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India to kick off price talks for Russian warships next week

India and Russia will begin key price talks next week for the acquisition of four new stealth frigates to scale up the Indian Navy’s capabilities, a top government official familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Two of the warships will be constructed at the Yantar Shipyard in Kaliningrad and the remaining two at Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL).

“Price negotiation with a visiting Russian delegation will begin on January 15. GSL has the expertise and infrastructure to build the warships in the country,” said the public sector yard’s chairman, Rear Admiral Shekhar Mital (retd). India is prepared to drive a hard bargain for the project, said a defence ministry official tracking the navy’s modernisation programme.

The navy currently operates six stealth frigates – three Talwar class and three Teg class – bought from Russia and inducted between 2003 and 2013.

The new Grigorovich-class ‘Project 1135.6’ frigates will be powered by gas turbine engines to be supplied by Ukrainian firm Ukroboronprom’s Gas Turbine Research & Production Complex Zorya-Mashproekt, a deal being negotiated separately by India.

“Ukraine refused deliveries of the gas turbine engines to Russia after the 2014 Crimea conflict unfolded. We are talking to the Ukrainians directly,” the official said. India and Russia inked an inter-governmental agreement in October 2016 for the four 4,000-tonne frigates, which are likely to be equipped with BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles. Russian delegations toured the GSL last year and found the production facilities to be satisfactory to take on the project. Building the frigates will be a challenging task for the Indian shipyard that has created facilities for construction of mine counter-measure vessels and supplied advanced offshore patrol vessels, fast patrol boats and interceptor craft to the navy and the coast guard.

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