have failed. INS Kolkata will therefore be making do with an inferior version of the Barack-1Missile which has a much shorter range - about 10- 12 km.

The INS Kolkata  also does not the technology to detect submarines. The Active Electronic Towed Array Sonar (ATAS) is attached to a cable that is fixed to the rear of the ship. The sonar is submerged and towed. It emits low-frequency waves that are designed to detect enemy submarines.

"The lack of ATAS is an unfortunate void," Assistant Chief of Naval Staff  Rear Admiral AB Singh said.

A  fresh prototype has been developed and " is fitted on an Indian warship in Kochi" but we have to wait for the Monsoon to be over before we can test it,"  said Assistant Chief of Naval Staff  Rear Admiral  A B Singh.  If that doesn't work, the the Indian Navy will have to begin the process of buying the technology from a foreign vendor.

There's also the fact that the INS Kolkata's  main engines were supplied by Ukraine - a country at war - and the long-term availability of spares is a huge concern.

The story of the INS Kolkata is like deciding if a glass is half full or half empty. It is one of the finest examples of Indian engineering - but it's a ship still years away from being the destroyer the Navy wants and desperately needs.

"We are still a developing nation and we depend on many inputs of ship -building from other countries so as the technology develops here, as more and more sensors and weapons get developed here in India ... these issues will get sorted out on their own. We are not at that stage yet," said Rear Admiral (retd) RK Sherawat, who was the top man at the Mazagaon Docks Limited and supervised the construction of the ship. (Watch)

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