With India close to choosing Grigorivich frigates for its navy, Russia is partnering Anil Ambani-led Pipavav Defence to build these ships under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India" initiative, official sources said on Thursday.
They will be upgraded versions of Talwar-class ships, or the Russian equivalent of Krivak-III.
Confirming this to IANS, at least two senior defence officials said a team from Russia evaluated three-four private and state-run shipyards as they were keen on an Indian partner if the ships were to be built in India. This will be a pre-condition for the order valued at $3-$3.5 billion.
The sites evaluated were Pipavav's yard in Gujarat, Larsen and Toubro's unit at Ennore, and the state-run Cochin Shipyard in Kerala. Pipavav, a majority stake in which was acquired by the Reliance Group a few months ago, emerged the winner.
"The Prime Minister's Office is closely watching the development," one of the two officials told IANS. "This is likely to be an order that will be placed on the government of Russia by our government."
Incidentally, the development comes against the backdrop of the navy vice chief, Vice Admiral P. Murugesan, stating on Tuesday that India was exploring the possibility of getting upgraded Talwar-class ships and was in talks with Russia for its Grigorivich frigates technology.
"As per our maritime perspective plan, we have to build a certain number of ships in a certain time. We are exploring the possibility to expedite the acquisition of certain number of ships," Murugesan told reporters here. "But this will not be an import. It has to be made in India."
The idea is to have a 198-ship naval force by 2027, up from the current 137 vessels. Already, 48 warships are under construction at Indian shipyards, including aircraft carriers, frigates, destroyers, submarines, corvettes and fast-attack craft.
India has been stressing on domestic defence production under the "Make in India" programme, an important aspect of which is to get technology transfers and inviting foreign firms to manufacture in India.
The Grigorivichs are improved variants of the six Talwar-class frigates the navy obtained between 2003 and 2013.
In March, the Reliance Group had announced its acquisition of a 18-percent stake from the then promoters of Pipavav Defence, apart from a 26-percent mandatory open offer.
Pipavav's facility is at the location by the same name on the Gujarat coast and claims modern, versatile engineering and fabrication facilities with shipbuilding infrastructure that is also suitable for the construction of a wide range of warships and submarines.
The company is said to be a strong contender for a tender, potentially worth Rs.60,000 crore, to build six advanced submarines for the navy along with five other private and state-run firms such as Larsen and Toubro and the state-run Mazagon dockyard.