Admiral Grigorovich stealth-guided missile frigates are under construction in Russia but are powered by Ukrainian engines. The ongoing war had put India in a Catch-22 situation and delayed the two remaining ships in the class.
The situation will be remedied soon as Kalyani Strategic Systems (KSSL) has acquired a majority stake in the Indian arm of Ukrainian Zorya Mashproekt. The Ukrainian firm manufactures the engines for the Admiral Grigorovich class frigates, among other things.
The 3,620-ton Admiral Grigorovich-class is an upgraded variant of the six Talwar-class frigates that Russia built for the Indian Navy between 2003 and 2013
The agreement for the acquisition was signed by the KSSL, wholly owned by Bharat Forge on May 9, 2023, and the acquisition process was completed on December 31, 2023, the EurAsian Times has learned.
An Inter-Governmental Agreement for four stealth frigates was signed by India and Russia in October 2016. Subsequently, a $1 billion deal was made for direct purchase.
The first two frigates’ basic structures were lying in the Russian shipyard Yantar, where they are currently being constructed. The ships are powered by Ukrainian engines after India persuaded the Ukrainian government in 2019 to provide two ship engines to the Russian shipyard in Kaliningrad, a semi-exclave in northern Europe, with Belarus and Latvia on its East.
To provide material, design, and specialized help for the local production of the remaining two frigates, Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) and Russia’s Rosoboronexport inked a $500 million deal in November 2018. The Indian Defence Ministry and GSL then signed a contract for the same services in January 2019.
The GSL is presently building these two stealth frigates, and delivery dates will be determined by the payment plan. India will procure two M90FR gas turbine engines for the two frigates directly from Ukraine as a result of Kyiv’s decision to ban military exports to Russia in 2014.
Meanwhile, Russia has stated in 2023 that the two frigates under construction in its shipyard will be delivered in May and October 2024. A report by the EurAsian Times later indicated that the delivery dates for these frigates have been pushed back to 2025, even as the Indian Navy named the crew members for them.
These two frigates will be the last Indian Navy warships constructed at a foreign shipyard. The Indian Navy presently has 68 warships valued at Rs. 200 000 crores ($2.5B) on order.
After the delivery of the frigates by Russia, the navy will have all its warships constructed at Indian shipyards. Hence, the acquisition of stakes in the Zorya Mashproekt will be a shot in the arm for the Indian shipbuilding industry.
Six frigates of the Talwar class are already in the Indian Navy, and all are powered by Zorya Mashproekt engines.
Zorya Mashproekt India Private Limited (ZMI) is a private limited company that helps India build indigenous capability to build, repair, and overhaul all types of gas turbine engines. ZMI is a pre-revenue company incorporated on August 12, 2022, and has had no turnover since inception.
The war between Ukraine and Russia could hazard the operational readiness of the Indian Navy. ZMI is a key player in the Indian defense sector and develops and services gas turbine engines that power various naval vessels. The setting up of the Indian branch has been an elegant solution to the messy situation created by the ongoing war.
Complicated Web Of Old Ties
These Talwar class advanced guided missile frigates are powered by Ukrainian engines and armed with the BrahMos cruise missile system, manufactured under a joint venture between India and Russia.
The two-stage BrahMos missile — named after the Brahmaputra River in India and the Moskva River in Russia — is a derivative of the Russian-made P-800 Oniks over-the-horizon supersonic anti-ship cruise missile.
The warships will also have another Russian-made standoff supersonic anti-ship cruise missile- the vertically-launched 3M-54 Kalibr. It will have a Russian helicopter, Ka-27, to carry out anti-submarine warfare missions.
The frigates can cruise at a maximum speed of 30 knots and stay afloat in the seas for nearly 30 days without refueling at a naval base.
Other defense projects are hanging fire because of the protracted war. India has been traditionally dependent on Russia and former USSR states for its defense requirements. India needs assistance from Ukraine to upgrade its Antonov AN-32 fleet, provide vital R-27 air-to-air missiles for its fighter jets, and upgrade its current artillery and air defense systems.
India, a launch customer of Russian An-32, had in 2008 signed a US $400 million contract with Ukraine to upgrade its 105 AN-32 planes. As per the contract, 45 of these Russian warhorses were to be upgraded in Ukraine, and the rest were to be refurbished at Kanpur.
However, the project has been delayed as Moscow refused to supply critical equipment for the upgrade to Kyiv. The relations between the two former USSR states have been spiraling downward since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The Indian Air Force (IAF), refusing to put all its eggs in one basket, bought Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules and Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transport jets from the US.
The Indian Army has been waiting for 700,000 AK-203 assault rifles to be manufactured within India under an India-Russia joint venture, but the delay made the government order 70,000 Sig Sauer assault rifles from the US. The force is facing increased militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, and the standoff with China on the eastern border has been ongoing since 2020.
Among other delayed projects is the delivery of INS Chakra, a nuclear-powered attacked submarine. The Indian Navy had earlier taken two Akula class submarines on lease from Russia, but war-triggered economic sanctions have forced the countries to look for alternative ways to make payments.
- Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
- She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at) mail.com
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