|Performance||Speed (max)||38 knots|
|Speed (cruising)||16 knots|
|Endurance||7,200 nm @ 20 knots|
|Armament||Guns||8 4.5 inch L50 Mark 6*, 16 37mm|
The first ships of the new Indian fleet were designated Project 18. The American design firm of Gibbs and Cox were approached with a preliminary design specification and, as usual, they designed what they wanted to build, not what the client had asked them for. In this case it worked out; what G&C produced was what the Indian Navy needed. Project 18 was a heavy destroyer larger and faster than any other destroyer afloat. At 4,650 tons, the proposed design was armed with eight five inch L54 guns in four twin turrets, four twin 40mm AA guns and ten 21 inch torpedo tubes. She was powered by the new American DL 1,200 psi machinery plant, delivering 80,000 shp driving her at 38 knots. Much of their size was due to fuel stowage; the ships had a range of 7,200 miles at 20 knots. Part of the contract was that G&C should establish a design office in Mumbai and start training Indian naval architects.
Two of the new destroyers (Rana and Ranjit) were laid down at Mazagon in 1948 and two more (Rajput and Ranavira) at Garden Reach in 1949. The problem was that hard currency was hard to come by and many of the components were delayed due to this. Construction almost came to a halt in the early 1950s and the ships were redesigned to make use of less expensive components. The American quintuple torpedo tubes were replaced by ones removed from ex-British destroyers and the twin 40mm mounts by Indian-made quadruple 37mm guns. These were a lightweight, low-velocity weapon designed by Oerlikon and very similar in performance to the WW2 British two pounder. The American 5 inch L54s were replaced by Australian-made 4.5 inch Mark 6* mounts (actually a derivative of the Swedish M/50 4.7 inch twin). In this form, the first two destroyers were launched in 1956 and completed in 1958.
They created a stir when they were revealed to the public at their commissioning ceremony. Both Britain and Australia had gone through some agonized debates over whether their new destroyers, the UK Daring class (3,160 tons) and the Australian Voyager class (3,950 tons) were really destroyers at all. Now, the Indian navy had produced a class of ships that weighed 4,650 and yet were unashamedly classed as being the new destroyers. They looked the part as well, rakish, streamlined and, above all, modern. Just to complete the picture, the Indian Navy had just adopted a new paint scheme for its ships, a dark bluish-gray and the Project 18s were the first to wear the new scheme.
The ships won instant praise from the naval press, being described as "revolutionary examples of Asian innovation in warship design" (what Gibbs and Cox and the Japanese Navy thought of that comment is not recorded). On their shakedown cruise, they took part in the famous incident where Hood faced down Yamato and Musashi. On the debit side, this cruise revealed numerous defects in their design and construction. Quality control in particular was a serious problem that took years to rectify.
The difficulties that afflicted the first two ships to the class were to have massive repercussions when Ranavira joined the fleet in late 1959. This new destroyer was on her maiden voyage in the Indian Ocean when she ran into a heavy storm of almost cyclone strength. Ranavira broke up and sank with all hands. Fortunately, by this time, the CIPEMA group (originally Commission of Inquiry into Problems Experienced with Mosquito Aircraft but now Commission of Inquiry into Problems Experienced with Military Assets) had gained much expertise in accident investigation and had a decided cynical outlook on Indian industrial management. They launched one of their notoriously thorough investigations into the loss and discovered that the Garden Reach yard was a morass of corruption. Inspection of the Ransit, still under construction, showed she was made of sub-standard steel that was far below the required stress ratings, the welding was of appalling quality, barely better than tack-welding and many of the sub-systems were inoperative. Yard management was well aware of the problems but had taken bribes to turn a blind eye to the defects. Early on the morning of August 15th 1959, six members of the Yard senior management were arrested and charged with the murder (by depraved indifference) of the crew of Ranavira. After a public trial, all six were found guilty and hanged at the Calcutta Central Jail. Corruption in Indian shipyards suddenly and abruptly ceased. Rajput had to be virtually rebuilt to correct the faults in her construction (in effect the existing hull was scrapped and the machinery and armament installed in a new hull. The ship was finally delivered in 1963. Nine years later she was torpedoed and sunk in the Pescadores Incident.
The two surviving Project 18 destroyers were very badly damaged during the Pescadoes Incident and subsequently rebuilt as anti-submarine ships, losing their aft two turrets, torpedo tubes and aft 37mm quads in favor of a variable depth sonar fish and a hangar for a Rotodyne. Later, the forward 37mm guns were removed and replaced by MOG missiles. Both ships were decommisioned in 1985 with Rana being preserved as a museum ship at the Indian Naval Museum, Mumbai.
|Rana||1948||1948||1956||1958||Decommissioned 1985, Museum ship at Mumbai.|
|Ranjit||1948||1948||1956||1958||Decommissioned and scrapped 1985|
|Ranavira||1948||1949||1957||1959||Sunk in cyclone, 1959|
|Rajput||1948||1949||1957||1963||Torpedoed and sunk during Pescadores Incident, 1973|