NEW DELHI - The Indian government has approved spending $6.5 billion to build four stealth destroyers for the Navy under Project-15B.
The Indian Defence Ministry cleared the project in late 2009, but the government only approved funding last month, a senior Defence Ministry official said.
The four destroyers will be built at the Indian Navy's Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks after construction is completed for three earlier stealth warships under Project 15-A. These are expected to be completed by 2012-2014.
The new destroyers will have greater stealth and advanced sensor and weapon packages, and will be fitted with a 1,000-kilometer-range nuclear capable cruise missile currently being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation with Israeli help, Navy sources said.
The new stealth destroyers also will be fitted with an extended-range surface-to-air missile system, which is being developed jointly between India and Israel.
There was no competitive bidding for the four 6,800-ton destroyers since Mazagon Dock is the only Indian shipyard large enough to build destroyers.
The Navy, which has been retiring old ships faster than building new ones, has given orders to various shipyards for the building of 39 warships. The Navy's current strength is about 140 vessels. Most of these warships are of Russian make and one Navy officials said the service is concerned that these ships are aging faster than new ones can be inducted.
Naval responsibilities have increased with India emerging as a major power throughout the Indian Ocean region.
In July, the Defence Ministry approved procurement of six conventional submarines worth more than $10 billion. Under the program, three of the subs will be built at Mazagon Docks, one will be built at state-owned Hindustan Shipyard in Visakhapatnam with the help of a foreign collaborator, and two will be purchased directly from an overseas vendor.