Kolkata-based defence shipyard Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) signed a Rs 6,311-crore contract with the defence ministry on Monday to build eight anti-submarine warfare shallow water craft (ASWSWCs) for the Indian Navy.
In parallel, Kerala state shipyard, Cochin Shipyard will build another eight ASWSWCs for the same price. These 16 vessels are being built in two shipyard simultaneously to shorten the delivery period.
The ASWSWCs will fill a worrying capability gap in the navy: the ability to detect enemy submarines in the Arabian Sea, where the unusually shallow sea bed reflects sonar signals emitted by submarine hunting vessels, masking the signals reflected off the enemy submarine, and making it difficult to detect.
The ASWSWCs are equipped with sophisticated sonar, with an algorithm that differentiates the signals reflected off the enemy submarine from those bouncing off the sea bed.
These vessels will also have the ability to sprint fast for short bursts in order to maintain contact with a submarine it detects; as well as sophisticated data link networks for sharing information about the enemy submarine with friendly anti-submarine warships and aircraft.
GRSE says these vessels can also be used for search and rescue operations and, in their secondary role, for laying and detecting underwater mines.
With the Pakistani Navy already possessing three sophisticated French submarines and in the process of procuring four Chinese submarines, the navy has been pushing for ASWSWCs. Of even greater concern is Pakistan’s fleet of an estimated six miniature Italian submarines — called the Chariot — which can operate very effectively in shallow waters.
“It was a huge boost for team GRSE when the shipyard was declared successful in the competitive bid for design, construction and supply of eight ASWSWCs,” stated the shipyard on Monday, noting that this was a competitive procurement in which all public and private shipyards were permitted to complete.
After the ASWSWC tender was issued in April 2014, it has taken five years to sign a contract. The first vessel is to be delivered within 42 months from the contract, that is by October 2022. After that, GRSE must deliver two more ASWSWCs annually, completing delivery by April 2026.
GRSE is simultaneously building three stealth frigates for the navy under Project 17A, completing an order for four ASW corvettes under Project 28, while also building a range of other vessels — landing craft, fast patrol vessels and survey vessels for the navy and coast guard.
The ASWSWCs displace 750 tonnes, can sprint at 25 knots and are crewed by a complement of 57 sailors.