Last week, the Indian Navy launched its latest homegrown-designed Nilgiri-class stealth guided-missile frigate, Taragiri (F-41). The 149-meter-long and 17.8-meter-wide ship is the fifth frigate of Project-17A and the third one built by Mazgaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL).
The warship is powered by a combination of two gas turbines and two main diesel engines, with a displacement of up to 2,962 tons and a top speed of more than 28 knots, officials said. Moreover, the frigate will have the capacity to accommodate 226 personnel and two medium-sized rotorcraft such as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Dhruv or Sea King Mk. 42B helicopters.
#Mumbai | Taragiri, the indigenously-designed Nilgiri-class stealth guided-missile frigate constructed by Mazgaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL), was launched in Mumbai Sunday morning. pic.twitter.com/qI5iT9cKJ2
— Express Mumbai (@ie_mumbai) September 11, 2022
Due to the national mourning over Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the launching event was limited to a technical launch rather than a grand celebration. Taragiri is expected to be delivered by August 2025 and will be commissioned into the Indian Navy alongside its sister ships.
Indian Navy’s Project-17A
To improve and expand its Navy forces and strengthen its maritime combat and defense capabilities, the Indian Government approved Project-17A in 2015. Under the program, seven advanced frigates were slated to launch with estimated spending of approximately Rs500 billion ($7 billion), of which four will be constructed by MDL and the remaining three ships by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE).
The leadership, INS Nilgiri, was launched on September 28, 2019, and is expected to go through sea trials in the first half of 2024. Named after the names of hill ranges in India, the ships INS Udaygiri (December 2020), INS Himgiri (May 2022), and INS Dunagiri (July 2022) followed, while the keel for the fourth and fifth frigates was laid in June 2022 and March 2021, respectively.
As the name suggests, Project-17A frigates will feature “improved stealth capabilities and roll stabilization” from their British Leander-class predecessors, but better with “much-improved survivability, sea-keeping, and ship maneuverability” in addition to its “advanced indigenous weapons and sensors.”
A supersonic surface-to-surface missile system, a larger 127mm-caliber main gun, two 30mm AK-630M anti-aircraft artillery systems, and two torpedo tubes will be installed on each frigate. It will also be equipped with a multi-function surveillance track and missile guidance radar (MF-STAR) that would allow simultaneous detection of multiple air and surface stealth targets.
US Navy’s Constellation-class Frigates
On the other hand, the US Navy (USN) began upgrading its frigates in 2020 as part of the FFG(X) Ships program. Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) officially started constructing the first Constellation-class frigate on August 31, 2022, nearly two years after the USN issued FMM the design specifications of the ship in April 2020.
Rear Admiral Casey Moton, the executive program officer for unmanned and small combatants, told reporters that the construction was delayed because the service and FMM wanted to complete the design as much as possible before beginning construction.
“It was maturing the design. It is a pretty healthy process that’s got to go on … that’s a fairly lengthy process of going through the functional design where you’re looking system by system. And then it’s a little bit of a spiral, right. If you change some things that they have impact on another [thing],” Moton said.
“It just takes a while to move through that process. In order to complete the design, the shipbuilder has to get all of their major vendors on contract because we’re literally at the level where it’s not just, okay here’s a pump, but we need to know which pump because we got to have the right circuit breakers to feed that pump. It is at quite [a] detailed level. That takes time. And mutually we and the shipbuilder agreed that design maturity was probably the single biggest factor we could do to reduce the risk of production,” he added.
Soon-to-be USS Constellation (FFG-62) will be the leader of the new generation of frigates and the fifth ship to bear the name and is expected to be delivered to the USN in 2026 with 20 ships.
The USN initially planned to procure two frigates per year beginning the Fiscal Year 2023, but Congress “mandated a pause” on the second-yard effort of the project, saying that the USN must mature the design before proceeding to the second shipbuilding phase.
Once done, the measurement of the USS Constellation is about 496 ft in length, 65 ft in beam, and 18 ft in the draft, with a displacement of 6,700 ft. It will be propelled by a combination of diesel-electric and gas (CODLAG) with a maximum speed of 26 knots within 11,000 km. The frigate will have the capacity to accommodate 200 personnel, 140 crew, and one MH-60R Seahawk helicopter or MQ-8C Firescout.