On Saturday, when the INS Kolkata is commissioned into the Navy by the Prime Minister, the biggest and most powerful destroyer built by India will be missing basic weaponry.
It went into construction in 2003, but 11 years later, it is still not battle-worthy.
One of its primary weapons, a long-range Israel-built surface-to-air missile called the Barak 8 is still being developed, which means the INS Kolkata is vulnerable to attacks from enemy missiles.
A primary sensor – the towed array sonar – meant to detect submarines, has not been purchased after an Indian system couldn’t meet the Navy’s requirement and the process to acquire an imported system has been mired in controversy .
There’s also the fact that its main engines were supplied by Ukraine – a country at war – and the long-term availability of spares is a huge concern.
The story of the INS Kolkata is like deciding if a glass is half full or half empty. It is one of the finest examples of Indian engineering – but it’s a ship still years away from being the destroyer the Navy wants and desperately needs.
The INS Kolkata has a displacement of over 7,500 tonnes. It is 163 metres long and can travel at speeds above 30 knots.
“We are still a developing nation and we depend on many inputs of ship -building from other countries so as the technology develops here, as more and more sensors and weapons get developed here in India … these issues will get sorted out on their own. We are not at that stage yet,” said Rear Admiral (retd) RK Sherawat, who was the top man at the Mazagaon Docks Limited and supervised the construction of the ship. (Watch)
Two more ships of the Kolkata class enter the fleet next year, but till these are equipped with their planned sensors and weaponry, they too will remain unfit to perform the role they were designed for.