-By Bobby Yadav
India has a coastline of about 7,500 km and an exclusive economic zone of over 2 million sq km. It is endowed with abundant oceanic wealth, including a large number of island territories and vast seabed area. Over 97% of the country’s trade is carried by sea, making a strong navy essential for national security. To reduce reliance on foreign nations for shipbuilding and maintenance, India approved the P-15B or Visakhapatnam-class destroyer project in 2009. This involved the procurement of four 6,800-ton destroyers to be built by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL). The design was based on the Kolkata-class destroyer. Since MDL was the only Indian ship builder capable of building ships in India during that time, no bidding was done.
The contract for the construction of the four warships was signed on January 28, 2011, at an estimated cost of INR 29,643.74 crore. Two of the four destroyers, INS Visakhapatnam and INS Mormugao, are already in active service with the Indian Navy, having been commissioned on November 21, 2021, and December 24, 2022, respectively. Project 15B will mark its completion by 2024 as expected. INS Imphal has already been delivered to the Indian Navy and is scheduled to be commissioned before the end of 2023.
It is the third Visakhapatnam-class stealth guided missile destroyer of the Indian Navy and was launched on April 20, 2019. The ship was named in recognition of the Indian soldiers who fought the Battle of Imphal during World War II and is the first Indian Navy ship to be named after a northeastern state of the country.
The Visakhapatnam-class destroyers are a significant upgrade over the previous Kolkata class, incorporating stealth features, improved automation, and state-of-the-art weaponry and sensors. The class is also notable for its use of indigenous equipment and systems, reflecting India’s growing self-reliance in the defense sector.
The commissioning of Imphal will bring a major milestone for the Indian Navy. The class is a valuable addition to the Indian Navy’s fleet and will play a vital role in safeguarding the country’s maritime interests.
How Imphal boosts Indian Naval strength
INS Imphal is one of the most technologically advanced warships in the world, equipped with state-of-the-art weapons and sensors. It was built and completed sea trials in the shortest time as compared to any indigenous navy ship in India, and has an impressive 75% indigenous content.
Carrying capacity: 2 helicopters (HAL Dhruv or Sea King Mk 42B)
Displacement: 7,400 tonnes
Speed: Over 30 knots (56 km/h)
Endurance: 45 days
Crew: 300 (50 officers + 250 sailors)
- DRDO Shakti EW suite (equipped with ESM/ECM and Radar fingerprinting system)
- DRDO Nayan COMINT suite
- 4 Kavach decoy launchers
- 2 Maareech torpedo countermeasures systems
- Anti-air warfare: 4 x 8-cell VLS (Vertical Launch System) for a total of 32 Barak 8 SAM missiles
- Anti-surface warfare: 2 x 8-cell VLS for 16 BrahMos anti-ship missiles
- Anti-submarine warfare: 4 x 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes and 2 RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launchers
- 1 OTO MELARA 76 mm naval gun
- 4 AK-630M CIWS ( Close In Weapon System – usually consists of a combination of radars, computers, and rapid-firing multiple-barrel rotary cannons placed on a rotating turret.)
- 2 OFT 12.7 mm M2 stabilized remote controlled guns
It is worth noting that INS Imphal, is the first Indian warship with separate accommodation for women sailors,which is a significant step in the direction of gender equality. Assigning women sailors on INS Imphal will mark a new era of gender equality and inclusivity in the Indian Navy.
Although women officers were first deployed on Indian Navy warships in 1997, it was not until 2021 that they were assigned to warships again. Since then, the number of women officers on warships has grown steadily and with the induction of 273 women below officer rank into the Indian Navy on March 28, 2023, under the Agnipath Recruitment Scheme which marked a historic moment for the Indian Navy.
Indigenously designed, built and induction of women sailors on Imphal is a welcome development and a testament to the Indian Navy’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. INS Imphal is a valuable addition to the Indian Navy’s fleet and will play a vital role in safeguarding the country’s maritime interests. It is a sign of a progressive and forward-thinking organization that is committed to unleashing the full potential of its workforce.