Keel laid for second Russian-origin frigate at Goa Shipyard - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 19 June 2021

Keel laid for second Russian-origin frigate at Goa Shipyard

INS Trikand, a Talwar-class frigate, at its commissioning in Kaliningrad, Russia


By Ajai Shukla


On Saturday (18 June 2021), the navy’s vice chief, Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar, ceremonially laid the keel of the second Russian-designed frigate that is being constructed at Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) under Project 1135.6.


“Keel Laying is a major milestone in the construction of any ship, symbolising the formal commencement of the construction process,” said a Ministry of Defence (MoD) press release on the occasion.


Project 1135.6 involves building four stealth frigates for the Indian Navy under an Inter-Governmental Agreement that New Delhi and Moscow signed on January 25, 2019. 


The first two of these frigates were lying almost fully built in Yantar Shipyard in Kaliningrad, Russia. They are being completed there and will be delivered to India thereafter. The remaining two frigates are being built in GSL.


These will add to six similar frigates – called the Talwar-class, that the Indian Navy bought from Russia between 2003 and 2012.


New Delhi and Moscow have negotiated an attractive price of under $1 billion (Rs 6,850 crore), or Rs 3,425 crore each, for the two frigates being built in Russia.


However, the cost of the two frigates being built in GSL would be higher, then defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, conceded to Business Standard in July 2018. There will be additional costs for technology transfer, transhipping raw materials and systems from Russia to Goa, establishing building infrastructure in GSL and indigenising parts of the warship.


With GSL never having built a warship as large and complex as a frigate, the learning process would most likely result in the cost escalating further.


“The keel for GSL’s first frigate was laid on Jan 29. It is due to be delivered in 2026, and the second frigate subsequently after six months,” stated an MoD press release today.


The cost of the Talwar-class frigates also compares favourably with that of seven Project 17-A frigates being built in Indian shipyards. The MoD will pay Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) and Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, Kolkata (GRSE) about Rs 6,483 crore for each Project 17-A frigate they are building. That is almost double Yantar’s Rs 3,425 crore price for the Talwar-class.


True, the 4,000-tonne Russian frigates – known in the west as the Krivak III-class, and in Russia as Project 1135.6 – are smaller than the 5,600-tonne Project 17-A vessels and, therefore, less costly. Despite their smaller size, the four Talwar-class frigates are almost as muscular in terms of weapons and sensors as the Project 17-A vessels. They will be armed with the same BrahMos anti-ship missiles, AK 630 close in weapon system and heavy torpedo tubes supplied by Indian firm, Larsen & Toubro.


Speaking during the keel-laying, Admiral Kumar said “this was for the first time that these vessels, with such technological complexity, were being constructed indigenously at GSL and marked an important milestone in our journey towards ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) and the ‘Make in India’ initiative.”


He added that “a large number of major equipments (sic) are being substituted with indigenous equivalents, in addition to use of significant indigenous build material. The entire hulls of the ships are also being built with indigenous steel,” said the MoD.


There are four Krivak III-class frigates lying fully or partially built in Yantar shipyard, with the Russian Navy unwilling to buy the new vessels. This raises questions over why India is accepting delay, and also a higher price, by stipulating that two frigates be built in GSL in India.


Indian admirals point to a serious shortage of frigates in the navy’s fleet, given that they are the primary work-horses for the navy’s peacetime “mission-based deployments.” Modern frigates are multi-role warships in the 3,500-6,000 tonne range that can engage targets underwater, on the surface, inland and in the air.


While the navy is making do with just 132 warships against the requirement of 198 vessels spelt out in its Maritime Capability Perspective Plan, there are just 15 frigates in service against the 24 it calculates it needs.


 “Frigates are a navy’s workhorses. To fulfil the Indian Navy’s operational roles of anti-piracy, area domination and port visits, we simply cannot afford to be nine frigates short,” says a senior admiral.

1 comment:

  1. Price may be high, but art og shipbuilding will be auquired will be more value than money spending perhaps.


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