India seeks to bolster its naval fleet with advanced Mine Counter Warfare Vessels, signalling a significant step towards self-reliance in defence.

The Indian Navy released a Request for Information (RFI) for the procurement of 12 state-of-the-art Counter Mine Warfare Vessels (MCMVs) on Aug 3. The long-awaited RFI signals India's renewed efforts to enhance its mine-warfare capabilities after several failed attempts over the past 15 years.

The Need For MCMVs

The Indian Navy currently operates without a single minesweeper, and the last of its fleet of six minesweepers, acquired from the Soviet Union in the late 1970s, was decommissioned four years ago. The absence of dedicated mine-countermeasure vessels has left a significant gap in India's naval fleet, prompting the urgent need for modern and advanced MCMVs.

How Will Navy Get Its MCMVs

The RFI outlines the requirements for the 12 MCMVs, which are set to be constructed over an eight-year period. The order will be split between the lowest and second-lowest bidding shipyards. The proposed delivery timeline for the MCMVs ranges from 2030 to 2037.

Armament And Advanced Capabilities

The centrepiece of these vessels is said to lie in their armament and "cutting-edge" technologies, which will be tailored to tackle a range of threats in both anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and naval mine countermeasures (NCM) domains, as per the RFI.

Unmanned Mines Counter-Measure (MCM) Suite: The MCMVs will be equipped with an Unmanned Mines Counter-Measure (MCM) suite, integrating state-of-the-art technologies like underwater drones and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). These autonomous systems will play a critical role in detecting, identifying, and neutralising underwater mines, minimising risks to the crew during mine countermeasure operations.

Weapons Systems: The MCMVs will be armed with advanced weapons systems, including a 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM) with an Autonomous Fire Control System (FCS) for precise targeting and engagement of surface and aerial threats. Very short-range defence (VSHORADS) will be provided by 12.7 mm Stabilised Remote-Controlled Guns (SRCG). Directed Energy Weapons or 30 mm mountings controlled by EOIRST will add further flexibility to the vessel's offensive capabilities.

Communication And Electronic Suite: The MCMVs will boast a state-of-the-art communication and electronic suite, including radar systems, electronic warfare (EW) systems, and secure communication networks, ensuring seamless data exchange and real-time information sharing.

Sonars: Equipped with state-of-the-art ASW systems, the vessels will feature advanced sonars for efficient submarine detection and tracking. Advanced sonar systems, including hull-mounted and towed array sonars, will detect and track underwater threats, such as submarines and mines. The comprehensive sonar suite allows for early detection and swift response to potential underwater dangers.

Operational Roles

As intended in the RFI, the MCMVs will be versatile platforms capable of undertaking various operational roles, including mine counter-measure operations, route survey and sanitization, search and rescue, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. These vessels will operate efficiently in the Indian Ocean region, safeguarding vital maritime interests.

Mine Countermeasure Operations: The MCMVs will excel in locating, identifying, and neutralising sea mines, ensuring safe passage for friendly vessels and countering potential threats to maritime security.

Route Survey And Sanitisation: These vessels will conduct comprehensive surveys of sea routes, identifying and removing any underwater obstacles or hazards to enable secure and efficient navigation for maritime traffic.

Search And Rescue: Equipped with advanced capabilities, the MCMVs will be ready to undertake search and rescue missions, swiftly responding to distress calls and providing vital assistance to mariners in need.

Humanitarian Assistance And Disaster Relief: During times of natural disasters or emergencies, the MCMVs will play a crucial role in delivering humanitarian aid and relief efforts, supporting affected communities and facilitating rescue operations.

Make In India Initiative

The MCMV procurement is part of India's commitment to the Make in India initiative, promoting indigenous shipbuilding capabilities. The procurement marks a transformative phase in India's naval modernization, aligning with the government's vision of self-reliance in defence and naval procurement.