Rajput-Class Destroyer: Soviet Imprint In India’s Surface Fleet
Soviet-era destroyers are slowly becoming obsolete and the Indian Navy will gradually replace them with more modern ships.
On 21 May 2021, Rajput, the lead ship of the Rajput class, was decommissioned. Currently the Indian Navy is operating 3 ships of the class, the INS Ranjit was also decommissioned in 2019. Soviet-era destroyers are slowly becoming obsolete and the Indian Navy will gradually replace them with more modern ships.
The Rajput-class guided-missile destroyers built for the Indian Navy are modified versions of Soviet Kashin-class destroyers, also known as Kashin-II class. The ships were built in the former Soviet Union after considerable Indian design modifications to the Kashin design. These included the replacement of the helicopter pad in the original design with a flight elevator, as well as major changes to the electronics and combat systems. Five units were built for export to India in the 1980s. All units are currently attached to the Eastern Naval Command.
These ships were the first ships in the Indian Navy to deploy the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile systems. The role of Rajput class ships involves protection such as anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare for carrier task force defense against submarines, low-flying aircraft, and cruise missiles. The destroyers have a full load displacement of about 5,000 tons, a length of 146.5 m, a beam of 15.8 m, and a draft of 4.8 m.
The ships’ propulsion system are four Zorya-Mashproekt M3E gas turbines in Combined gas and gas configuration, developing 72,000 hp, driving 2 shafts. Top speed is up to 35 knots, range is 4,500 nmi at 18 knots, and 2,600 nmi at 30 knots.
The primary anti-shipping ship weapon was the P-20M, a large subsonic infra-red homing missile with a range of 83 km. It carried a 513 kg warhead. Ranjit and the Ranvijay were planned to be fitted with newer Kh-35E anti-ship cruise missiles, that have a range of 130 km. The ship’s Volna surface-to-air missiles have a range of 31.5 km and can engage aircraft at an altitude up to 22.8 km. All the Rajputs are equipped with a twin 76 mm gun, while four twin 30 mm weapons are carried by Rajput, Rana and Ranjit, and four six-barrel 30 mm Close-in Weapon System mountings are fitted to Ranvir and Ranvijay.
Basically, the destroyers are equipped with a wide range of weapons and sensors including surface-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft guns, torpedoes and anti-submarine missile launchers. INS Rajput was also the first ship to be fitted out to fire the supersonic cruise and long-range BrahMos missile. She was also the first Indian Naval ship to get affiliated with an Indian Army Regiment ‘the Rajput Regiment’.
New systems were deployed during a mid-life refit of the ships. The Indian Navy is planning to upgrade the propulsion of the Rajput-class ships with indigenously developed Kaveri Marine Gas Turbine engine. The Gas Turbine Research Establishment of DRDO has been developing this engine which is currently in testing phase.
Although they are an outdated class of destroyers, their power after refit is still very respectable. Pending their successors, the remaining three ships of the Rajput class will still play an active role as the core of the Indian Navy’s surface force.