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Eat dosa, sink enemy

New Delhi, April 21: India’s first warship with a chapati-maker and a dosa-maker on board is scheduled to be commissioned next week, signalling that the naval headquarters has decided to put crew-comfort on its list of priorities along with firepower.

The modular furnishings in crew quarters — designed for the navy by a private company in the business — will also allow for modifications should the government, at a later date, change policy and allow women on board warships. Women’s quarters would have attached toilets.

The navy’s older warships are either of Soviet/Russian vintage or based on designs that discounted comfort for the crew (except for the senior officers). This meant that crew often had to “hot bunk” (share a bunk) in beds tucked into nooks and crannies that were available after the machinery and weapons were mounted.

The INS Shivalik (Project 17) is the first “stealth” frigate — so called because it is expected to be more difficult to detect by enemy radar — to be made in the country, at the Mazagon Docks Limited in Mumbai. The vessel’s architecture has been conceived by the navy’s own design directorate.

“We have modular accommodation for the crew which will mean more comfortable and hygienic living conditions,” the director-general of the Naval Design Directorate, Rear Admiral K.N. Vaidyanathan, said here. Vaidyanathan has been with the project since its designing began in 2000.

The chapati-maker in the fully air-conditioned galley (kitchen) will turn out nearly 500 rotis per hour. The ship will have a crew of about 250, including 35 officers. The first commanding officer is Captain B. Suresh. In the navy’s other (older) warships, the crew includes a larger complement of cooks and helpers than the Shivalik will need.

Like every other piece of equipment on board, the chapati-maker and the dosa-maker have been configured to remain steady despite the rolling and the pitching of the ship as it sails and conducts manoeuvres.

Vaidyanathan said the new interiors for the crew would be a standard in the warships that are being built now. Among them are two more frigates of the Shivalik class (the INS Satpura and the INS Sahyadri) and the larger destroyers of the INS Kolkata class (three).

The INS Kolkata is now moored in the Mumbai docks— it was put out to sea because of a shortage of berths — and is awaiting trials before being commissioned in 2012.

The Shivalik was delayed partly because the Obama administration last year asked the US firm supplying the gas turbines for it to wait for a go-ahead. India negotiated that roadblock and the frigate now has a Cobog (combined diesel or gas) propulsion system capable of powering it to 30 knots (more than 50 kmph).

At the heart of the 5,600-tonne frigate is a ship-wide integrated data network and a combat management system. Every surface of the ship is “slanted” to deflect radar signals.

Commodore Anil Kumar Saxena, the project director, said stealth features also incorporated technology to suppress heat emitted from the engines, noise from the propellers and the vibration of the machinery. The deck, on which the guns are mounted and the missile-silos embedded, is fully covered.

The Shivalik, whose keel was laid in 2002, is estimated to have cost Rs 2,300 crore. The entire project of three frigates could cost more than Rs 8,000 crore. The second vessel is scheduled for commissioning in November this year and the third in mid-2011.

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