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Friday, November 24th 2006, 4:48am

Indian Naval Build-Up: 1918-1922

Rather than look ahead, why not look back?

Order of Battle, 1/1/1918

4 Light Cruisers, +3 building
14 Destroyers
13 Torpedo Boats
4 Minesweepers

5 Colliers

Strategic Considerations as of 1/1/1918

The Andaman War with the Netherlands had only just been concluded in recent months. Operations in the war - fought primarily against coastal defence battleships and torpedo-boats - were interpreted as favoring the development of a "Cruiser Navy" that would be equally capable of intra-island combat or high-seas raiding operations against likely enemies. It did, however, overlook the fact that the Dutch were building up a force of modern capital ships that would soon see service in the region.

As far as potential future conflicts were concerned, the focus was quite local; therefore, the Dutch were considered the most likely future opponent. The British were a possibility if India chose to enter the Great War late in the game, but this was not considered to be likely (and, indeed did not come to pass).

From a construction viewpoint, designs to date had been broadly based on German designs, with German-style hardware. Increasingly effective Entente interdiction of German shipping left India isolated, and forced the development of indigenous designs and hardware.

Infrastructure as of 1/1/1918

Difficult to say with certainly, given that the sim only started at 1/1/21, but probably:

1 x S3, 2 x S2, 2 x S1, 2 x S0
0 x D3, 1 x D2, 1 x D1, 1 x D0

There were ten factories, with an eleventh under way.

What Happened

The Cruiser Navy Model survived into about 1921. The primary consequence of this was the construction of the three Hyderabad class heavy cruisers. The Shivagi class light battlecruisers were designed, and the main and secondary armaments were tested on the monitor Chandragupta, laid down in 1921. The Cruiser Navy model was killed before Shivagi was ever laid down, but the design was refined into the later Filipino Samal and Brazilian Rio de Janiero class battlecruisers (perhaps making Shivagi the most successful battlecruiser not actually built).

The change in paradigm came as a result of three primary developments in 1920:

-An alliance with South Africa.

-India's entry into the Cleito Treaty.

-The As Salif affair.

Together, these events forced India to take a more broad view of her place in the world. This meant that India would require a more balanced fleet, capable of a variety of missions, rather than one designed strictly to win an intra-island/raiding campaign against a European power.

New Acquisitions and Construction

A great deal of activity in this time period was devoted to giving the existing fleet a basic blue-water capability, and experimentation with new ship types not currently in service.

Capital Ships

The battleships Dara Shikoh (ex-Queen Fallatia) and Babur (ex-Uruguay) were obtained from South Africa. They did much to teach India about operating capital ships, and helped influence the shape of whatever India herself would later build. They also highlighted some issues to be avoided, such as multiple capital ship gun calibers

Naval Aviation

The collier Bhima was taken in hand for conversion to an experimental aircraft carrier. She would remain in this guise for approximately five years. Though she had a fairly eventful career as a flattop, she is also considered one of the worst experimental carriers of the time. Future Indian carrier development would largely be based on the idea that any aspect of a new ship should be the opposite of what Otta was.

The seaplane carrier Palk Bay was also laid down. A fairly successful vessel, she incorporated facilities that allowed her to double as a survey ship, a role she undertook fairly frequently early in her life.


Production of the Colombo class light cruisers came to an end.

Three Hyderabad class heavy cruisers were built, although consideration was given towards converting the third unit into a small aircraft carrier at one point. The Hyderabads can be thought of as India's version of the first British heavy cruisers, and perhaps share the same faults, such as an inefficient main armament layout and an attempt to perhaps fit too much into too small a hull.

The Trincomalee class, laid down in 1923, would drop the idea of main guns on the beam, instead featuring a mix of triple turreted and single-mounted 15 cm guns that remains unique to this day.

Destroyers and Torpedo Boats

The Madurai class destroyers, with four 10.5 cm guns, would lay a pattern for India for several years to come. The subsequent Kota class was merely a slightly enlarged and improved version of the Madurai.

One torpedo-boat, T-19, would be built but saw service primarily in an experimental fashion. Her good speed an useful armament would see the basic hull type used in a class of coastal minelayers, but the long, slender hull form would also be found dangerously weak in bad weather.


A coastal submarine, IX-1, was purchased from South Africa and used as a training vessel - training both the crew themselves and the navy in how to use and operate against it.

Escorts, Mine Warfare, and Light Forces

The first Indian MTBs were built in 1922.

Six Batticola class sloops (later, charavaahaa) were laid down starting in 1921. With three 10.5 cm guns and a speed of 21 knots, the type is considered to be fairly useful, if a bit short-ranged.

Two oceanic minesweepers were laid down in 1921; no less than seven of an eventual twelve Bhramaputra class coastal sweepers were laid down in 1922.


A fleet oiler, Mahanadi, was laid down in 1921. A second unit was laid down but cancelled after it was determined that it would be more effective to requisition existing civilian ships and refit them to naval standards.

New Infrastructure

During this time period, India added:

0 x S3, 0 x S2, 1 x S1, 1 x S0
1 x D3, 0 x D2, 0 x D1, 0 x D0

...and completed the eleventh factory.


By the end of 1922, India was on its way to developing domestic capital ship, aircraft carrier, and submarine designs - but the experimentation process was still in progress. Some of the experiments would prove more successful than others, though this would not necessarily become clear for years in some cases.

India also had the capability of maintaining the largest warships in its inventory. Its construction capability, though limited, was effectively utilized through careful sequencing of construction - thus preventing individual slips from going idle for long periods of time.

India was optimistic and perhaps even overconfident in its capabilities; the events of 1924 would demonstrate that weaknesses still remained.

Kaiser Kirk

Lightbringer and former European Imperialist

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Friday, November 24th 2006, 5:43am

Interesting write up Rocky. An advantage you have is perspective on how and why the Indian fleet evolved for it's role. See, all I know is it's EVIL... errr sorry..


Friday, November 24th 2006, 11:25am

Really? Then I probably owe my counter-intelligence people some performance bonuses.


Friday, November 24th 2006, 5:04pm

Interesting, I might do the same if I have the time.