Russia has offered India the export version of its new Project 22350 frigate as part of a tender for the construction of seven ships. The Russian offer is in response to a Request for Information (RFI), issued by India to about a dozen European, Russian and American shipyards in December last year.
The RFI is the first formal step in the process of military acquisition.
According to Indian defence industry sources, the proposed acquisition of these seven ships may well be worth more than Rs30,000 crore. At the time the RFI was issued, the then newly anointed chief of the Indian naval staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta had said that the proposed acquisition was meant to offset the delay in the acquisition of modern equipment by the Indian Navy that had occurred over the past two decades.
This delay, Mehta said, were due to constraints on defence budgets and other factors, as also the inability of Indian shipyards to deliver ships on time.
The RFI is for a set of seven stealth frigates, each costing about Rs4,000 crore. According to reports, the plan envisages the first ship to be built at the foreign shipyard, with the remaining units being built at Mazagon Docks Ltd in Mumbai or at the Garden Reach Shipyard in Kolkata.
The project, designated P-17A, is envisaged as the next generation of ships that will be an upgrade over the ongoing Project 17 Shivalik class multi-role stealth frigates. Currently construction work on three of these Project 17 frigates is on at the Mazagon wharves.
As for the Project 22350, this is an "escort ship intended for the distant maritime and ocean zones," according to the authoritative Russian publication Military Parade. One ship of this project is already under construction, the Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, the keel for which was laid down at the Saint Petersburg-based Severnaya Verf shipyard in February 2006.
As per details provided by Military Parade these ships will have a displacement of about 4,500 tonnes, a length of over 130 meters, a maximum width of 16 meters, a range of over 4,000 miles, and "an unlimited sea-going ability." It is not clear what this last comment by Military Parade is intended to mean.
The frigate will be armed with eight Oniks anti-ship missiles, the A-192 130mm gun mount, the Medvedka-2 antisubmarine missile system, the Uragan medium-range air-defence missile system, and a hangar-parked helicopter.
The Admiral Sergei Gorshkov is scheduled for launch in 2009. According to the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Vladimir Masorin, Russia's Navy intends to procure up to 20 such ships.
According to Military Parade construction costs of the ship are pegged at over $300 million.
The significance of the project for the Russians lies in the fact that the new project 22350 frigate, Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, is the first ship that has been designed and built for the Russian Navy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russian Navy has had no surface ships built for it over the last 15 years.
According to Russian reports the project is likely to utilize "engineering solutions" used to build the 1135.6 frigates (Talwar class) frigates for the Indian Navy. If so, it would be another instance of Indian money, and defence orders, reviving projects for the Russian defence industry.
Between 1998 and 2003, Russia built three 1135.6 frigates for India, namely the INS Talwar, Trishul and Tabar, all of which have been inducted into service. The Indians have placed follow on orders for three more of these frigates, which have gone to a shipyard different from the one that built the original three.
As with the Indian Air Force, the Indian Navy also got a foreign partner involved with the design and solutions aspect of the INS Talwar class frigates through the Canadian firm CAE.