11 June 2016
Builder's Navy 4.12.2005
The existence of an ancient sea-faring, shipbuilding and repair tradition in India can be traced back to around 2300 BC. It is believed that the first tidal dock of the world was built at Lothal during the Harappan Civilisation, near the present day Mangrolharbour on the Gujarat coast. The Rig Vedas mentions Varuna, who has knowledge of the ocean routes. It describes naval expeditions, which used hundred-oared ships to subdue other kingdoms. The Atharva Veda also mentions boats, which were spacious, well constructed and comfortable.
The commemorative postage stamp on the Builder’s Navy depicts a Leander class Frigate (Udaygiri), a Kora class ship and a Delhi class ship.
Even in the pre independence India, Indian shipbuilders continued to hold their own well into the nineteenth century. Many Indian built ships were inducted into the Royal Navy, i.e. HMS Hindostan in 1795, the frigate Cornwallis in 1800, HMS Camel in 1806 and HMS Ceylon in 1808. Another landmark was the construction of the Bombay Dock, which was completed in 1735 and is in use even today in the Naval Dockyard at Fort Bombay.
The Navy of independent India made a modest beginning with half a dozen destroyers and frigates, a few mine sweepers along with a corvette and a survey vessel inherited from the Royal Indian Navy. The creation of a Corps of Naval Constructors in 1954, setting up of a Central Design Office (CDO) in 1964 and the decision to construct Leander class frigates under license at Mazagaon Dock Ltd. in early sixties marked the early steps of modern warship building in the country. The Directorate of Naval Ship Design, established in 1970, followed by Directorates of Ship Production and Submarine Design has metamorphosed into the controllerate of Warships Production and Acquisitions at Naval Headquarters. The Indian Navy’s resolute pursuit of indigenous design efforts, combined with the relentless endeavours of our shipyards in construction of warships and submarines have laid the foundation of what is proudly termed a “Builder’s Navy”.
From a modest beginning of designing small vessels such as Ocean Going Tugs, Landing Craft Utility, Seaward Defence Boats and Survey Crafts, the naval designers graduated to designing of Landing Ship Tank, Sandhayak class Survey Vessels and Training ship (INS Tir) productionised by the three defence PSUs, Mazagaon Docks Ltd., Mumbai, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata and Goa Shipyard. In the mid eighties, designing of missile corvettes, Delhi class Missile Destroyers and Brahmaputra class Missile frigates posed many challenges, which were all successfully overcome. The production of two German type 209 submarines in MDL under license between 1984 and 1994 was another hallmark achievement. The Navy is presently engaged in the design and production of the modern Shivalik class multi-purpose Frigates incorporating latest design concepts and stealth features.
Along with indigenous ship building efforts, development of indigenous machinery, equipment, systems, weapons and materials has also been progressed. Initially, this was done by establishing collaborations between foreign manufacturers and Indian companies and subsequently developing our own vendor base, involving both public and private industries. These efforts have resulted in increasing the indigenous content of our warships and submarines to over 70%.