Fire on Navy ship: Visakhapatnam is first of cutting-edge, indigenously-designed destroyers
A Navy warship being built at Mumbai’s Mazagon dock caught fire Friday —the same day when the remains of 13 Indian Air Force personnel killed in the AN-32 crash were being transported for the last rites.
The extent of damage on the under-construction naval ship, Visakhapatnam, is still being ascertained, with an inquiry launched by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL), the defence public sector undertaking building it, but one civilian worker was killed and another suffered burn injuries.
The fire incident is the latest among a slew of accidents that has plagued the Western Naval Command over the years. Six years ago, in August 2013, the kilo-class submarine INS Sindhurakshak exploded and sank at Bombay’s naval dockyard, killing 18 Navy personnel.
The report of the board of inquiry into the accident remains classified.
As this latest accident is investigated, ThePrint looks at the history of the Visakhapatnam, which is named after the coastal southern city that serves as one of the important operational commands of the Navy.
What is naval ship Visakhapatnam?
Visakhapatnam is the first stealth destroyer of the Navy, being built under its Project 15B, which seeks to tap indigenous design to build “the most technologically-advanced guided missile destroyers of the world”.
The ship was to be commissioned in the Indian Navy by 2018, but several delays saw the deadline being pushed to 2021.
An advanced version of Kolkata-class ships, Visakhapatnam is the first of P15-B’s indigenously-designed stealth destroyers. Two other guided-missile destroyers are being built under 15B, Mormugao and Imphal, which are scheduled for commissioning at later dates.
The P15-B destroyers will incorporate new design, concepts for improved survivability, sea- keeping, stealth and manoeuvrability, according to the Navy.
The ship will have advanced stealth features, achieved through the shaping of the hull and use of radar-transparent deck fittings, which make these ships difficult to detect.
“These ships will be equipped to carry and operate two multiple role helicopters,” a government press release stated in 2015.
These ships are also packed with an array of state-of-the-art weapons and sensors, including vertically-launched missile systems for long-distance engagement of shore- and sea-based targets, and a high degree of automation.
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Commissioning can get delayed
Friday’s fire, however, has sparked fears that the commissioning of Visakhapatnam will be further delayed, but the exact extent can’t be known until the damage is determined.
Vice-admiral Shekhar Sinha (Retd), who commanded the Western Naval Command from 2012 to 2014, told ThePrint that fire incidents on under-construction ships are not uncommon.
“The shipyard is strewn with combustible material, and ongoing welding and cutting work often leads to fire,” he said. “Also, being under construction, the internal fire fighting system of the ship may not have been operational. So, they have to rely on external fire-fighting systems, which has its own challenges,” he added.
“The investigation needs to be completed. If the compartments are burnt or there are other major damages, then the commissioning could be delayed for sometime,” he said, “There are multiple checks involved before it is commissioned and some delay is acceptable when it is undergoing a thorough inspection.”
Sinha said investigators will get to the bottom of the matter and establish what kind of action is needed to avoid recurrence.
Source:- The Print