I’m pretty sure this is a ship few are aware of. Which is amazing, considering that when it joins service a few years from now, it’ll be one of the navy’s largest vessels — and one of the most advanced ever built in India. In June this year, the keel for the ship, designated VC 11184 at Visakhapatnam’s Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL), was laid. At 175 metres and 10,000 tons, it’ll be comparable in size to the INS Jalashwa and Deepak-class fleet tankers in service. But what is it?On Feb 25, 2013, after great hesitation, but prodded by the Department of Defence Production to take the lead in giving the decaying shipyard a chance, the Indian Navy signed up with HSL for a specialty vessel for ocean surveillance. Tantalisingly little is known about the what sort of ship this is — whether for routine hydrographic application, or more sensitive advanced radar duties and tracking of strategic weapons (missile range instrumentation as part of India’s ballistic missile defence shield etc) or otherwise. The images and schematics you see above happen to be the first available information on the ship, slated for delivery to the Indian Navy in two-three years.
What we do know is that the ship has been designed by Vik Sandvik’s India office out of Chennai. The only news report on the vessel describes it as required for ‘studies in oceans’.Brought under control of the Ministry of Defence in 2010, HSL has reeled from crippling financial problems that continue to threaten the shipyard, including its core business as a repair and refurbishment shipyard for ships and submarines. It’s a dire situation for HSL. Battling a paralysing financial situation and with no bank willing to help, the shipyard has had to dip into its ‘Refurbishment & Replacement of Machineries & Infrastructure (RRMI) funds’ just to make available the working capital to complete its shipbuilding projects, including the naval ship project revealed here.