The Yantar shipyard in the Kaliningrad Oblast along the Baltic Sea has launched India’s latest modified Krivak III (Project 1135.6) class “stealth” frigate. The INS Trikand (F50)is the sixth and last of the Talwar-class ordered from Russia.
The Trikand (a mythological arrow with three heads) and her sisters INS Teg (Sabre) and INS Trakash (Quiver) were ordered in July 2006 at a cost of US$1.6 billion. The trio followed in the wake of the original three vessels ordered for US$1 billion in November 1997. These were built by the Baltiysky Zavod yard in St Petersburg but came in overdue and over-budget.
The ships will support India’s growing ambitions in the Indian Ocean basin. In an undated but recent analysis for Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, Shashank Joshi notes the Indian Navy is currently the world’s fifth largest. “As early as 2000, Defence Minister George Fernandes defined India’s sphere of interest as extending ‘from the North of the Arabian Sea to the South China sea’. A year later, India patrolled the Malacca Straits in the aftermath of 9/11, on America’s request. In 2004, its ships played a prominent role in humanitarian operations after the Indian Ocean earthquake. India’s first naval doctrine was released in the same year. Two years later, four Indian warships in the Mediterranean evacuated thousands from Lebanon during the war between Israel and Hezbollah.
“In 2008, Admiral Navy Chief Sureesh Mehta announced that ‘by 2022, we plan to have a 160-plus ship navy, including three aircraft carriers, 60 major combatants, including submarines and close to 400 aircraft of different types’, constituting ‘a formidable three dimensional force with satellite surveillance and networking’,” Joshi wrote.
“India’s naval expansion accords with rapidly growing perception of a threat from China, whose surface fleet is three times as large and is supported by five times the personnel. The notion of a ‘string of pearls’, referring to Chinese political and military ties with states on India’s periphery, is ubiquitous in strategic circles. This fear is compounded by the pace and scale of Chinese military, and especially naval, modernisation. China has also intensified its claim on India’s north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, blocked a US$3 billion loan from the Asian Development Bank directed at the province, issued a demarche after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh campaigned there, and reportedly increased the frequency of incursions. As India’s strategic attention shifts from Pakistan to China, its orientation is becoming increasingly maritime in nature; India’s Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC), along which its energy supplies travel, are perceived to be vulnerable to coercive disruption during a crisis or war. This shift to naval concerns was reinforced by the amphibious nature of the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008.”
The authoritative Military Balance 2011 publication of the International Institute of Strategic Studies notes the Indian Navy musters some 58 350 personnel, including a 7000-strong Naval Aviation cadre and 1200 marines. The current navy comprises one nuclear attack submarine and 15 diesel-electric boats as well as 23 principal surface combatants, including one aircraft carrier, ten destroyers and 12 frigates. There are an additional 24 corvettes as well as patrol craft, amphibious ships (including one landing platform dock) and support vessels.
The wikipedia notes the Talwar-class has a displacement of 4000 tons and speed of 30 knots and is capable of accomplishing a wide variety of missions, but are optimised for surface and antisubmarine warfare. “Due to the use of stealth technologies and a special hull design, the resulting frigate features reduced radar cross section (RCS) as well as electromagnetic, acoustic and infrared signatures.” This is somewhat offset by cluttered upper decks, lattice masts and a large funnel.
Ira Malhotra, wife of newly-appointed Ambassador Ajai Malhotra, launched the 124.8m-long frigate last week. The Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Baltic Fleet Vice Admiral VP Kravchuk and top officials from the Rosoboronexport state arms exporter, the United Shipbuilding Corporation, the Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation, Russian industry and public representatives also attended the ceremony. Ambassador Malhotra congratulated workers of the state-owned Yantar Shipyard and all associated organisations on the successful launch, the Press Trust of India reports.
The INS Teg was launched in November 2009 and the Tarkash in June 2010. Delivery of all three ships to the Indian Navy and their commissioning will take place this year and next after completion of outfitting works and extensive trials in harbour and at sea.
The Trikand is fitted with a single 100mm A-190E gun, two Kashtan CIWS systems and an eight-cell VLS for 3M-54E Klub and BrahMos supersonic surface-to-surface missiles, one 3S-90 launcher for 9M317 (SA-N-12) surface-to-air missiles and eight Igla-1E (SA-16) SAMs. Antisubmarine weapons include a single RBU-6000 rocket launcher, two twin 533mm torpedo tubes and a Kamov Ka-28 or Ka-31 maritime helicopter or a Indian-built HAL Dhruv helicopter.