India has taken a decision to go forward with a South Korean shipyard for the construction of eight minesweepers for the Indian Navy. India has been on a quest to replace its ageing minesweeping ships in the fleet for a while and the Indian Defence Ministry will soon place the order. The Indian Navy wants the minesweepers to be an important element of its blue-water navy for the protection of Indian interests from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.
The Indian Defence Ministry has finalized South Korean firm Kanganam Corporation since it emerged as the lowest bidder for building the Mine Counter-Measures Vessels (MCMV) or minesweepers. Minesweepers are specialised warships capable of detonating sea mines. Locating mines is done by high-definition sonar and the mines are mainly neutralized with a remote-controlled underwater vehicle. MCMVs usually combine the roles of mine sweepers and mine hunters and belong in between these two types of vessels. The MCMVs will be capable of operating in areas of naval interest to locate, classify, sweep, hunt and neutralize all types of marooned and drifting mines. The MCMVs will also be deployed with local naval defense and search-and-rescue missions.
Currently, Indian Defence Ministry is negotiating the final costing with Kanganam Corporation and the price range would be about $ 670 million for each of the eight minesweepers. As per the plan, Kangnam Corporation will deliver the first two MCMVs by 2016 and Goa Shipyard Limited, with the help of transfer of technology, will complete the rest of the contractual agreement by year 2018.
Among the other bidders for the minesweepers for the Indian Navy was the Italian firm Intermarine which was beaten by the South Korean firm’s bid. In fact, the other bidder went to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) against the selection of Kanganam Corporation. However, the defence ministry and the Indian Navy explained to the CVC that the selection of the South Korean firm was made since they were the lowest bidder.
The Indian Navy has been on the lookout for minesweepers to replace the ageing fleet of Pondicherry and Karwar class minesweepers. The 200-foot long Pondicherry class ships are minesweepers built for the Indian navy by the Soviet Union from 1978-88 and are modified versions of the Russian Natya class minesweeper. The Karwar class ships, which were added later, are upgraded warships with the addition of surface-to-air missiles. These twelve minesweepers with Indian Navy will be obsolescent by the end of the decade.
Meanwhile, the Indian Navy is also contemplating on acquiring two used Osprey-class minesweepers from the US that were decommissioned by the US Navy in 2007. The US government has given a go-ahead for sale of these two vessels to friendly countries.