At Defexpo India 2016, India’s conference for defense products and technologies, India Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar unveiled the country’s first indigenous sonar dome made with composites. India intends to use the bow-mounted dome for some of its naval warships. Indian officials say the sonar dome is the first of its kind in the country, and will eventually be delivered to ships on various docks in Mumbai. The dome is considered a huge contribution by the Indian defense industry to the “Make in India” movement, and could pave the way for more ambitious naval structures, including entire ship hulls.

A sonar dome is a structure fitted over the sonar array so that its electronics and sensors are not exposed to surrounding hostile environment. It essentially functions as the ship’s underwater eyes and ears, so it has to be structurally sound as well as acoustically transparent. All anti-submarine warfare (ASW) ships have a sonar array fitted to the ship structure below the water line.

The dome was designed and produced by R&D Engineers – a Defense and Research Development Organization (DRDO) lab Pune, a small city in India. It was manufactured by Goa, India-based Kineco Limited using Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding (VA-RTM).

“Only a couple of companies in the world have the capability to realize such a complex and structurally demanding project in composites,” said Shekhar Sardessai, Kineco Limited’s executive vice chairman and managing director.

Kineco, a more than 20-year-old company, ventured into defense and aerospace composites space about a decade ago. It is also part of a joint venture with Bloomfield, Conn.-based Kaman Aerospace Group – a significant player in the field of aerospace composites. Kineco Kaman manufactures composite parts for Boeing’s P8 aircrafts for BAE Systems USA, antennas for Indian navigation satellites, and parts for advance light helicopters made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.