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BHEL to partner Zorya of Ukraine in overhauling warship engines

With the Indian Navy increasingly choosing the Ukrainian Zorya gas turbine to power its warships, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) is setting up a joint venture (JV) in India with the manufacturer, Zorya Mashproekt, to overhaul the turbines in India.

The navy will soon have 34 warships driven by Zorya turbines, with four turbines per vessel, adding up to 136 in-service turbines. There will also be a stock of 6-8 spare turbines.

A turbine is overhauled after running 30,000 hours. This is currently a costly and time-consuming process since it involves sending the turbine back to Ukraine.

“Carrying out the overhaul in India would result in major cost savings, and reduce the downtime for warships, since we would no longer be transporting the turbines to Ukraine for overhaul. It will also reduce our dependence,” said a top navy admiral.

BHEL’s corporate communication chief, Jitender Das, confirmed the company is in talks with Zorya Mashproekt, but declined to reveal any figures or investments since negotiations are still under way.

“We already overhaul Siemens and General Electric gas turbines in our existing facilities at BHEL. So partnering Zorya will expand our portfolio”, said Das.

A propulsion package of four Zorya turbines powers each of the following Indian Navy warships: five Rajput-class destroyers, three Delhi-class destroyers and 16 fast missile corvettes of the 1241RE class. Six Russian-built Talwar-class 1135.6 frigates already field Zorya turbines, as will another four Talwar-class frigates that are currently being purchased.

Basic repair and maintenance of Zorya turbines, though not overhaul, is already being done at the Marine Gas Turbine Overhaul Centre (MGTOC) at INS Eksila, in Visakhapatnam. Now the BHEL-Zorya JV will entirely indigenise maintenance and service support to Zorya turbines.

The navy issimultaneously indigenising production and overhaul for another propulsion unit favoured by Indian warship planners – the General Electric (GE) LM2500 marine gas turbine. Already fitted in the indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant and in three Shivalik-class frigates, the navy has also chosen the LM2500 for seven more stealth frigates being built under Project 17A.

In December 2016, GE announced that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) would assemble and test the gas turbines for Project 17A in Bengaluru, under license from GE.

Since warships using the LM2500 turbine are part of both the Eastern Fleet and the Western Fleet, turbine overhaul centres would be set up both in Naval Dockyard, Visakhapatnam; and in Naval Dockyard, Mumbai.

Zorya gas turbines is just one part of the growing India-Ukraine defence cooperation. Since significant parts of the former Soviet Union’s defence industry – such as transport aircraft, Antonov, which built the air force’s AN-32 workhorse transport aircraft – are located in the Ukraine, New Delhi signed a defence cooperation agreement with Kiev in 2005, which mandated that a joint working group from both defence ministries should meet annually. The most recent meeting was held in Kiev in early June.

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