Navy looks to Russia for three more frigates, as domestic shipyards lag - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 13 July 2015

Navy looks to Russia for three more frigates, as domestic shipyards lag

Private Indian shipyard will build three Russian-designed frigates, like INS Teg (above), sailing into Simon's Town 

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th July 15

To make up flagging warship numbers, the Indian Navy is initiating the purchase of three Grigorivich-class frigates (Project 1135.6) from Russia. These warships are improved variants of the six Talwar-class (Russian classification: Krivak-III) frigates the navy obtained between 2003-13.

Those earlier vessels were built in Russia, in Yantar Shipyard at Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea. Now New Delhi insists the new frigates be built in an Indian shipyard.

Just two Indian shipyards have ever built a frigate --- Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) and Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, Kolkata (GRSE). With these two occupied with building seven stealth frigates under Project 17A, Yantar will partner a private Indian shipyard.

Business Standard learns that Russian experts have evaluated three private yards for their potential to build these frigates: Larsen & Toubro’s Katupalli shipyard, at Ennore, Tamil Nadu; Pipavav Shipyard in Gujarat; and Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) in Kochi, Kerala.

“The Russians will take a commercial decision on which Indian shipyard to partner. We will not interfere”, says a senior Indian naval officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. Once they decide, the navy will formally initiate the procurement, he says.

India paid about $1 billion for the first three Talwar-class frigates, and a similar price for the next batch of three. However, the current trio could be significantly more expensive. This would partly be due to inflation, while building in India would further boost the cost.

Driving the navy’s decision to buy three more Russian frigates is a growing warship shortfall. The maritime capability perspective plan envisages a 198-ship navy by 2027. Against that the navy currently has just 137 vessels.

Short by 61 warships, the navy currently has 48 vessels under construction. In addition, the defence ministry has accorded sanction (termed Acceptance of Necessity, or AoN) for another 44 vessels, including six Project 75I submarines.

Over the coming two decades, while these 92 vessels are built in various Indian warships, large numbers of older warships would be decommissioned at the end of their service lives. While decommissioning can be delayed to some extent, the navy will still be well short of 198 vessels by 2027.

Given this vulnerability, New Delhi listened carefully when Russian President Vladimir Putin offered Prime Minister Narendra Modi three-to-four Project 1135.6 frigates during their summit meeting in New Delhi last December.

Neither Russia nor India publicly acknowledged Putin’s offer, but the joint statement of December 10-11 stated: “President Putin and I discussed a broad range of new defence projects. We also discussed how to align our defence relations to India's own priorities, including Make in India.

This was a familiar convergence of interests between a penurious Moscow and an inefficient New Delhi. Russia’s Yantar Shipyard has six Project 1135.6 frigates under construction, but Moscow can no longer afford them, due to low oil prices and sustained economic sanctions from the West over the Ukraine confrontation.

The Indian Navy is satisfied with its Talwar-class frigates, which is why they may go on to become the largest warship type in the Indian Navy, with nine in service.

With a displacement of just 4,000 tonnes, the Talwar class packs a considerable punch owing to a key Russian design strength: outstanding utilisation of space. The Russian designers even squeezed in torpedo launchers, which are only now being retro-fitted into the larger Indian Shivalik-class frigates, which displace 5,600 tonnes.

Like the Shivalik-class, the three Russian frigates will be multi-role vessels. They will carry the Brahmos surface-to-surface missile for attacking land targets and ships; an improvement over the Klub missile carried by the first six Talwar-class frigates. Like them, they will be fitted with Shtil anti-air missiles, naval guns and rockets, and torpedoes for sinking enemy submarines.

The Shivalik-class’ biggest capability advantage stems from its carriage of two multi-purpose helicopters of the 10-tonne class (currently, the Seaking), while the smaller Talwar-class frigate can only accommodate a single Kamov-31. The embarkation of two helicopters instead of one effectively doubles a frigate’s anti-submarine and airborne early warning capabilities.

However, the greatest advantage the navy sees in buying Russian frigates is they would be delivered far quicker than Indian vessels. Sources say Moscow has offered to provide the first frigate within 2½ years of the order, while an Indian shipyard would take at least 1½ years longer. 


  1. Navy's planning has been outstanding. The insistence on the Russians partnering a local shipyard is a very good move in the true spirit of 'Make in India. allowing the Russians also to select their partner is a very fair deal. Let us see how well Indian pvt industry steps up to the challenge. The only deficiency is that with such good designs of contemporary warships by DND Navy, there has been no thrust to commercialise this and export these ships to friendly countries. I hope this shortcoming is quickly overcome.

  2. Concept... 3 navies... 100 vessels... takeoff time...

  3. 9 active submarines in a total fleet of 13 total submarines,and 1 leased submarine. Even then, no-one is buying submarines although the negotiations are going on for as long as i remember. The Scorpenes are delayed by 4+ years.

    Why not buy some Soryu class submarines from Japan to shore up the submarine arm? Even some new upgraded Kilo would be welcome if budgets are a constraint...But absolutely no attention to the submarine arm?? Why? Cost cannot be a reason. We are buying expensive P8I planes at USD 2.1 Billion. We are buying Aircraft carriers at USD 2 Billion plus each.

    If our indigenous yards are unable to supply submarines, why not buy atleast 4 submarines instead of adding ships, which we already have relatively more of and the domestic yards are in the process of delivering the Kolkata class, Kamorta class, 15B etc.

  4. This was a good read :-)

    Tanuj, Noida

  5. How did all of a sudden demand for 3 new foreign frigates spring up when we are self sufficient with design and manufacturing advanced stealth frigates and destroyers? Is this Modi sarkar working solely for Ambanis or for the country? Since he has come to power, all he has done is enrich few extremely corrupt business houses with Indian taxpayers' money. How much are the Tatas, Ambanis and their ilk paying you to sell the nation down the drain?
    No money for OROP, no money for MNREGA but tons of money for imported arms to be made by shady companies at inflated prices. Is it any wonder that things have hardly improved since exit of kleptocratic congress party.

  6. How is it that Moscow with it's low population, huge landmass floating on oil and diamonds, and with enormous cash reserves cannot afford few of their own frigates whereas we a country of more than 1.3 billion, with 200 million facing starvation, 700 million no access to toilets, 500 million illiterates are able to afford such expensive foreign weapons systems?

  7. It was in the news that three such frigates are lying unfinished due to Ukraine's unwillingness to transfer the propulsion system. Ukraine will supply the same if these frigates are sold to a neutral 3 country like India. Wouldn't it be much better to purchase the same as they will even cost lesser and can be delivered far faster (as they're almost complete) than building them in India?

  8. "penurious" - Ka Ajai bhaiyya, itni Angrezi jhadte ho, humka dictionary dekhna pada. Aisan shabd humare samaj ke bahar hai ...Sidha bolo na "garib", "poor"....

  9. We need more submarines !! Already 7 frigates are on order !!

  10. We have a fantastic leadership at Navy. Indian Army needs to learn from these guys, they have too many bureaucrats , maybe time reduce number of Lt. gen by half.
    The government should post a Vice Admiral as a DGMF so that Arjun becomes successful.
    Same with Air Force. A navy Guy should head AMCA in addition LCA.

  11. Is it bad diplomacy that even after buying so much from Russia, It still doesn't allow India to have a Airbase in Central Asia ?

  12. Let me guess, miraculously Gujarat's Pipavav will be selected for this billion dollar deal.

  13. Navy planning is 180 degree Army planning.... Sharam aani chahiye hamare General logon ko...

  14. Ukraine stopped selling engines for ships made by Russia...So Russia is desperate to sell three finished frigates without engines to India...India must act pro-actively to make sure we get a very good deal for towing them to India and ordering some good and latest radars and EW and Ka-38s to please Russia...

    At the same time India must order the ship engines and technology from Ukraine...We use many engines from Ukraine so it is important to get the technology too...We can go for co-design development of larger engines for bigger destroyers with two helicopters so both Ukraine and India will benefit...We should also consider the flight of Ukraine people and industry and be sympathetic to them...they will be happy and we will be happy...

  15. Sir,
    I would like to draw your attention to a line in the above post where it is said that the 6 talwars have been equipped with klub missiles.
    To my knowledge the first 3 have klubs, the second batch of 3 already have the brahmos, please verify.

  16. To be honest why would we need three more Talwar's, does it not make sence to order 3 more shivalik's instead. They are better ships and we don't really need to import stuff which we can manufacture better.

    Logical Order:

    1. Shivaliks (17A - 10 Ships)
    2. Project 75I(6 additional scorpenes will surely save time)
    3. 6 Next Gen Corvettes (Replacement for Kora and Khukri class)
    4. 16 Light Corvettes
    5. 12 Mine Counter Ships
    6. SSN
    7. 1 more Akula
    8. INS Vishal
    9. 30 - 40 Rudras Navy
    10. P8i - even 8 more will be good
    11. 40 Coastal Missile Boats (for Coastal Defence)


    1. 15 Chinooks
    2. 200 Kamovs
    3. 100 Rudras (50 Army / 50 Navy)
    4. 200 LCH (100 Army / 100 Navy)
    5. Apachi (too good but too expensive - can be ignored)


    1. 500 Dhanush (or a mix of Dhanush and Bharat 52)
    2. 400 Air Defence Guns
    3. Spike ATGM
    4. 1 Regiment of Brahmos
    5. 3 - 4 Regiments of Nirbhay
    6. 200 Pinakas
    7. 800 Truck mounted guns (Nextor would be a tough gun)

    Air Defence:

    1. 1 Regiment of S400
    2. 2-3 Regiments of Barak 8
    3. 4 Regiments of Akash
    4. Maitri - Can be omitted


    1. 300 Tejas (150 mk1 and 150 mk2)
    2. 50 (Intermediate Jet Trainers -Sitara I don't think will make it on time)


    1. 100+ C295 (MTA is fiction - C295 is reality and proven in every aspect)

    This would be more than what we need, I suppose even 36 Rafales is too expensive a purchase for its price. It would involve the IAF maintaining one more jet type which can e saved. I believe the future is to trust what we produce.

    @ Racist Anonymous - 14 July 2015 at 11:06

    We might have 200 million who live under poverty but it is a fact India is becoming a better place to live in. Development is evident, literacy is increasing at a very fast pace and sanitation is improving by the day (even the Government is promoting better sanitation). Yes we have a long way to go but we have caught up and India will look a different place in 2030.

  17. @Mr.Shukla,

    The Govt had decided that it's not going to import any more naval vessels as IN had developed the capacity to design and build such systems indigenously.
    Now merely after few months of such statement, how is it that we are again importing frigates inferior to the ones that we already have?
    How valid is the Govt's assertion that Pvt shipyards are being roped in as defense shipyards have more than they can deliver?
    Who will pay for the infrastructure to build these frigates? Ambanis or Indian taxpayers?

  18. This decision coming out of the blue should not surprise anyone after Anil Ambani went to Russia only a month back for tie ups wrt defense manufacturing.
    What is surprising is how fast these multi billion $ deals were finalized within few months of Reliance entering defense manufacturing.
    Is the nation's defense now solely dependent upon whims and fancies of Tatas and Ambanis?


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