India’s first missile tracking ship, called the Ocean Surveillance Ship (OSS), has commenced her sea trials, The Hindu reported.
The vessel, with a yard designation of VC 11184, is built by Indian Ministry of Defence-owned shipbuilder, Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL).
The ship has successfully undergone its harbour trials before commencing the sea trials. The sea trials are conducted by a joint team of the Indian Navy and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), India’s technical intelligence agency. During the sea trials, the ship’s specialised surveillance systems – three dome shaped antennas packed with sensors – will be extensively tested.
OSS is scheduled to be delivered to the Indian Ministry of Defence shortly, according to the sources cited by the Hindu. The sources, however, declined to specify a timeline.
The vessel was ordered around five years back as part of the Indian government’s focus on creating a nuclear missile shield for the nation. The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) sanctioned an initial amount of Rs 725 crore (USD105 million) for the project and the total cost of the program is reportedly around Rs 1,500 crore (USD230 million).
The vessel, whose keel was laid on 30 June 2014, was initially constructed in a covered dry dock at the shipyard due to its secretive nature. The construction of the vessel was monitored directly by the Indian Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as with the Advance Technology Vessel (ATV) project, which led to the development of India’s first indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), INS Arihant.
The ship is reportedly fitted with a primary X band and a secondary S band active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. It also has a long open deck for installing multiple missile tracking antennas. The ship is expected to be part of India’s Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program, an elaborate missile shield being developed to deter enemy missile attacks.
OSS will also carry acoustic equipment, underwater listening devices and other extensive suites of navigation, communications, command and control (C3) equipment. But due to the high secrecy being maintained on the details of the vessel, the exact capabilities and systems on board is not known.
The vessel, designed by Vik Sandvik Design India (VSDI), reportedly has an overall length of 175 m, a beam of 22 m, a depth of 6 m and a displacement of over 10,000 tonnes.
The ship is powered by two imported 9000kW combined diesel and diesel (CODAD) configuration marine diesel engines and three 1200 ekW auxiliary generators enabling it to have a maximum speed of 21 knots. She is equipped with flightdeck and hanger facilities for a HAL Chetak or HAL Dhruv ALH helicopter, and will have a crew complement of 300.
Once commissioned, the ship will be jointly operated by the Indian Navy and the NTRO. Only four other countries — the US, Russia, China and France — operate similar vessels.