India Opens 2nd Shipyard For US Navy Warships’ Repair & Upkeep; QUAD Allies Tighten Screws Around China

India has opened its second shipyard for the US Navy’s warship for repair and maintenance. The Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), which will be manufacturing India’s second indigenous aircraft carrier, will be undertaking repairs of US Navy warships.

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In 2023, the US Navy signed a five-year master shipyard repair agreement (MSRA) with Larsen and Toubro (L&T) shipyard in Chennai. L&T shipyard in Kattupalli near Chennai on the East Coast has been undertaking voyage repairs of the Military Sealift Command vessels and has already carried out repairs of US Navy ships.

The latest agreement with the CSL gives the US Navy warships a shipyard to carry out repairs on both the eastern and the western coast of India. On April 6, the CSL announced that it had signed the Master Shipyard Repair Agreement (MSRA) with the United States Navy.

The MSRA is a non-financial agreement and will facilitate the repair of US Naval vessels under the Military Sealift Command in CSL.

CSL qualified for the agreement after the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command conducted a detailed evaluation process and capability assessment.

The CSL already carries out maintenance and repairs on INS Viraat, which was constructed here, INS Vikramaditya (formerly known as Admiral Gorshkov), and the Indian indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant of the Indian Navy. It also repairs the tankers and bulk carriers of the Shipping Corporation of India.

The EurAsian Times reported in 2023 that the CSL is one of the viable options to be developed as a maritime hub.

Vice Admiral AB Singh, a retired Indian Navy officer who commanded Western Naval Command, has told the EurAsian Times: “The other capable agencies are Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL), but both are limited by the depth available.”

Vice Admiral Singh added that CSL and MDL could become viable offers due to the upcoming Vizhinjam International Transhipment Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport being developed in Kerala.

The CSL has constructed India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, which was commissioned in the Indian Navy in 2022. The Indian Navy has already submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Defense seeking a nod for the production and procurement of a second indigenous aircraft carrier, which the CSL in Kochi will construct.

Chennai is a good place for ship repair, as both port infrastructure in the L&T shipyard (due to the large requirement of depths for US Ships) and a capable entity (L&T) are available. The first warship, USNS Salvor, has already arrived at the shipyard to undergo steel repairs.

Even the UK is taking advantage of the opportunity. For the first time, two British vessels, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Argus and RFA Lyme Bay, docked at the L&T shipyard for essential maintenance.

This is the first time a Royal Navy vessel will undergo maintenance at an Indian shipyard, a direct result of the logistics-sharing agreement signed between the UK and India in 2022.

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Developing Andamans & Nicobar As Aviation Hubs In Indo-Pacific

With the US and India cozying up through maritime hubs, experts feel that developing Andamans and Nicobar Islands as aviation hubs could be a possibility. The islands sit on the mouth of Malacca Strait, an important entry point to the South China Sea.

The US Navy also requires some aviation logistics hubs in the region. India may be unwilling to expose the Andamans, but overflight and ‘Gas and Go’ may be possible in the future. The US has been doing the same in Changi, Singapore, and mainland India, so the Andamans are a feasible option.

In 2020, at the peak of India and China tensions, the US Navy’s long-range anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance aircraft, P-8 Poseidon, carried out its maiden refueling from India’s strategic base in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Thereafter, it continued on its onward journey.

The 571 islands serve as India’s launching pad to the Asia Pacific region and are also referred to as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” They are the country’s only operating joint service command, and plans are afoot to upgrade the infrastructure there. Also, its geostrategic location will help the US increase its reach in the Indo-Pacific.

The logistics support would include food, water, billeting, transportation, petroleum, oil, lubricants, clothing, medical services, spare parts and components, repair and maintenance services, training services, and other logistical items and services.

India Is A Vital Piece In The Chinese Checkers

The West is relying on India to maintain its warships traversing the Indo-Pacific. The first two UK warships docked in India to undergo maintenance before departing for the region.

The US warships are getting fewer steaming hours because of growing maintenance delays and costs. It has been a troubling trend as the US is struggling to keep pace with China’s growing fleet and is also facing other adversaries at sea – including Russia.

Guided-missile destroyer, USS John McCain
Representational Image

As reported by the EurAsian Times earlier, the US has been making a concerted effort to match up to China’s burgeoning shipbuilding capabilities. The US has been weighing in on its Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, to help restart its redundant shipyards.

The US Navy has also been studying the use of Japan’s private shipyards “to maintain, repair and overhaul its warships in a bid to reduce servicing backlogs back home.”

The project can expand to South Korea, Singapore, and the Philippines.

The move marks the coming together of ‘like-minded’ countries to counter the exponential growth of the Chinese naval fleet. India, sitting on the Malacca Strait, the entry point of the South China Sea, will play a crucial role in sustaining the operations of the Western countries in the region.

The US is expected to extend support to develop infrastructure in India to provide logistics support to its naval assets operating in the Indo-Pacific.

With a paltry budget of US $13.9 billion for the financial year 2024, the US Navy is facing the difficult task of meeting its repair needs. A Government Accountability Office report released in 2023 found that the Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, the Navy’s mainstay surface ship, averaged 26 days of depot maintenance delay in fiscal 2021.

Operating and support costs grew by about $2.5 billion across 10 ship classes while the number of propulsion hours in which ships were operating or training dipped during a 10-year period that ended in 2021.

The American surface warship maintenance is done by two private shipyards – General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company and BAE Systems Ship Repair. “If one of these suppliers decided to exit the market, the Navy would need time to find alternate providers,” a RAND Corporation report noted.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • The author can be reached at ritu.sharma (at)
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