India and Russia have reached an agreement on the sale of three Admiral Grigorovich-class (Project 11356) guided missile frigates reports IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly.
"The relevant concealed agreement has been achieved, and India will receive the second three of Project 11356 frigates being built for the Russian Navy," said a source within Russia’s defense industry. "The Indian side has obtained 12 spare tool and accessory kits for the ships."
The development is consistent with suspicions that the Russian Navy has abandoned plans to add six to nine Admiral Grigorovich-class vessels to its fleet over the next decade—as was laid out in the initial 2030 shipbuilding program—and will field only three such ships into the navy.
The suspected reason for Russia’s decision to export the three ships – two of which are currently under construction – is that the Admiral Grigorovich is powered by M90FR gas turbines built by Zorya-Mashproekt in Ukraine, a premier Russian surface shipbuilder dating back to the Soviet era.
The conflict in the Ukraine, however, has led to the imposition of an export ban against Russia and while the country’s defense industry is working on designing an indigenous replacement to the Ukrainian turbine engine, the delay mitigates against producing more Admiral Grigorovich-class vessels for the Russian naval fleet at the present time. Russia did acquire a total of three M90FR gas turbines prior to the imposition of the export ban, however.
Moscow awarded NPO Saturn, a Russian aircraft engine manufacturer, with a contract to produce and test a domestically-produced replacement for the M90FR turbine engine by 2017, but defense industry analysts believe that the new propulsion system may not be ready until sometime in 2019.
The Admiral Grigorovich-class vessel is an upgraded derivative of the six Talwar-class frigates that Russia built for the Indian Navy between 2003 and 2013. New Delhi’s familiarity with the platform in addition to the burgeoning defense trade relationship between the two countries suggests India would be the ideal trade partner for Moscow in such a deal.
India is not subject to Ukraine’s export ban and would be able to directly purchase M90FR gas turbine engines from Kiev without incident meaning that New Delhi could make the ships operational in short order.
Neither India nor Russia have officially confirmed that the parties have come to terms on an export agreement for the 3,620 ton guided missile frigates, but it has been previously confirmed that discussions towards a deal were underway.