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Stealth frigate ready to sail in

New Delhi, Sept. 6: The Indian Navy is set to accept within a month the first of three stealth frigates from Russia, nearly six years after they were contracted for an estimated $600 million.

INS Talwar, as the first of the three Krivak III-class Project 1135.6 guided missile frigates has been christened, was almost ready at the Russian shipbuilding yard in St Petersburg, navy chief Admiral Madhvendra Singh said here today.

The other two ships — INS Trishul and INS Tabar — will be delivered within a year.

Admiral Singh said the delay in the delivery of the ship was because a state-of-the-art Shtil surface-to-air missile system was being put through trials.

The navy chief said the Krivak-III class frigates would be the fastest and the most powerful ships in the navy. That honour is currently with INS Delhi. INS Trishul, Talwar and Tabar would be capable of hitting targets deep in land besides engaging enemy vessels at sea.

“We are not perturbed with the delay. One can go either for proven systems — but they might be a little outdated in technology — or for state-of-the-art systems which have to be put through trials. We have opted for the latter,” Admiral Singh, who returned from a visit to Russia earlier this week, said.

When contracted, the Krivak-III class frigates were to be built with some Indian equipment and Wartsila diesel generators from Finland. A crew under the command of Captain S. Soni was also ready. It is likely that time overruns have pushed up the cost of the vessels and the crew has been changed. The ships were to be fitted with Russian A-190 quick-firing 100 mm guns, a Kashtan air defence system and vertically launched Klub missiles.

Admiral Singh said he had also visited the Kiev-class aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, that was still being negotiated. “The ship’s hull is in excellent shape and the machinery and equipment are being refitted,” Singh said.

The Russians have offered the carrier free of cost but with riders such as refitment at an estimated $750 million and at least a squadron of a MiG 29 AT aircraft to be based on the carrier. But Admiral Singh said a squadron of the French-made Rafale aircraft was also a choice being considered.

The navy chief said he did not want to speculate on the negotiations for Gorshkov.

The naval establishment at Mazagon Docks in Mumbai was also being readied to produce the air defence ship — a project to indigenously make a ship with a displacement of 30,000 tones — and Scorpene submarines in collaboration with the French company, DCN. DCN, was in negotiations with the government to build six submarines.

On the military presence on India’s west coast, Admiral Singh said: “At any time, there are between 30 and 50 warships of the multinational coalition for Operation Enduring Freedom from the Persian Gulf, Straits of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea to the North Arabian Sea.”

The navy chief, who was leaving for the US later in the day, say the fourth in the series of “Malabar” exercises with the US navy beginning later this month would be fairly intensive.

Apart from warships, an Indian submarine would also be participating in the exercise.

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