The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) approved construction of three more frigates as the follow on of Project 15 frigates in 1986. The Ministry sanctioned in March 1986 the construction of three frigates at a cost of Rs 360 crore at MDL. The construction of these frigates had not been initially taken up so the Navy redesigned them to make them with modem warfare capabilities. In May 2000, the government approved construction of three units of the Project 15A Bangalore Class destroyer. To be built to a modified design, construction of the P-15A 'Bangalore' Class ships could begin at MDL in 2002. Tentative delivery of the first unit was to be five years later, and the other two at 18 month intervals thereafter.
The Bangalore class used the same hull as the Delhi class, with major differences - including the weapon systems. The P15A ships were initially planned to possess enhanced stealth features and land-attack capabilities in the form of Russian-built Novator 3M54E1 'Klub' vertically launched cruise missiles. The Delhi class employed the Russian Kashmir SA-7 surface-to-air missile system and the KH-35 Uran surface-to-surface missile. The Bangalore class would employ the Israeli Barak-1 for its surface-to-air missile system and the Indian-developed BrahMos for its surface attack requirement.
The Project-15A Kolkata class [not Bangalore] ships are follow-on ships of the Project-15 destroyers, namely ships, Delhi, Mysore and Mumbai - the front line combatants of Indian Navy. The P15A destroyer possess enhanced stealth features and land-attack capabilities and add a new dimension in naval warfare for the Indian Navy. 'Kolkata' has a length of 163 meters, beam of 17.4 meters and displacement of 6,800 tons and carry two helicopters on board. Propelled by four gas turbines, the indigenously designed ship will have modern weapons and sensors, advanced action information system, total atmospheric control system and a host of other advanced features. The BrahMos cruise missile will equip all major Indian naval warships like the three under-construction Project 15A destroyers and Project 17 frigates and will be retrofitted on one existing warship each year.
The 6800t Kolkata class (Project 15A) destroyers are a state of the art follow-on of the Delhi class destroyers. The Delhi Class has acquired an almost iconic status, being one of the finest in their category. The follow-on series is more or less similar having the same propulsion with minor improvements. There will be some changes in the weapon systems, which will be mostly of Indian origin. Basically an incremental improvement on the Delhis by adding Brahmos. The design of the DDG includes a 16-cell BrahMos UVLM along with a 32-cell UVLM for the Barak-2 below the bridge, and another 32-cell UVLM for the Barak-2 aft of the helicopter deck, along with the mast-mounted EL/M-2248 MF-STAR radar.
Although conceived as follow-on to the earlier Delhi class, Project 15A ships, and the Shivaliks as well, will be technologically far superior, with major advances in weapons and sensors. More of these systems are now produced indigenously, but their delivery occasionally takes time, upsetting commissioning schedules. Overseas suppliers are not always prompt either. The Indian systems include the HUMSA-NG (Hull Mounted Sonar Array – new generation) and the Nagin active towed array sonar, jointly developed by the DRDO’s Naval Science and Technology Laboratory (NSTL) in Visakhapatnam and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) in Bangalore.
India produces torpedo mounts and heavy and lightweight electrically propelled torpedoes too, as also complete electronic systems and anti-ship warfare (ASW) rocket launchers. The country is also jointly producing with Russia the PJ-10 BrahMos. This supersonic anti-ship cruise missile is now fitted on all major naval platforms as it has become the Indian Navy’s standard strike weapon. There have been times the BrahMos has needed to be retrofitted on ships after they have been launched, derailing commissioning schedules even further.
The Project 15-A is about 90 percent indigenous by cost. And the design itself is 100 per cent Indian. The three Project 15-A Kolkata-class destroyers will each cost the navy Rs 3,800 crore (US $950 million), including the cost of long-term spare parts. Three 6,250-ton destroyers, fitted with the Aegis radar and fire control system, will set Australia back by Rs 32,000 crore (US $8 billion). At about Rs 11,000 crore per destroyer, that is almost three times the cost India is paying for its Kolkata-class destroyers.
In September 2003 construction commenced on Project 15A, the Kolkata Class ships, the first of which was scheduled to enter service in 2010. By 2005 Mazagaon Dock Ltd [MDL] had started work on two Bangalore class destroyers and the work on third such ship was to begin in 2005. The first unit of the Bangalore class could be commissioned as early as 2008 if the funding stream continued unabated. Project-15A experienced delays. The lead ship, Kolkata was launched in March 2006, with the commissioning scheduled for 2010. By 2007 Project-15A was going slow due to delay in finalisation of design data and Russian weapons and sensor systems to be used on board. Russia was also late in supplying equipment like shafting and propellers. Moreover, extensive design and production rework had to be done due to a large number of changes made after production work had commenced. 'Kolkata' is the first of three ships in the class under construction at Mazagon dock and is scheduled to join the Navy in 2010. The second and third ships will follow in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The first missile destroyer of Project-15A - 'Kolkata' was launched at Mazagon dock 30 March 2006. The ship was formally launched by Mrs Roopa Byce, wife of Vice Admiral Sangram Singh Byce, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Western Naval Command. Chief of the Army Staff General J J Singh and a number of senior Army and Naval officers were present on the occasion.
The subsequent two sister ships were yet to be named as of early 2008. While the keel of the second was laid in October 2005 and its launch due to take place in April 2008, the lack of berthing space has delayed it to sometime in 2009, with commissioning beyond 2011. The keel of the third was yet to be laid as of early 2008, though its launch and commissioning had been unrealistically announced for 2011 and 2012.
By early 2009 INS Kolkata, the first destroyer of Project 15-A, was being kitted out for its commissioning in 2010. MDL was fighting to deliver this Rs 11,000 crore project on time. Default by a Ukrainian shipyard in delivering the propellers that drive these warships and the shafting that delivers power from the engines to the propellers was holding back completion. The first Kolkata class destroyer was to be delivered in May 2010. The next two are scheduled for delivery at one year intervals, i.e. May 2011 and May 2012, respectively.
Russia is assisting Project 15-A not only with shafting and propellers, but also the know-how for pontoon-assisted launches. Conventionally, a ship is “launched” into water once its hull is completed, after which the superstructure — the upper decks and masts that together weigh several thousand tonne — is fitted on in deeper water. The shallow water near the slipways, where warships are built, cannot accommodate fully built warships, which require a deeper draught.