India considers buying four new, upgraded Talwar-class stealth frigates; Russia submits proposal

India and Russia are back at the table to discuss advancing their defence co-operation. The two countries are trying to breathe life into some of the stalled defence projects like joint development of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and Kamov Ka-226T light utility helicopters at the two-day 16th India-Russia Military Technical Cooperation Working Group (MTC-WG) meeting.

India had long considered buying additional Grigorivich-class (Talwar-class) stealth frigates from Russia. Both sides have reportedly discussed the possible sale of four stealth frigates costing $4 billion.

The Russian side submitted “techno-commercial proposal” for the four frigates, which are likely to feature upgraded sensors and weapons. The weapons package will include the Indo-Russian joint venture of BrahMos cruise missiles.

“Under the proposal, two of the frigates will come from Russia, while the other two will be constructed in India. The MoD has asked for some clarifications before taking a decision on the price and inter-governmental agreement,” said a defence ministry source to the Times of India.

Indian Navy already uses six Grigorivich-class or Talwar-class stealth frigates. The last one of the vessels, INS Trikand was commissioned on June 29, 2013. The Talwar-class frigates have an operating range of 4,500 nautical miles

The four frigates of this class were originally intended for the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet, said IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly quoting a source from Russian defence industry. They are lying half-constructed at the Yantar Shipyard in Russia due to a cash crunch.

But the main issue is that the frigates use Ukrainian Zorya gas-turbine engines. Since Russia and Ukraine have their mutual problems, India might have to directly acquire the engines from Ukraine, noted the source.

Indian Navy has been indigenously constructing stealth frigates in India, called the Shivalik-class, which is supposed to be the successor to the Talwar-class frigates. Currently, India has completed three such frigates that are now on active duty.

Indian Navy has a follow-on order of Shivalik-class frigate called Project 17A for seven frigates that are being built indigenously in India. Four frigates will be constructed at Mazagon Dock Ltd in Mumbai and three at Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers in Kolkata. These frigates are expected to be equipped with Barak 8 (LR-SAM), BrahMos, Ajanta electronic warfare system and Human-NG radar.

Indian Navy is currently 130 warships strong but is expected to have a 212 vessel force by 2027 as it expands its blue-water capabilities and safeguards its interests beyond the Indian Ocean Region.

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