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First stealth warship launched

Mumbai, April 18: The country’s first stealth warship, Shivalik, was launched from the Mazagon dock here today.

Union defence minister George Fernandes, who was here to oversee the launch, however, tempered his praise for Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL), which has got the warship together.

Though MDL has done a commendable job, India still had a long way to go as far as naval war preparedness was concerned, Fernandes said.

Two other stealth warships are being prepared by the MDL. Defence experts said the “Shivalik stealth character diminishes physical signatures and gives the ship advantage of low profile in the eyes of enemy sensors, while retaining the element of surprise in action”.

Belonging to the Project 17 group, Shivalik and other warships will carry a more potent weapon package, experts said, adding that they would be powered by gas turbines and diesel engines to move at speeds of above 30 knots and will operate two large helicopters for surveillance and anti-submarine operations.

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Madhvendra Singh said the warship would have long-range surface-to-surface and medium-range surface-to-air missiles, as well as anti-missile defence technology, strategic search radars and sonar system for detecting and attacking submarines.

Fernandes surprised the gathering when he said that India’s maritime boundaries and its navy have always been neglected — since Independence and till even the recent Kargil war. “That is because we have always anticipated that aggressions against the country would be made from the land route,” the defence minister said.

“This fact has been highlighted by a report of the high-level committee on security measures that was set up after the Kargil intrusion,” he added.

Special attention has to be paid to the country’s maritime preparedness keeping in view the national security and illegal trafficking of arms and narcotics, Fernandes said.

Looking ahead to a time when India would be exporting naval defence paraphernalia, the defence minister said the country’s dockyards must strive to export defence technologies and productions. “It will be a remarkable achievement if we start exporting warships,” he said.

Emphasising on the need for projects to be completed on time, Fernandes said when the Shivalik project was envisaged in 1994, the cost was estimated at Rs 200 crore, but by the time the warship would finally be handed over to the navy in 2005 , it would cost around Rs 2,000 crore.

Singh, who was present with Fernandes, appealed to industrial houses to extend help in refurbishing the country’s navy. The naval chief said it was important for the country’s navy to be strong because “recent events have shifted the strategic focus of the world to north Arabian Sea. Oceans are more important than ever for national security, trade, energy and resources”.

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