NEW DELHI: The defence ministry on Friday inked the over Rs 19,000 crore contract with Hindustan Shipyard (HSL) to build five fleet support ships, which will replenish warships with fuel, water, ammunition, spares and stores on the high seas to prolong their operational deployments.
“The fleet support ships will enhance the strategic reach and mobility of India’s combat fleet and bolster the Navy’s blue-water capabilities.These ships can also be deployed for evacuation of people as well as HADR (human assistance and disaster relief) operations,” a MoD official said.

The PM-led Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared the long-pending mega acquisition project for the Navy on August 16, as was then reported by TOI. “It will be a major boost towards achieving the goal of self-reliance in defence manufacturing as these ships will be indigenously designed and constructed by HSL at Visakhapatnam,” the official said.

The first of the fleet support ships, with a displacement of 44,000 tonne, will be delivered to the Navy around four years from now. Thereafter, one ship will be delivered every year by HSL.
“These ships will be the first-of-their kind to be built by an Indian shipyard. The project will generate employment of nearly 170 lakh man-days over a period of eight years, while also encouraging active participation of associated industries, including MSMEs,” he said.

The Navy currently has just four ageing fleet support ships, with the oldest one being commissioned over 30 years ago. Overall, the Navy currently has around 130 warships and submarines, along with 230 aircraft, helicopters and drones.
With many of the warships slated to retire over the coming years, the Navy also has 43 ships and submarines currently on order, with 41 of them being built in Indian shipyards, worth around a total of Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
China, of course, has the world’s largest Navy with 350 warships and submarines. It is also fast expanding its presence in the Indian Ocean Region, while also helping Pakistan build a strong maritime force to challenge India in the Arabian Sea.

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