India has joined the elite club of nations that possess nuclear missile tracking vessels with the country’s Navy commissioning its highly secretive Ocean Surveillance Ship, codenamed VC-11184.
This is expected to boost India’s ballistic missile defense capability and electronic warfare in the maritime domain, according to reports.
While the actual commissioning ceremony was held in October last year, the information was not made public, The Economic Times reported. It said the commissioning was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “but all tests and trials were completed in 2020 to ensure it is ready to enter service”.
The VC-11184’s construction started in 2014 at Hindustan Shipyard Limited in Visakhapatnam. The program has been highly confidential ever since and is under the direct control of the National Security Advisor and the Prime Minister’s Office.
While VC-11184’s official name has not been disclosed yet, its current designation is based on the yard number where it was constructed. Very few images of the ship have surfaced on social media. The construction was carried out at covered dry docks to avoid being detected by satellites.
According to the reports, the ship would be operated by India’s technical intelligence agency NTRO (National Technical Research Organisation), the DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organisation), and the Indian Navy. Having the same ‘norms of conduct’ as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), NTRO is a top-tier intelligence-gathering organization.
At present, only four other nations — the United States, France, Russia, and China — possess such ships. The VC11184 would enable the Indian strategic experts to track the developmental trials of its missiles and increase the effectiveness of the BMD (ballistic missile defense) shield by detecting similar launches by India’s close adversaries like Pakistan or China, acting as an ‘early warning’ ship.
The ship has a displacement of 15,000 tons and carries three distinctive dome-shaped antennas laden with sensors and electronic warfare equipment. According to the reports, 14 megawatts of power would be generated by the vessel to operate the sensors themselves.
The ship, one of the largest to be built by an Indian shipyard, is part of the ‘Make in India initiative’.