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First stealth warship launched

By Arunkumar Bhatt

MUMBAI April 18. As the naval band played the marching tune of "Sare Jehan Se" and the crowd lustily cheered, India's first stealth warship was launched here today.

Before launching the indigenously designed and built frigate, Kaumudi Kumari, wife of the Navy Chief, Madhvendra Singh, applied a `tilak' on the ship's hull and broke a coconut on it. She named the frigate, "Shivalik" and pressed the launch trigger.

The deck of the "Shivalik" was lined with buntings made of the tricolour and its builders, workers and technicians at the Mazagon Docks were cheered by the naval and civilian dignitaries led by the Defence Minister, George Fernandes.

They released balloons of the tricolour. The "Shivalik" will acquire the initials `INS' (Indian Naval Ship) when it gets commissioned into the Navy, December 2005. It will undergo sea trials and fitting of weapons and other machinery. Now, the frigate only has the hull and the propulsion engine. After commissioning, it will undergo extensive trials on its systems onboard to ensure that they worked in tandem . Six months of trials will make the ship battleworthy.

By then Mazagon Docks would have launched two more sister ships of the "Shivalik" to be called "Sahyadri" and "Satpuda". The three frigates are of the design called Project 17 class which is unofficially called the New Nilgiri Class, named after the peaks and mountains.

The "Shivalik" is the lowest of the Himalayan ranges that extends 2500 km, offering beautiful scenic points and spots for skiing and rafting. This range and the ocean are part of the crest of the "INS Shivalik" with the Ramadao sword, a native of the range.

Mr. Fernandes said three more frigates of this class were on the cards. It was reported earlier that the stealth frigates are going to be the mainstay of the Indian Navy's surface combatants and the plan was to build a dozen of them.

The ``Shivalik'' and its sisters are 143 metre long and 16.9 metre wide (at beam). Their stealth character diminishes physical signatures — radar, infra red and sound — making it difficult for an enemy to detect and attack them.

For this, their decks are angled, the noise making machinery and equipment are placed on cushioned mounts and heat emission is controlled.

These frigates when fully armed displace 4,900 tonnes, much smaller than the Delhi class of destroyers, their weapons package is far more potent. These include anti-air and anti-submarine missiles and guns and also long range strike weapons.

The Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Madhvendra Singh, talking to reporters later, refused to identify the weapons.

Commodore Kang, chairman and managing director of the Mazagon Docks, said the sanctioned cost of the Project 17 frigates was Rs. 700 crores apiece at the prices of 1994 and one had to recalculate the cost on completion. He expected the figure to go up to Rs. 2,000 crores.

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