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F 33 Nilgiri Class
UK Leander Class

The Nilgiri class frigates are modified British Leander class ships. The Taragiri and the Vindhyagiri have been refitted with a telescopic hangar to allow helicopter operations.

By 1962, in response to global enquiries, Sweden and Holland had also submitted proposals to build frigates in India. In mid 1962, a team led by the DCNS visited Sweden, Holland and Britain to make a final techno-economic assessment of the British proposal vis a vis the others. The team recommended the British Leander frigate. In view of the difficult financial position and the shortage of foreign exchange, the final decision awaited the negotiation of credit on soft terms.

By 1965, collaboration agreements had been concluded with Vickers Yarrow of Britain for the indigenous construction of three Leander class frigates. Britain offered a special defence credit of 4.7 million pounds to cover the external cost of the Frigate Project for the first four years, as well as for the expansion of Mazagon Docks Ltd. At that time the Leander was the most modern warship of its class under construction in the United Kingdom. The design was a proven one and its construction is well established.

The Leander Frigate Project was the achievement of Defence Minister Krishna Menon, exceptional civil servants like Mr HC Sarin and Mr NM Sen and Admirals Nanda and Samson - the first two Managing Directors of Mazagaon Docks. The notable progress in achieving indigenisation in these frigates was the achievement of Commodore Paradkar and his team.

Allowing 2 years from end 1961 for completion of work in Mazagon Dock, the first ship was initially expected to be available in end 1967, the remainder at 18 month intervals. The program of 3 ships will thus was to extend to End 1970.

In their earlier discussions since 1961, it had been agreed that the Admiralty would give India the FSA 29 Leander design which had already been introduced in the Royal Navy. During the intervening years, whilst discussions and negotiations were going on, the Admiralty had decided to introduce for their Navy, a modified design called the "FSA-34". In this design, the beam was broader by 2 feet (0.61m). It incorporated the latest equipment modifications and made provision for incorporating future modifications.

The contract was signed in October 1964. The basic facilities required to begin the Frigate Project started to fall behind from the outset. The skills required for warship building were vastly different to those for construction of merchant ships and totally different to those needed for ship repairs. There were over 35 warship building trades as against only 10 merchant shipbuilding trades. A complete re-orientation of training was therefore necessary.

The specifications, the very fine tolerances, the performance ratios and the fact that all equipment had to be shock-proof, were parameters which Indian Industry, by and large, were totally unaware of and had never experienced. Thanks to the inspiration of Mr Krishna Menon, indigenisation was progressed relentlessly. He had always maintained that unless India was self-sufficient in major items of defence equipment, India would never be totally free.

In the Leander class frigate, air conditioning is very important. All the fire control systems and the entire Ops Room are dependant on efficient air conditioning. The Admiralty were aghast at plans to install air conditioning manufactured locally. There was much skepticism in all quarters but the plan succeeded, even though there were teething problems.

Eventually in early 1968, Government placed an order on MDL to build two more frigates. This was six months later than the original plan for commencement of the second Leander, which eventually began in May 1968.

INS NILGIRI's keel was formally laid on 15 October 1966. Inspite of all the problems, MDL bravely invited the Prime Minister to launch the NILGIRI on 23 October 1968. The ship remained with Mazagon Dock until 02 June 1972. The time taken from keel laying to launching of the first frigate came to two years, but for the fitting-out of the ship, the basin trials, the sea trials and up to the commissioning, the period extended to another 3 years and 8 months. In warship building, the fitting out is always time consuming. Nevertheless, a total 5 1/2 years from keel-lying to delivery was long, because of the teething problems. INS NILGIRI was commissioned on 3 June 1972 by Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India.

It was decided to drop outdated analogue systems, as digital electronics were already coming into vogue. The bold decision to replace the obsolescent British radars and fire control systems by modern Dutch equivalents from the second Leander onwards, well before the first Leander had even been completed, was a result of the forceful advocacy of Admiral Ramnath. It gave Bharat Electronics the opportunity to leapfrog into the indigenous production of digital electronic systems. And it built up the confidence of the Navy's constructors like Shri Parmanandan and Captain Mohan Ram and electronic specialists like Admiral Baxi to innovate the interfaces in future frigates and corvettes for the Indian Navy's unique mix of Russian, western and indigenous systems.

HIMGIRI's keel was laid on 4 November 1968. She was launched on 6 May 1970. MDL had been able to reduce the time between keel laying and launch from 25 months to 18 months. The fitting-out however was considerably delayed due to the late arrival of major items, both from abroad and India. HIMGIRI commissioned on 23 November 1974. HIMGIRI got better radars, sonars, AIO and fire control equipment and two Seacat guided missile launchers. Design changes were also made in the communication systems and the layout of mess decks to improve habitability in tropical conditions.

The fabrication work on the third frigate, scheduled to commence in January 1970, started in April 1970 due to late receipt of steel from Hindustan Steel Ltd. The interval between keel laying and launching increased to 25 months. The main machinery which should have arrived at the time of the ship's launching in October 1972, was actually received in May 1974, thereby further delaying the ships commissioning till 18 February 1976.

The fourth Leander was launched on 9 March 1974. She was on the slipway for only 14 months as compared to 18 to 25 months for the second and third frigates respectively. Fitting out was affected by delays in receipt of indigenous as well as imported equipment. The main engines and gear boxes were received in May 1975. Basin trials were carried out in October 1976 and sea trials completed satisfactorily in November/December, 1976. The final inspection of hull, weapons, radio compartments and systems was completed in early 1977. DUNAGIRI commissioned on 5 May 1977. The time between keel laying and launching had been reduced to 14 months. The time from launching to delivery had been reduced to 38 months - the shortest period yet achieved. Nevertheless, the total of 58 months from start of production was still too long by world standards.

Naval Headquarters initiated studies in early 1973 to improve the anti submarine capability of the 5th and 6th Leanders. These changes crystallised in mid 1973. The major changes envisaged embarking the heavy Seaking helicopter and improving the anti submarine sonars and weapons.

These design changes delayed the commencement of construction, which should have started immediately after the launching of the fourth frigate. Production could commence only in April 1975. The keel was laid six months later and the ship was launched on 25 October 1976. Thereafter there was a major setback in fitting-out because of a delay of one year in receipt of the main engines. This created its own chain of delays. Contractor's Sea Trials commenced in April 1979. During trials, internal vibrations were observed in the main turbines. After the defects were rectified, repeat sea trials were satisfactorily completed in December 1979, and TARAGIRI was commissioned on 16 May 1980. Whilst the time from keel laying to launch had been only 12 months, the least period so far, the time taken from launching to commissioning was 43 months, much more than the time taken for any of its predecessors. VINDHYAGIRI was identical with TARAGIRI. Construction commenced on 5 July 1976. Her keel was laid on 5 November 1976, and she was launched on 12 November 1977 after a period of 12 months, the same time as was taken for the TARAGIRI. She commissioned on 8 July 1981, having taken 44 months from launch to delivery.

The long refit INS Nilgiri of was due in September 1993, which was taken up in November 1993 without taking into account the material state of the ship. The Vice Chief of the Naval Staff observed in September 1994 that material state of the ship was very poor. Consequently, long refit was held in abeyance and action to decommission the ship was initiated in September 1994 which was approved by the Ministry in March 1996. In the meanwhile, expenditure of Rs 3.69 crore was incurred on its repair/refits which was rendered unfruitful.

The Dockyard completed medium refit of the INS Dunagiri in 40 months between October 1990 and February 1994 against the normal scheduled time of 12 months, yet defects relating to main condensers and turbo alternators were not attended to while carrying out the refit. Delayed completion of refits caused extra expenditure of Rs 4.52 crore on manpower. Prolonged detention of ship in the dockyard led to large-scale corrosion, development of holes and thinning down of structure, which were reported in June 1994. All these necessitated a short refit of this ship in August 1995. Expenditure incurred on these refits up to March 1998 was Rs 9.92 crore which included Rs 4.52 crore on manpower during the extended period over the scheduled time worked out at annual average per worker cost.

Medium refit of the INS Himgiri as per refit cycle was delayed by over 10 years. Instead of this, normal refit commenced in November 1990 for completion by October 1991. This had to be converted into medium refit to be completed by December 1992 since the requirement of work packages were not assessed accurately and spares required for the refit had not been arranged in time. Medium refit continued up to December 1994. The performance of evaporators was poor, the ship had to operate under high boiler salinity leading to contamination of boiler tubes which reduced their life to 12 months from the prescribed life of over 6 years. Consequently, another modified short refit at an additional cost of Rs 33.54 lakh during February 1995 and March 1996 became inescapable. The ship was detained for medium refit for over 48 months against the norms of 12 months necessitating another modified short refit at an additional cost of Rs 33.54 lakh. Delayed completion of work involved additional expenditure on manpower to the tune of Rs 8.10 crore.

For the normal refit of INS Taragiri, the underwater hull work package, re-cabling and hot work was entrusted to MDL (Mazagaon Docks Limited) at a cost of Rs 4.06 crore to be completed within 150 days i.e., 16 December 1995. However, this had to be extended up to 16 August 1996 due to non-supply of materials by the Naval Dockyard as stipulated in the contract leading to detention of ship for 397 days in MDL in place of 150 days. The cost of the work by MDL was settled at Rs 6.76 crore. The remaining work was completed by Naval Dockyard on 17 December 1997, necessitating detention of the ship for about two years beyond the scheduled date of completion of the refit.

On 10 December 2003 the Comptroller and Auditor General pulled up the Navy for awarding contract to refit INS Udaygiri warship to a private firm whose rates were not the lowest. The CAG also pointed out that documents of the firm supplied for the contract were incomplete. Informing Rajya Sabha about the same in a written reply, Defence Minister George Fernandes said refit of the warship was partially offloaded to Mumbai firm Homa engineering which included dry docking and other works like replacement of hull and pipes, besides refitting of valves. The Navy has said it is in the process of serving an action taken note as per laid down procedures, he said.

DisplacementStandard - 2682
Full - 2962
Length 113.4 m
Beam 13.1
Draft 5.5 m
Range 4500 miles @ 12 knots
Speed 27 kts
Armament 4 x SS-N-2B styx SSM 1 or 2 x Short Bros Seacat SAM grad launchers
2 x Vickers 4.5 in (twin) MK 6
2 x Oerlikon 20 mm
6 x 324 mm ILAS 3 (2 triple) tubes, Whitehead A 244S or Indian NST 58 torpedoes
Aircraft 1 x Chetak or 1 x Sea king MK 42
Crew 17 Officers
250 Enlisted

Name Number Port Builder Order Comm Decomm
Nilgiri F 33 Mazagon 03 Jun

Himgiri F 34 Mazagon 23 Nov
06 May
Udaygiri F 35Mazagon 18 Feb
24 Aug
Dunagiri F 36 Mazagon 05 May
20 Oct
Taragiri F 41 Mazagon 16 May
27 Jun
Vindhyagiri F 42 Mazagon 08 Jul
10 Jun
24 May

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Page last modified: 24-02-2020 18:12:38 ZULU