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Updated January 9th, 2024 at 14:24 IST

New Hope for India’s New Talwar-Class Stealth-Guided Missile Frigates: Here’s Why?

India might have just resolved its frigate construction issue as Kalyani acquired a majority stake in a Ukrainian gas turbine firm Zorya Mashproekt.

Digital Desk
An Russian Project 11356 Frigate
An Russian Project 11356 Frigate | Image:United Shipbuilding Corporation
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New Delhi: In a strategic move that might resolve a crucial hindrance in the construction of two Admiral Grigorovich or the upgraded Indian Talwar class stealth-guided missile frigates, caused by the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, a Defence Public Sector Undertaking, Kalyani Strategic Systems (KSSL), has acquired a majority stake in the Indian arm of Ukrainian Gas-Turbine manufacturing firm Zorya Mashproekt.

Significance of Admiral Grigorovich-Class Frigates for India

The Admiral Grigorovich-class, an enhanced iteration of the Talwar-class frigates, holds importance for India's augmenting naval capabilities. These frigates, weighing 3,620 tons each, are an essential addition to the Indian Navy's fleet. The previous Talwar-class frigates, constructed by Russia for India between 2003 and 2013, have been important assets powered by Ukrainian-made engines from Zorya Mashproekt.

The agreement for the acquisition was finalised on May 9, 2023, by KSSL, subsequently completed on December 31, 2023, according to media reports.

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India had faced a challenging situation due to the reliance on Ukrainian engines for the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates while Ukraine's strained relations with Russia posed obstacles. To circumvent this, India intervened in 2019, persuading Ukraine to provide ship engines for the Russian shipyard Yantar in Kaliningrad, where the first two frigates were under construction.

With Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) and Russia's Rosoboronexport signing a $500 million deal in 2018, followed by contracts between the Indian Defence Ministry, GSL, and Ukraine for specialised services in 2019, the construction of the remaining two frigates commenced in India.

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Construction Challenges and Delayed Delivery

The delivery dates for the frigates from the Russian shipyard had faced multiple postponements, initially slated for 2024 but later expected to be pushed to 2025. Earlier in the year, as per Republic’s earlier report, the delay might be extended to an additional 6 months from its schedule. The reason for the delay was the acquisitions of the gas turbine engines to power India’s warships, as Alexy Rakhmanov stated in an interview with Russian state-owned media RIA Novosti, “Currently, the construction of the ships and the trials are proceeding according to refined schedules. There is a minor delay for certain components, which is less than six months. Trial runs of diesel generators have been successfully conducted for the first of the two frigates, and preparations for mooring trials are currently underway.”

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The Indian Navy had already designated crews for these vessels, marking them as the final warships to be built at a foreign shipyard.

However, as per sources, after the delivery of these frigates by Russia, the Indian Navy plans to exclusively rely on indigenous shipyards for future constructions. The acquisition of stakes in Zorya Mashproekt might boost India's shipbuilding industry manifold to ensure self-reliance in naval capabilities.

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Zorya Mashproekt India Private Limited (ZMI), established in 2022, plays a critical role in developing indigenous capabilities for gas turbine engines, powering various naval vessels, including what is going to be the new BrahMos-equipped upgraded Talwar-class frigates.

Impact of Geopolitical Tensions on Defence Projects

The geopolitical tensions between Ukraine and Russia have impacted India's defence projects, necessitating cooperation between India and Ukraine for essential military upgrades, including aircraft fleet enhancements, missile supplies, and advancements in artillery and air defence systems.

Furthermore, the strained relations between Moscow and Kyiv have also affected other defence contracts, including the delivery of newer INS Chakra, a nuclear-powered attack submarine that India ordered.

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The recent acquisition by India is a strategic manoeuvre to ensure the timely completion and operational readiness of its Project 11356M stealth-guided missile frigates.

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Published January 9th, 2024 at 14:24 IST

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