Navy seals 45,000-cr deal: seven warships

India has cleared its largest ever indigenous defence contract worth Rs 45,000 crore to manufacture seven advanced stealth frigates for the Navy at shipyards in Kolkata and Mumbai.

The P17A warship project, which will be India's most advanced and stealthy frigates, has been cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Friday.

Sources said that brushing aside a request by the Navy that two of the indigenously designed frigates may be manufactured abroad, the DAC has decided that all seven warships will be manufactured in India by the Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai (MDL) and the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata.

The Defence Ministry has allocated a budget of Rs 45,000 crore for the project and the work will be divided between the two shipyards. The P17A frigates will be even more advanced than the P17 Shivalik class warships that are currently being inducted by the Navy.

This will also be the first time that the two shipyards will construct warships in the modern way of modular manufacturing. The frigates will be put together using 300-ton blocks that will be fitted together, similar to the construction style being used to manufacture the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) in Kochi.

This very concept of modular manufacturing had caused a divide between the Navy and the two shipyards with the former insisting that two ships be manufactured abroad so that Indian ship workers could absorb the required technology.

In 2006, the Navy had even issued a Request for Information (RFI) ¿ a prerequisite to a tender ¿ to international ship manufacturers including French DCNS, Italian Fincantieri, American firms Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gruman besides shipyards in Russia and Korea to manufacture the frigates.

However, the two Indian shipyards had stood firm on their stand that all the frigates could be manufactured indigenously and there was no need to outsource even one of the warships. One argument put forward was that it would not be wise to manufacture the ship abroad as it incorporated advanced indigenously developed stealth features.

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