Indian shipbuilder Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) has laid the keel of the third Project 17A advanced stealth frigate. The Project 17A frigates, also known as Nilgiri-class stealth frigates, are being built by GRSE and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders for the Indian Navy. It was floated out on the Hoogly River in Kolkata. TThe Project 17A programme involves the development of seven advanced guided-missile frigates, of which four will be built by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders and the remaining three ships by GRSE. Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, GRSE launched the first of its three P17A stealth shipsahead of schedule in December last year. he lead ship of the class, INS Nilgiri, was launched at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders, Mumbai, in September 2019. The keel for the third ship was laid in September 2020.
The Project 17A programme was approved by the Indian Government in February 2015 to enhance the combat capabilities of the Indian Navy. The total estimated cost of the project is approximately Rs500bn ($7 billion). The programme is a follow-on of the Project 17 Shivalik-class frigates. The first six ships will be named after the older Nilgiri-class vessels, which were the updated versions of British Leander class frigates. The ships will be named INS Nilgiri, INS Himgiri, INS Udaygiri, INS Dunagiri, INS Taragiri, INS Vindhyagiri and INS Mahendragiri after the names of hill ranges in India. The project will generate employment opportunities for more than 2,000 companies and MSMEs in the country.
The Nilgiri-class will have a length of 149m, a width of 17.8m, and a draft of 5.22m. The displacement of the vessel will be 6,670t and the frigate can accommodate 226 personnel. The experience gained in designing the Shivalik-class frigates (Project 17) will be applied to the Project 17A. The crew complement will be reduced from the existing 257 (including 35 officers) to about 150 by using high levels of automation, which will reduce the operational costs by around 20 per cent and result in higher operational availability of the warships. The construction times will be reduced and productivity will improved by using modular integrated construction. Approximately 80% of the materials and equipment are being sourced from domestic vendors for the ship construction.
On 11 March 2016, the Indian Ministry of Defence approved a ₹13,000 crore (US$1.8 billion) weapons and sensors package for the project. This class will improve upon the earlier class in terms of stealth. They will have covered mooring deck and the number of antennae on the ship will be reduced by using EL/M-2248 MF-STAR AESA radar. The P17A will also feature better roll stabilisation and a discreet visual profile. The weapon platform in the P17A ships will be compact and they will be armed with the Barak 8 and BrahMos. The weapon systems will be flush deck mounted allowing vertical launch of missiles from under the deck.Fincantieri has signed a contract with Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) to provide technical advice within the Project 17A.