Tabar @ Fremantle
This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Ian Johnson and the Editor, THE NAVY - OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF NAVY LEAGUE OF AUSTRALIA
The Edge of the Sword - The TALWAR Class
By IAN JOHNSON
The author would like to thank Captain Harish Bisht (CO - INS Tabar), Captain Sudarshan Shikhande (Indian Defence Attaché - Canberra), Lieutenant Hanumani Gupta (Gunnery Officer - INS Tabar) and the officers & crew of INS Tabar for their assistance in this article.
A cold morning on 15 June 2006 saw INS Tabar arriving in Fremantle. Her visit continues the growing relationship between Canberra and New Delhi, on both the government and military levels. INS Tabar's 2006 Oceania Deployment saw the Indian frigate visit Sydney and several Pacific nations. Prior to arriving in Fremantle, INS Tabar headed Indian relief efforts for the Yogyakarta Earthquake when she delivered relief supplies to Jakarta, Indonesia, on 06 June 2006. Commanded by Captain Harish Bisht, INS Tabar is manned by 259 officers and sailors. The ship's name means Battle Axe in Sanskrit and its motto is Guts & Glory.
With declining hull numbers after the removal from service in the 1990s of its aging British-built Leander Class frigates, the Indian Navy began designing a class of indigenous multi-role frigates. This is the Nilgiri Class - Project 17 [BR Note: Now known as Shivalik Class] under construction at Mazagon Dockyard in Mumbai. Until the Nilgiri Class enter service, the Indian and Russian Government began negotiations for three modified Krivak III class frigates. They were to be built in Russian shipyards, with Indian and Russian weapons and electronics. The contract was signed on 17 November 1997 for USD $1 billion.
Project 1135.6, or as it became known, the Talwar Class, was the sixth modification of the Severnoye Design Bureau’s (SDU) Krivak Class frigates built for the Soviet Navy in the 1980s. In late 1997, SDU began design modifications of the three ships to Indian requirements. Shipbuilder Baltisky Zavod of St. Petersburg began construction on Talwar on 10 March 1999. Integrating Indian and Russian systems was problematic as INS Talwar discovered during sea trials in November 2001. A wide rage of defects, ranging from hull, engine, equipment integration, and the failure of the Shtil-1 SAM system to engage airborne targets, forced shipbuilder Baltisky Zavod to delay her May 2002 delivery. After 13 months, nearly all the problems were fixed as INS Talwar commissioned as part of the Indian Navy on 18 June 2003. The lessons learnt on building INS Talwar F40 flowed onto her sister ships - INS Trishul F43 and INS Tabar F44 - and were delayed seven months and eleven months respectively. Failure to meet the contract deadlines forced Baltisky Zavod to pay India a stipulated levy for the delays of USD $38.5 million.
The modifications of the Krivak III design as the Talwar Class were extensive. Designed with some stealth features, they were the first Indian warships to incorporate a Vertical Launch System (VLS). With additional weapon systems and steel being replaced by light alloys the weight increased by 600 tons to just over 4000 tons for each ship. INS Tabar's displacement is 4035 tons fully loaded and is 124.8 metres in length. Her 28 officers and 232 sailors living conditions are similar to those on the RAN's Adelaide Class frigate. The main engines of INS Tabar are the Zorya/Mashproekt M7N-1E gas turbine plant comprising two DS-71 cruise turbines (each rated up to 9000 hp) and two DT-59 boost turbines. These power plants move INS Tabar up to a maximum of 30 knots. Her maximum range is 4850 miles at 14 knots, while at 30 knots the range lessens to 600 miles.
INS Tabar's weapons suite is formidable. The surface to air weapons systems include one single-rail MS-196 launcher that can launch the long range Shtil-1 (NATO: SA-17) surface to air missile. Eight Igla-1E (NATO: SA-16) portable air defence missiles are onboard for short-range threats. INS Tabar became the third Indian warship to incorporate an eight cell KBSM 3S-14NE vertical launcher and was the first to upload the new Indian/Russian designed missile, the supersonic BrahMos PJ-10 ASCM (anti-sub/ship/surface cruise missile). INS Tabar's VLS can launch the Indian designed 3M-54E Klub-N (NATO: SS-N-27) subsonic ASCM. INS Tabar has one 100mm A-190(E) dual purpose gun mount for surface and air targets. Its rate of fire is 60 rounds a minute at a range of 15km. Two Kashtan Air Defence Gun/Missile mounts are INS Tabar's Close In Weapons System (CIWS). The Kashtan CIWS has two GSh-30k 30mm gatling guns per mount firing 1000 rounds a minute, along with eight 9M-311 Grison missiles (NATO: SA-N-11) with a range of 8 km. There are 64 Grison reloads (32 each mount) with a package of four missile taking less than 2 minutes to load. Forward of INS Tabar's bridge and aft of the VLS is one 12-round RBU-6000 anti-submarine warfare rocket launch that can fire either Splav-90R rockets or RGB-60 depth charges. Two pairs of fixed 533-mm DTA-53 torpedo tubes are located port and starboard midships. Both can launch either SET-65E anti-sub and 53-65KE anti-ship torpedoes.
Controlling this array of weapons is the Trebovaniye-M combat information and control system that can control all of INS Tabar's weapons as well as using situation analysis to generate combat missions. The combat system can transmit data and process information from up to 250 sources. With a range of nearly 300km, the Fregat M2EM (NATO: Top Plate) 3D radar is INS Tabar's air/surface radar. The M2EM system features continuous scanned arrays along with providing targeting information for the Shtil-1 missile system. One 3Ts-25E Garpun-B radar unit is utilised for long-range surface search and target acquisition. INS Tabar is also equipped with two navigation radars. The fire control is the Ratep JSC 5P-10E Puma fire control system. The Puma uses phased array and target tracking radar along with laser and TV devices. The Puma can operate autonomously with the ability of automatically detecting, locking on, and tracking four targets at once. Her sonar is the BEL APSOH (Advanced Panoramic Sonar Hull) hull-mounted sonar. The APSOH sonar has active ranging, passive listening, and auto tracking of targets. For countermeasures, she includes the Russian TK-25E-5 electronic warfare suite and 120mm chaff & infrared decoy rounds fired by four KT-216 launchers.
For her deployment INS Tabar has a Ka-31 Helix-B AEW helicopter embarked from Indian Naval Air Squadron No.339 Falcons, based in Mumbai. With a flight crew of 2, the Ka-31 has a speed of 143 knots and a maximum ceiling of 6,000 metres. Its range is a maximum of 540 nautical miles and can remain airborne for 4.5 hours. The Ka-31's airborne early warning radar is the E-801M Oko (Eye), a 6x1 meter planar array located beneath the fuselage. The radar unfolds during flight and has the ability to detect up to 200 targets while simultaneously track up to 20 airborne or surface threats from a range of 115 km from an altitude of nearly 10,000 ft. Information gathered can be transmitted via an encoded data-link to a ship or shore command post.
INS Tabar was commissioned on 19 April 2004 in Kaliningrad, Russia. After a 12 port commissioning cruise, she reached her homeport of Mumbai on 31 July 2004. Along with her sister ships INS Talwar (Sword in Sanskrit) and Trishul (Trident in Sanskrit), she is assigned to Indian Navy's Western Naval Command, headquartered in Mumbai. Her oceanic deployment saw the frigate visit New Zealand and Tonga before visiting Fiji. While in Fiji, she conducted a series of exercises in Suva harbour with the Republic of Fiji patrol boats RFNS Kula (201) and RFNS Kiro (203). Her last ports of call were Papua New Guinea and Singapore before arriving back home in Mumbai in September 2006.
The Talwar Class is another example of Russian/Indian co-operation or lack thereof. The delays on this project seem to be the norm rather than the exception with similar delays in other Indian/Russian efforts. But the end result is what matters. She is a well-equipped warship that has the ability to handle air/surface/sub-surface missions or defending herself operating either independently on maritime missions or supporting a larger naval task force. The only downside for INS Tabar and her sister ships is the amount of smoke her engines produce! It would make visual reconnaissance by an aggressor easier to locate her, but engaging the Battle Axe in combat would be a dangerous mission for any navy.
• Type: Guided Missile Frigate
• Builder: Baltiyskiy Zavod, St. Petersburg, Russia
• Ordered: 17 November 1997
• Laid Down: 26 May 2000
• Launched: 25 May 2001
• Commissioned: 19 April 2004
• Status: In Active Service
Images © Ian Johnson