NGMV – the key to Indian Naval Dominance
NGMV i.e next generation missile vessels is an Indian naval programme to make fast attack and powerful corvettes that will supersede the Kora class and Abhay class corvettes. The need for such corvettes is in alignment with the requirement of the Indian Navy to achieve thier ambition of having 200 ships. The last Kora class corvette for the Indian Navy INS Karmuk was commissioned in August 2004. Therefore, the Kora class has already been in service for 16+ years. Hence it is time to act for a suitable replacement which can be commissioned within the coming 5 years, optimistically speaking.
RFI for the NGMV
The RFI for the NGMV was issued by the MoD under the “Buy Indian and Make Indian” category for 6 missile corvettes in January 2015. Let us take a look at some key requirements of this programme as enlisted in the RFI.
Surface Warfare Capabilities
As per the RFI, under the capabilities block, it is mentioned as surface warfare. This indicates use of anti-ship missiles such as Brahmos-NG. Brahmos-NG is shorter than the base variant by 3 meters and this is a very good advantage for small corvettes where space is a constraint. Since India is working on an extended range of Brahmos along with Russia ever since MTCR entry, it is quite possible NGMVs would have those variants.
As per point 18 (a) in RFI, “The ship should carry a minimum of 08 SSMs”. This indicates that, a minimum of 8 Brahmos is to be accomodated.
When it comes to SAM, especially PDMS( Point defence missile system) naturally we would think of Barak systems since they are proven technology. As per point 18 (b) the PDMS must be capable of “providing credible near 360-degree anti missile defence (AMD) coverage to the ship. It should be able to engage sea-skimming missiles, flying 3-5 m above sea level, upto a max speed of Mach 3.” This means the SAM should be capable of engaging missiles like naval variant of YJ-12 that achieves speeds upto Mach 3 in its terminal phase. Not much is known with regard to sea-skimming / flight altitude details of YJ-12, but even if it does, then the SAM should be able to take it out.
Astra programme has been making great strides recently. 2 VL-SRSAM were recently test fired on February 22, 2021 and both hit the targets with pin-point accuracy. Astra is capable of achieving Mach 4.5. Hence in that regard VL-Astra fits the bill and could replace the Barak-1 as SRSAM in the NGMV.
MR Gun System
Conventionally Indian Navy has used the Oto Melera Naval Gun. As per this RFI, the gun should have stealth features with range not less than 15 km. It is quite likely Indian Navy would stick to this, although BAE naval Mk45 Gun is also a good contender.
Well when it comes to CIWS, AK-630 is the obvious choice. There does not seem to be any deviation from what has been mentioned in the RFI.
In addition to this VSHORAD possibly MANPADS, chaff countermeasures, small arms and LIMO systems would also be present.
The RFI clearly states “low RADAR, acoustic, magnetic and IR signature”. Hence it is quite clear the profiling of these vessels would have to be stealthy to reduce the RCS. This definitely means some kind of acoustic reduction strategies through the use of shock mounts and vibration isolators. As with regard to reduced IR signature, there would be control of engine exhaust through use of supression systems so as to minimize the heat signature.
Various NGMV designs
CSL, GRSE, GSL and L&T responded to this RFI. And very recently CSL emerged as the L-1 bidder. Let us take a look at the various designs submitted by these firms.
Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9LLAug7eII&t=119s for our video coverage.
The GSL Design is a modified version of Russia’s Project 22160 patrol ship. The design is very stealthy with concealed SAM and SSMs within the decks.
The GRSE design also incorporates stealth features. The Naval gun is at the front. The RHIBs are present amidships on both port and starboard side. The CIWS is kept aft of the RHIBs.
The CSL which emerged as the L-1 bidder has a very unique design on many aspects. There is a total of 4 slant Brahmos with 2 each on port and starboard side. In addition to this 2 missiles can be seen atop the bridge which seems to be like Barak-1. Apart from that 2 missiles in vertical configuration can be seen right behind the naval gun. We speculate this to be 2 more Barak-1 in a vertical configuration. The remaining 4 white circles are nothing but bitts.
Aft of those one can see RBU for anti-submarine operations. Further aft we see the radar systems, the citadel and a RHIB. Right behind the citadel we see 5 cylindrical tubes. These definitely are not any weaponry but perhaps could be for miscellaneous purposes.
To the aft of this, we see 4 CIWS placed to ensure a 360 degree close range defence. To the aft of this we can see an 8 cell VLS launcher and the missile perhaps looks like Brahmos.
And finally to the aft we have the helipad. It is also quite noticable of what looks like a small runway. Why this being kept is still not clear, especially raising a possibility whether a small UAV can also be operated.
Hence based on design we can conclude the major armament as:
- 4 slant Brahmos 2 each on port and starboard side + 8 cell VLS at aft (> min 8 SSMs)
- 2 slant Barak-1/Astra + 2 vertical launch Astra (SRSAM)
- RBU (anti-submarine operations)
- 4 CIWS (ensures 360 degree coverage)
- VSHORAD (probably MANPAD)
NGMV and the future
The NGMVs are designed for speeds in excess of 35 knots and hence the idea is to have small fast attack vessels with precision missiles. A contract for 6 NGMVs worth Rs.10000 crore has been awarded to CSL as of now. However considering the various aging class of corvettes Indian Navy has, this number may have to be increased.
The NGMVs can be turned into an LCS programme with subsequent vessels being configured for different roles. 6 NGMVs mean 72 Brahmos, thereby increasing the deterence capabilities of the Indian Navy. The NGMVs would definitely be increased in number going forward upwards of 10 to 12. That would provide distributed lethality given the very accurate and very low CEP of 1 m for the Brahmos. This would be an important part of Navy’s ambition to be a fleet of 200 ships.
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