Russia’s war in Ukraine is delaying India’s plans to induct two Admiral Grigorovich-class warships into its navy by at least a year and is now scheduled in the first half of 2025.
The two guided-missile frigates under Project 1135.6P/M are under construction at Russia’s Yantar shipyard in Kaliningrad, a semi-exclave in northern Europe, with Belarus and Lativia on its East.
The frigates were initially scheduled for delivery to the Indian Navy in the first half of 2024 but have now been delayed by a year due to the slow pace of work on the warships because of the focus on the military operations in Ukraine.
“Earlier, COVID-19-related lockdown had delayed the warship construction in 2020, and in 2022 came the Ukraine war. These two are the main reasons for pushing the commissioning of the two frigates being built in Russia by a year,” an Indian government official told EurAsian Times, requesting anonymity, as he is not authorized to speak publicly on the subject.
The Russian Federal Service for Technical and Military Cooperation (FSTMC), in February 2020, during India’s DefExpo show in Lucknow, said it would deliver the two warships by the first half of 2024.
The construction of the frigates continued during 2020 and 2021 amidst COVID-19 restrictions at a slow pace. However, the warships were launched into the waters earlier this year, meaning all its critical equipment has already been integrated into the warship, and its outfitting work is progressing.
Indian Navy Names Crew For Two Frigates
The Indian Navy, on its part, has already named the crew for the two frigates, and the crew members would be flying to Kaliningrad soon to join the warships. The unit will take control of the warships later and prepare them for commissioning and sailing to India for induction into the Indian Navy fleet.
India and Russia signed an intergovernmental agreement in October 2016 for Yantar Shipyard to construct the two frigates and for India’s state-run Goa Shipyard to build two follow-on frigates at its Indian facilities with technical support from Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC).
The contract for the first two Russia-built frigates was signed in October 2019 and for the follow-on warships in January 2019. The deal was estimated at US$2.5 billion then. Admiral Grigorovich-class warships are an upgraded variant of the six Talwar-class frigates Russia built for the Indian Navy between 2003 and 2013.
Armed With BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missiles
The frigates will be armed with the BrahMos cruise missile system fired from an eight-cell 3S-14E under-deck launcher. 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 and is a joint venture between the two strategic partner-nations.
In July 2018, Indian defense firm Larsen & Toubro (L&T) unveiled a quadruple canisterized inclined launcher for the BrahMos missile for Indian Navy surface warships. The class ships will also carry vertical-launched 3M-54 Kalibr, a Russian-made stand-off supersonic anti-ship cruise missile.
Other armaments include a 100-millimeter A-190 naval cannon, 533-millimeter heavyweight torpedoes, and anti-submarine rockets. The frigates also feature a flight deck to carry a helicopter for anti-submarine warfare missions, including Ka-27. 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.
Last Indian Warship Order On Foreign Shipyard
The two Admiral Grigorovich-class warships are the last orders from the Indian Navy placed on a foreign shipyard. Including these two frigates, the Indian Navy currently has 68 warships worth Rs 200,000 crore on order.
Once the two Russia-built frigates are delivered, India would have all its warships on order with only Indian shipyards, both from the private and the public sectors.
“Two decades ago, Indian shipyards delivered just one warship every three years. That poor delivery rate had improved to one warship every two years about a decade ago,” said a senior Indian Navy officer on the rate of warship deliveries in India.
“Today, we place warship orders on many state-run and privately owned shipyards. Now, we get delivery of one warship every 18 months, which is a vast improvement,” the officer said.
China’s Threat In The Indian Ocean
China, India’s most potent threat in the Indo-Pacific region, is churning out 20 warships yearly at its 17 shipyards, a breakneck speed. China’s People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) has already pushed the United States behind to emerge as the largest naval fleet, with 355 combatants or more.
This frenetic pace at which China is building its navy has caused severe concerns among nations, both in the South China Sea, where Beijing has made unrealistic territorial claims by land reclamation and artificial island creation, and in the larger Indo-Pacific region, where it threatens the supremacy of the US Navy and other maritime powers such as India.
The Indian Navy will reach less than half the PLA-N in the next ten years. The Indian Navy would achieve a fleet of 160 warships by 2035. It will be hard for the Indian Navy to expand its strategic reach beyond the Indian Ocean region and the South China Sea in the Pacific and to venture into the Atlantic or even the eastern Pacific, all geostrategically important regions for India.
- NC Bipindra is a 30-year veteran in journalism specializing in strategic affairs, geopolitics, aerospace, defense, and diplomacy. He has written extensively for the Times of India, New Indian Express, Press Trust of India, and Bloomberg News. He can be reached at ncbipindra (at) gmail.com
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