New Indian stealth warship halted by US ban - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Thursday 5 March 2009

New Indian stealth warship halted by US ban

(Photos: Courtesy Ajai Shukla)

Photo 1: The INS Shivalik, moored at the Mumbai Port Trust, awaits the activation of its GE LM 2500 gas turbines.

Photo 2: Inside the engine deck of the INS Shivalik, a view of the air intakes for the LM 2500 gas turbines. The turbines were dismantled and lowered in through the air intakes.

by Ajai Shukla
On Board the INS Shivalik, Mumbai

If the United States ranks near the bottom amongst India’s defence suppliers, Washington’s penchant for imposing sanctions and restrictions has much to do with it. Now, the US appears to have shot itself in the foot again. The Indian Navy chose to power its indigenously designed, cutting-edge stealth warship, the INS Shivalik, with gas turbines from American company General Electric (GE). But even as the Shivalik readies for sea trials, the US State Department has ordered GE to stop all work on the turbines it has supplied.

Vice Admiral HS Malhi (Retired), Chairman and Managing Director of Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL), which built the Shivalik, has confirmed to Business Standard that GE has received instructions to stop operationalising (making ready for operations) the two new LM 2500 gas turbines that it supplied for the Shivalik. GE has told MDL that there could be up to three months delay, while the new US administration reviews its military relations with several countries. India is not alone in facing this ban; GE has been told to stop work even with close US allies like the UK and Australia.

MDL has clearly been taken by surprise. Says Admiral Malhi, “It is quite surprising that such a letter has been received from GE. They said the (US) State Department could take up to 3-4 months to re-look at relations with these countries. We don’t have that kind of time; we have to deliver the ship to the navy.”

The Shivalik stealth frigate is powered by four engines, in what is termed a CODOG (COmbined Diesel Or Gas) arrangement. Normal operations are powered by two Pielstick diesel engines, supplied by France. The gas turbines kick in for short bursts during combat, when extra power is needed. They are less fuel-efficient than diesel engines, but provide high performance. This is the first time that US turbines have been installed in an Indian-built frigate.

MDL is now exploring whether it can use another GE subsidiary to operationalise the Shivalik’s turbines, without invalidating GE’s warranty. According to Admiral Malhi, “If GE allows us to use one of its licensees, the delay can be cut down to a month. GE is not averse to that, as long as no American person is involved in the work.”

GE has not responded to an email, asking for details of this delay. The US State Department has also ignored a request for information. A spokesperson of the US Embassy in New Delhi has sidestepped the question, replying by email that, “The State Department has not instructed GE in the conduct of this direct commercial sale. Aspects of this sale were subject to export licensing, which is conducted through the State Department.”

When asked to comment specifically on blanket orders from the State Department to GE regarding commercial defence dealings with India, the US Embassy did not respond.

Recent Indian frigates were powered by Russian turbines. But GE’s LM 2500 gas turbines were chosen for three Project 17 frigates (of which INS Shivalik is the first) because of their better reliability. More than one thousand LM 2500 turbines power more than 400 warships in 30 navies across the world. In addition, the LM 2500 is used for power generation in luxury cruise liners like the QE II.

US defence industry sources indicate that GE is upset by the State Department’s directives, which clearly damage GE’s commercial interests. The ban, suggest sources, was imposed by an “over-enthusiastic State Department bureaucrat”, keen to display that the Obama administration was on the ball from the beginning. But in India, the ban is already generating talk of an unwise choice in going for a US engine.


  1. hello sir,

    once again a great article. this situation again shows that americans are still not so reliable as it seems. this is the clear indication of caution befor even thinking of going for american weapon system.

    i would like to know sir that why we are not going for R&D or developing our own engines (steam turbine, gas turbine, turbo jet, turbofan or even the desile engines) which are the most vital systems for our aircrafts, tanks, and ships why we depend heavily on the foreign partners saying that they are the experts in that field. due to which we are facing problem with all of our main weapon systems as we depend for these subsystems from the outsiders. why don't we produce these subsystem first instead of producing the main weapon system.

  2. This ban should now make the defence establishment more wary of the US. In my opinion we should stick to only small purchases from the US like thermal imagers, night vision equipments & d like which r strategically less important. Strategically important stuff should come out of our own labs in the first place & in absence of that should be sourced from Russia, France & Israel. Even UK should be avoided as it does what its big brother does, blindly.
    Any ban by the US should be followed by India banning US companies to participate in ongoing or upcoming defence procurements (even in other sectors if possible). That should teach them some lesson & it will be an economic squeeze on the already squeezed up US economy.

  3. What happened to the kaveri engine, I thought the marine version was being called a "success" ,Do they ever intend to use that ever?

  4. No one has the budget to develop everything under the sun.

    Especially our nation, not at the current economic situation.

    We need to tread a careful path,spending wisely on procurement and development and avoiding the situation in which Russia finds itself,stuck between the two needs.

    This halt on defence deals is being applied to all the nations who have defence relations with USA, even nations like UK and AUS, so nothing we can do, some major F up in Washington, the Shivalik is not the only ships under the process of trail to commissioning which are using this gas turbine.

    At the end of the day we need them as much as they need us.

    I hope MDL fines GE for delays.

  5. "MDL has clearly been taken by surprise. Says Admiral Malhi, “It is quite surprising that such a letter has been received from GE. They said the (US) State Department could take up to 3-4 months to re-look at relations with these countries. We don’t have that kind of time; we have to deliver the ship to the navy."

    Sums up USA's attitude towards india. Time to kick out F-XX out of MMRCA competition

  6. almost forgot, thank you Shukla ji for the amazing pic of the shivalik, its been a very long wait.

  7. The thing is KMGT was tested upto 12MW.Which is half the power of LM2500(25MW)
    It means that we neeed 2 KMGT where we are using 1 LM2500.Which thereby occupies a lot of space and consumes more fuel proportionately as well.
    IF the GTRE folks can come up with an uprated KMGT with a power rating of around 25-30MW the day i will show my middle finger to each and every nation who keep banning the stuff for indian cause.Certainely it will take 3 more years of work to come up with an uprated engines.

    However we still need GT engines for the next bunch of carriers as well......So if GTRE keeps this in mind and speeds up the development process,and comes up with a 25MW+ MGT which is gonna be accepted by navy.........all their kaveri aero engine sins will easily vanish.

    And regarding the shivalik faisco....for now forget the LM2500 and go for sea trails with the pielstic engines .As this GT engines are only in case of emergency to give the additional thrust for the ship to get out of the danger zone.
    With out LM2500 shivalik can make itself upto 25 knots which is a modest speed for a battle ship and gud enough for now.After that either kick the GTRE`s ass to speed up the development or get a GT from russia.

  8. We had the engines and We also had very good engineers lets do it folk like Vidvansak .50 guns.

  9. ("MDL has clearly been taken by surprise. Says Admiral Malhi, “It is quite surprising that such a letter has been received from GE.) this meant that we didn’t read the agreement before striking the deal with GE or this is an illegal action taken by the US government or we never expected this to happen. Such unprecedented action may effect to the cost overruns to the MDL as the project delays. There must be a clause to penalize the sub vendor for such delays.

    Yes I do agree that we need to trade a careful path, spending wisely on procurement and development but these systems are more vital in any main system and we need to developed them with our own in-house resources available to us or with the pvt. participation. There should be a road map for the development under one roof to keep the cost under control for eg. One R&D agency or department of engine development for aircrafts, helicopters, ships etc. this will definitely take some time but it’s worth it.

  10. We had the engines and We also had very good engineers lets do it folk like Vidvansak .50 guns.
    That is the smartest thing i have heard anyone say, although with the "chai piyo phir tender nikalo, phir se chai piyo aur wait karo" approach might be a tiny wee bit difficult.

    If domestic help is difficult then i think these engines are common i am sure much expertise and consulting from around the world is available.

    And this gets us ready for future sanctions all the better. :)

  11. Time to think again before installing the same engines in the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier.

  12. Imagine what their sanctions will do if we buy their MMRCA fighter jet.

  13. We had no choices when it came to selecting the C-130J and the Boeing P-8I but as far as helicopters and fighter jets are concerned we have plenty of options. keeping in mind such stringent and unacceptable terms and conditions laid down by the Americans it doesnt make sense in buying F-16's or F-a18's even if they are fulfilling IAF's requirements. Our sovreignity cannot be compromised at any cost.
    Our defense ministry should now look to others namely the Europeans or the French instead to the unreliable American laws which are more of a time taking tactics and hurdles.

  14. to those who're suggesting changing the engines or going for KMGT at this stage of the Shivalik's building- its going to cause several years delay to even try that.

    the Shivalik's design is done with the LM2500 in mind. Even if the KMGT was uprated to 25-30 MW, it would take years to redesign the Shivalik to be able to use it instead of the LM 2500. fact is that the Obama administration won't change anything. its too lucrative and there are too many US companies that can make money from foreign sales. with the economy in doldrums, the Obama administration will act like they're tough but simply give the go-ahead. it'll be a delay of 3-4 months, but eventually it'll come through. And later on, if supplies are halted, India should basically sever all its ties with the US.

    by the way, this should make it clear that the F-16IN and Super Hornet are not going to be advisable for the MRCA. It should be the Rafale.

  15. We have to master the engine technology in all three services. Remember HF24 Marut which basically died due to the lack of good engines. Same problem in Tejas, ALH, Arjun .......

    The planners needed to learn from history!!!!!!

  16. better not to go for amerikanski stuff as they r prone to bans

    what about rolls royce marine gas turbines,i think they r equally good,better go for rolls royce turbines

    and moreover honeywell wants to sell its engine for jaguar upgrade
    i don't know what will happen if india buys engines and america imposes ban and whole jaguar fleet will be stting idle

  17. rolls royce WR-21 Marine gas turbine powers new type 45 destroyer

  18. The Shivalik does not look very stealthy. It's profile isn't low, and the shapes are so square... What makes it a stealth warship?

  19. superb report ajai. scary stuff.

  20. Stealth can never be measured by looking at the ship. It's not that more slanted areas create more stealth. There are a lot of areas including the height, width of the ship that matters. Also the other aspects of stealth than radar are the reduction of thermal and acoustic signatures. I think it was Ajai who posted that the French team fro DCNS were surprised at the stealth achieved for the Shivalik by the Indian designers. Regarding the fitment of equipments, the designers don't have control and in that way there will be problem with the radars etc. This can be solved with the introduction of specific radars for these kind of stealth ships.

  21. I do not understand. The US and US companies are bonded to a contract it has already signed even if they change leaders. Also, they can not make their laws retro-active. So, they have to obey their contract.

  22. I think the Americans want to know how much we trust them by finalizing the MRCA deal in their favour first and maybe then they will decide about the engines!
    but we shouldn't be suppressed,lets get engines from some other company and then we'll see Americans getting back on the track!

  23. Hello Ajai, request permission to upload the INS Shivalik image into Wikimedia commons. It's your images that adorns many articles in Wikipedia.

  24. above article shows the amount of suspicion people have wrto Indo-us arms deal,which is legitimate, but one angle is also that usa is acting in its own interests. one can see more blockades/sanctions in future,because west doesnt want asia to grow equally militarily , remember they havent yet denounced sanctions imposed on china more than a decade ago, all this is to always maintain a clear edge over asians ,be it growing powers like BRIC or any else.
    India can make such turbines but that requires 'huge' investments, meanwhile they will try to customize kaveri to suit stealthy purposes which would require more time and energy and it may not succeed as well!
    by then usa would offer that old technogy based machine to their 'expected ' adversaries while they had developed a much better and a counter , and the story goes on ...

  25. i think US wants us to sign END USER afreement and many other agreements regarding military hardware before they lift the ban

  26. As Kaplan mentions in his recent article, I think this is the way US wishes to balance and stabilize strategic rivalry between Indo-China in the Indian ocean region...

  27. Or maybe this is the "reaction" of the recent faceoff between Chinese and US naval forces -


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last