A fleet refuelling tanker, while it may not exude the glamour & awe evoked by the mere mention of offensive forces warships like Destroyers, Frigates & Corvettes it replenishes, is critical for effective & prolonged deployment of these warships out at sea. During such deployments, presence of these refuelling ships offer warships the decisive advantage of not having to visit the port of a friendly country, or even return back home, to replenish fuel & inventory, keeping them out at sea for long & expanding the envelope of their reach.
For a country like India whose vast maritime extent interests presently primarily extend from the Strait of Hormuz to the Malacca Straits, and expanding, such support warships act as force multipliers. With increasing economic growth & corresponding interests that would need to be secured afar, India has projected a Naval fleet strength of more than 150 warships by 2027. Supplying them with fuel & other essentials, therefore would be the task of these warships, such as the one seen above.
The Indian Navy, currently operates a total of around eleven such fleet replenishment tankers. The latest such variant of tanker in operation is the Deepak-class of vessels. These have been built by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri. Two such vessel are currently in service with the Indian Navy,
- INS Deepak [A50]
- INS Shakti [A57]
Both were commissioned in the Indian Navy in 2011. During the recently concluded Exercise Malabar 2012, naval war-games conducted between the navies of India & America, INS Shakti was one of the warships that was part of these engagement as part of the Indian representation.
During the course of these exercises, it undertook a mission to refuel U.S. Navy's Aircraft Carrier USS Carl Vinson [CVN-70] - said to be a first such task in Indo-U.S. Naval engagement. These wallpaper-worthy hi-res images show INS Deepak lining up alongside the Carl Vinson and then transferring fuel to it.
Click on the images to vie larger-sized pictures