Indian 15B Project Navy Destroyers—Too Little, Too Late
Creation of a batch of destroyers under project 15A and the recent launching of the first destroyer in the series 15B are undoubtedly a sign of success of the Indian defense industry.
India is making progress in its endeavor to emerge as a formidable military-industrial power. However, a comparison of these construction programmes of large destroyers with similar Chinese programmes clearly demonstrates that attempts to maintain parity in the naval race with China are potentially ruinous for India at least for now, says Vasily Kashin, expert at the Center for Strategic and Technological Analysis.
Destroyers of the Kolkata class and Improved Kolkata class (Projects 15A and 15B), which include the recently Launched INS Visakhapatnam, are well armed.
They are equipped with 16 powerful supersonic anti-ship missiles Brahmos developed jointly with Russia, and air defense systems Barak NG produced together with Israel.
These ships have radars and electronic equipment of Israeli and Russian origin. More than 65% of the cost of INS Visakhapatnam is covered by Indian equipment and materials. However, basically these are low-tech components, including steel for the body of the ship. India has launched one destroyer in the project 15A, is completing the construction of two more, and is planning to build a total of 4 destroyers in the Project 15B. However, recent publications on the theme “Beware of China” are an exaggeration, says Vasily Kashin.
Latest Indian destroyers can be considered roughly equivalent to the Chinese ships designed under the project 052C. The first such destroyer “Lanzhou” was inducted into the South China Fleet 10 years ago in 2005. Ships of the project 052C are equipped with radars with active phased antenna arrays. The Chinese ship also carries more anti-aircraft missiles, which have a longer range. Anti-ship weaponry may be weaker than in the Indian ships, but with the advent of China’s new generation of supersonic cruise missiles like YJ-18, it can be reinforced at the next upgrade.
Thus, we are talking about an approximately ten-year lag behind China. But in fact the situation is even worse. 052C are almost entirely Chinese-built ships. The first few still carried Ukrainian turbines, just like the Indian destroyers, but since then China has mastered independent production of such turbines in Harbin.
But the project 052C is yesterday. Ongoing at present is the construction of a series of at least 12 destroyers in the project 052D, the first of which became part of the Chinese navy last year. These new-generation ships are equipped with multi-functional 64-cell vertical launch devices, modeled on modern American destroyers. They have even more perfect electronic equipment and can carry supersonic missiles YJ-18.
Chinese successes are mainly based on their indigenous industry, while India continues to depend on foreign suppliers and also has limited budget allocations. At present, India does not have the ability to participate in a full-scale naval race with China.
Its only advantage is an easier access to foreign military technology than China. But this is not enough for success. Unable to respond to the Chinese naval power with a symmetrical growth, India will have to find its own unique asymmetric ways of solving the problem to maintain its naval supremacy in the Indian Ocean.