Indian Navy's Stealth Frigate Quietly begins Sea trials in Russia.

The Indian Navy’s long-awaited advanced stealth frigate Tushil has begun its crucial sea trials in Russia, overcoming persistent delays related to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Tushil, the first of two additional Krivak/Talwar class stealth frigates built by Russia at Kaliningrad’s Yantar shipyard for the Indian Navy, began sea on March 11, marking a milestone on its path to deployment.

The beginning of the sea trials was recorded in a video that appeared on the Internet, in which the Tushil is seen departing from the Baltiysk naval base.

The images first shared on the Baltiysk Life Telegram channel, quickly attracted the attention of social networks, including X (formerly Twitter).

Sea trials, a critical phase in the development of the Tushil, are expected to include rigorous testing of the vessel’s performance, capabilities and systems under real-world conditions. These tests are essential to ensure that the frigate meets the Indian Navy’s stringent operational requirements.

The milestone comes after more than two years since the vessel was ceremoniously launched from dry dock into the waters at Yantar Shipyard, Kaliningrad, Russia, in the presence of D. Bala Venkatesh Varma, the then-Indian envoy to Russia and other high dignitaries.

The Tushil, which means “protective shield” in Sanskrit, is one of four follow-on frigates contracted by India from Russia, two of which (INS Tushil and INS Tamala) are being built by Russia and the other two in India through technology transfer.

However, the two frigates built by Moscow for New Delhi have suffered delivery delays. In August 2022, they were delayed by six months due to the war in Ukraine, following a previous nine-month delay attributed to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. The planned delivery of the two frigates was subsequently delayed by six months.

Subsequently, the planned delivery dates of November 2023 and April 2024 were again postponed by six months to May and October 2024.

In August 2023, Alexey Rachmanov, general director of the Russian United Shipbuilding Corporation, explained that the delays were due to the supply of certain equipment, which had to make long journeys to reach Russia.

Rachmaninov also said that payment delays, attributed to Western sanctions over the use of the SWIFT global interbank system, had also contributed to setbacks in the frigates’ construction schedule.

Talwar-class stealth frigates

The Indian Navy operates six Talwar-class frigates, which were procured in two batches of three each in 1997 and 2006.

The commissioning of these frigates occurred over several years, with INS Talwar, the first frigate of the initial batch, being commissioned in June 2003 and INS Trikand, the final frigate of the second batch, being commissioned into service in June 2013.

In October 2016, India and Russia signed an Intergovernmental Agreement for the acquisition of four additional stealth frigates, subsequently finalizing a direct purchase agreement worth $1 billion.

This agreement stipulated the acquisition of two “off-the-shelf” frigates, while the remaining two were scheduled to be built by Goa Shipyard Limited.

These advanced Talwar-class stealth frigates are based on the Russian Krivak-III/IV or Project 11356 class frigates, known as the “Admiral Grigorovich” class in the Russian Naval Service.

The first two frigates, INS Tushil and INS Tamala were originally built for the Russian Navy under the names Admiral Butakov and Admiral Istomin, respectively.

Its construction was abruptly interrupted in 2014 due to tensions between Ukraine and Russia in the Donbas region. The Ukrainians have reportedly suspended delivery of the Zorya gas turbine engines needed to power these frigates.

As a result, Russia decided to sell these frigates to India in 2016. India was then faced with the challenge of procuring the Zorya gas turbines required for the frigates. Finally, India managed to obtain these engines from Ukraine and subsequently sent them to Russia for installation.

For the remaining two frigates, which are being built in India, a significant breakthrough came in November 2018 when Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) signed a $500 million deal with Russia’s Rosoboronexport.

This agreement was aimed at providing materials, designs and specialized assistance to the local manufacturers of the two frigates. Subsequently, in January 2019, the contract between the Ministry of Defense of India and GSL was formally signed.

The construction milestones of these frigates began with GSL’s laying of the keel of the first vessel in January 2021, followed by the laying of the keel of the second vessel in June 2021. As per the Indian Navy’s plans, The first GSL frigate is scheduled to will be delivered in 2026, and the second six months later.

These warships are equipped with advanced stealth technology designed to minimize their radar signatures and underwater noise, enhancing their stealth capabilities.

They incorporate a range of equipment such as surface-to-surface missiles, sonar systems, surface surveillance radars, communications suites and anti-submarine warfare systems, all of which are supplied by Indian sources.

In addition, they are armed with surface-to-air missiles and Russian cannons, which gives them extensive offensive and defensive capabilities. This combination of Indian and Russian technologies ensures a powerful and versatile platform for various naval operations.

Ashish Dangwal