July 4, 2009: India has ordered seven "improved Talwar" (also known as Shivalik or Project 17A) frigates. These "stealthy frigates" will cost $1.3 billion each, and will be built in Indian shipyards. But that's where the navy and government have a problem. The P 17A ships are to be built in 300 ton modules, which must be constructed with sufficient precision that everything (pipes, decks) fits properly when modules are joined. The navy wants the first two built in foreign yards, which have experience with modular construction, so that Indian ship builders can gain some experience with this method. Since no Indian yards have any experience with modular construction, the risk of errors, especially with the first P-17A, is great. That could easily double the construction costs. Then again, building the first two P-17As in a foreign yard would also nearly double the cost.
Earlier this year, India ordered more Krivak IV class frigates from Russia. Twelve years ago India ordered the first three. Then, in 2004, another three Krivak IVs (now Talwar class) frigates were ordered. All of these are export versions of the Russian Cold War era Krivak III class ships, which the Russian navy cannot afford to buy for itself.
The first three Talwars entered service in 2003-4, the second batch will arrive in 2011-12. There were some teething problems with these ships, the first of a new class. But the Indians were finally satisfied, when Russia made good all deficiencies. There was one major shortcoming with the Talwars, the Indian supplied sonars are not working. That's an Indian problem, however, and not a bad reflection on the Russians.
The 4,000 ton Talwar's are 386 feet long, carry 24 anti-aircraft and eight anti-ship missiles, four torpedo tubes, as well as a 100mm gun, short range anti-missile guns, a helicopter, and anti-submarine weapons (depth charges and missiles). The ship has a very complete set of electronics gear, except for the troublesome Indian sonar. There is a crew of 180. The price of these ships has risen from about $350 million each for the first three, to over $600 million each for the latest order. All of the Talwars are being equipped with eight BrahMos anti-ship missile each.
The P-17A frigates would be the same size as the Talwars, but the superstructure would be changed so as to reduce the radar signature (making the ship less likely to show up on enemy radars). Improved weapons and electronics would be installed as well.