The commissioning of the latest warship, INS Imphal, a part of Operation 15B, took place at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai on December 26, 2023. It is the third in the Project-15B class of Guided Missile Stealth Destroyers, sanctioned in 2011 at a cost of Rs 29,700 crore, designed by the Indian Navy’s Warship Design Bureau, and built by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, Mumbai.
The keel for INS Imphal was laid on May 19, 2017, and the ship was launched into the water on April 20, 2019. After its maiden sea trials on April 28, 2023, the ship underwent a comprehensive schedule of trials in the harbour and at sea, leading to its delivery to the Indian Navy on October 20, 2023, within a record time frame of six months. This achievement is unprecedented for a ship of its size. INS Imphal follows the commissioning of its predecessors, INS Visakhapatnam and INS Mormugao, on November 21, 2021, and December 18, 2022, respectively.
Operation 15B, also known as Project-15B, marks a significant advancement in India’s naval capabilities. This project focuses on the construction of four cutting-edge stealth-guided missile destroyers. These ships are among the most technologically advanced Guided Missile Destroyers in the world, equipped with state-of-the-art weapon and sensor systems, advanced stealth features, and a high level of automation.
The project undertakes the construction of four ships: INS Visakhapatnam, Mormugao, Imphal, and Surat. These ships are being built at Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in Mumbai. The contract for their construction was signed in 2011.
The first ship, INS Visakhapatnam (D 66), had its keel laid in October 2013 and was launched in April 2015. The second ship, INS Mormugao (D 67), had its keel-laying ceremony in June 2015 and was launched at the MDL shipyard in Mumbai in September 2016.
On May 17, 2022, a significant milestone was achieved in the history of indigenous warship building as two frontline warships of the Indian Navy, Surat, a Project 15B Destroyer, and Udaygiri, a Project 17A Frigate, were launched simultaneously at Mazagon Docks Limited, Mumbai. The honourable Raksha Mantri, Shri Rajnath Singh, graced both events as the Chief Guest.
The fourth ship of Project 15B Destroyers, known as ‘Surat’, marks a major transformation for the P15A (Kolkata Class) Destroyers. It is named after the commercial capital of Gujarat and the second largest commercial hub in western India, following Mumbai. Surat city has a rich history in maritime and shipbuilding, with vessels constructed there in the 16th and 18th centuries known for their remarkable longevity of over 100 years.
The most recent stealth-guided missile destroyer of the Indian Navy, ‘INS Imphal,’ was commissioned at the naval dockyard in Mumbai in the presence of Defense Minister Rajnath Singh. It holds the record for the shortest duration for the construction and trials of any indigenous destroyer. The keel was laid on May 19, 2017, and the vessel was launched into the water on April 20, 2019.
About INS Imphal
With a length of 164 meters and a displacement of 7500 tons, Project 15B destroyers are among the largest surface combatants built indigenously. The ship’s weaponry, sensors, and machinery are predominantly indigenous, aligning with the Indian Navy’s commitment to the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat. INS Imphal is a versatile platform capable of blue water operations across all dimensions of naval warfare – air, surface, underwater, and electronic. Its state-of-the-art weapon-sensor fit, combined with advanced network-centric capabilities, positions it as a potent Command Platform for fleet operations. Key capabilities include:
(a) Armed with advanced Surface-to-Surface BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles for precision strikes against enemy ships and shore installations.
(b) Barak-8 Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missiles for area air defence against various air threats.
(c) 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount and four AK 630 Close Range guns for defeating surface and air threats at closer ranges.
The Role and Geopolitical Importance of Operation 15B
Operation 15B, also referred to as Project-15B, marks a significant advancement in India’s naval capabilities. This endeavour entails the construction of four cutting-edge stealth-guided missile destroyers. These vessels serve as a testament to India’s expanding naval prowess and exemplify the nation’s strategic commitment to safeguarding its maritime interests.
The role of these destroyers in protecting India’s extensive coastline and offshore islands cannot be overstated, as they bolster the Indian Navy’s strength. Given the current geopolitical landscape, the Indian Navy’s responsibilities have been further amplified, encompassing the safeguarding of a vast coastline spanning 7516 kilometres, approximately 1100 offshore islands, and a 2.01 million square kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The P-15B class destroyers will assume a crucial role in the expansive Indo-Pacific region, solidifying the Indian Navy’s influence. These guided missile destroyers are deployed for a range of responsibilities, including escort duties alongside the Carrier Battle Group, ensuring the protection of the naval fleet against aerial, surface, and underwater threats.
One of the notable geopolitical advantages offered by these destroyers is the heightened naval presence they will establish in the Indo-Pacific region. Given the strategic significance of the Indo-Pacific in global geopolitics, the role played by these destroyers will undoubtedly position the Indian Navy as a formidable force.
Furthermore, these destroyers are instrumental in safeguarding India’s aircraft carriers, which are pivotal assets for projecting power. They are deployed to fulfil various responsibilities, including escort duties alongside the Carrier Battle Group, effectively countering any potential threats from the air, surface, or underwater domains.
The Project 15B or ‘Visakhapatnam’ class destroyers continue the legacy of their esteemed predecessors, Project 15 (Delhi 1 Class) and Project 15A (Kolkata class). These ships, belonging to Projects 15, 15A, and 15B, hold the distinction of being the largest warships designed and built by the Indian Navy at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd., with each iteration showcasing enhanced capabilities and increased indigenous content.
In 2011, the Indian Navy signed a contract for four Project 15B stealth-guided missile destroyers. The first two ships of this class, IN Ships Visakhapatnam and Mormugao, were commissioned in November 2021 and December 2022 respectively. Yard 12706 (Imphal), the third ship, was delivered to the Indian Navy on October 20, 2023, and preparations are underway for the commencement of trials for the fourth ship, Surat.
The Directorate of Naval Design (DND) has successfully developed both 15B and P17A ships in-house, showcasing their expertise in warship design. During the construction phase at the Shipyard, a significant portion of equipment and systems orders, approximately 75%, have been placed with indigenous firms, including MSMEs. This approach not only strengthens India’s domestic defence industry but also reduces reliance on foreign suppliers, thereby bolstering India’s self-reliance in critical defence technology.
These ships possess advanced stealth features, state-of-the-art weapon/sensor packages, and a high level of automation, making them a formidable force in the maritime domain. Their presence acts as a deterrent to potential adversaries, contributing to regional stability.
The ships of Operation 15B are not only technological marvels but also strategic assets that enhance India’s naval capabilities and demonstrate its commitment to safeguarding its maritime interests. This exemplifies the true spirit of ‘Atmanirbharta’ in our nation.