Talks for new frigates from Russia in final stage, first one could be delivered to India in 3 years

One of the three incomplete frigates at the Yantar shipyard that are likely to be transferred to the Indian Navy. Manu Pubby/The Print

The first two ships will be built at the Yantar shipyard in Russia. Two more are set to be constructed at the Goa Shipyard after it is upgraded and equipped with a specialized workforce. 

Kaliningrad (Russia): India is likely to get the first of its new frontline frigates from Russia within three years with officials at the Shipyard Yantar in the Kaliningrad region of Russia expressing confidence that the final contract for a new variant of the Talwar class warships will be signed by the end of this year.

India has already signed a preliminary agreement to purchase four new frigates from Russia – two of which will be built at the Yantar Shipyard and the other two will be completed at Goa Shipyard Ltd. They will join the six existing Talwar class warships that form the backbone of the Indian Navy.

India’s order for the new warships has brought some much-needed relief for the shipyard with three semi-complete frigates standing at the Yantar shipyard since 2014. The construction of these ships – originally ordered by the Russian Navy – was halted in 2014 after the Crimean war hampered the supply of engines for the warships from Ukraine.

“It is no secret that the production has been halted due to the lack of engines. After the contract is signed (with India), the first ship will be completed within three years. After that it will take six months for the second ship to be built,” Eduard Efimov, head of the Yantar shipyard, said.

One of the incomplete frigates at the Yantar shipyard which could be transferred to the Indian Navy. Manu Pubby/ The Print

Sharing exclusive details of the deal, Efimov confirmed that the first two ships would be completed at the Russian shipyard. The other two warships are set to be built at the Goa Shipyard, which will be upgraded for the construction. Efimov said that the Goa yard has been inspected by a team from Yantar.

The top executive said that a delegation from the Goa Shipyard also visited Yantar on June 19 and he was confident the Indian shipyard had the technical ability to implement the contract to build the two frigates.

“My opinion is that in its current status, the Goa Shipyard can handle the contract but will have to build some more capabilities. I think that the initial ship of the class – which will be the lead ship – will take five-to-seven years to build in Goa,” Efimov said.

The Indian yard will need to invest in the modernisation of its equipment to be able to execute the order in the next few years. The Russian official said that Goa Shipyard will need to create capability and a specialized workforce to integrate combat systems onto the ships.

The order for the frigates from Russia has been discussed for almost two years, and it culminated with India signing the deal in October 2016. The order is believed to have strategic implications for India, and is also said to be linked to the leasing of a new nuclear-powered submarine from Russia  that is set to replace the currently operational INS Chakra.

While India and Russia haven’t disclosed the financial details behind the deal, estimates indicate that the complete deal, including the creation of new infrastructure at Goa Shipyard and a linked project, is expected to exceed $5 billion.

(The correspondent is in Russia on the invitation of the state owned United Shipbuilding Corporation) 

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