Hello defence lovers! The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has negatively affected the entire world. Russia is one of the most sanctioned countries in the world today. Due to the war, many Ukrainian industrial complexes crucial for defence manufacturing have been destroyed. This includes the Zorya-Mashproekt Gas turbine plant in Mykolaiv. In this article, we are going to understand the impact of the destruction of the Zorya-Mashproekt marine gas turbine plant on the Indian Navy.
Marine Gas Turbines
Most of the equipment that Indian armed forces use even today are of Russian or Soviet origin. In such a situation the war between the two ex-soviet states is bound to impact the Indian armed forces. Perhaps, the Indian Navy will suffer the most because of this conflict. Let us understand why.
Zorya-Mashproekt is a Ukrainian firm that manufactures marine gas turbines engines for marine applications, especially naval ones. It was established during the Soviet era in Mykolaiv. All the destroyers of the Indian navy use gas turbine engines built by Zorya-Mashproekt. Most of them have Combined Gas and Gas propulsion systems (COGAG) where multiple gas turbines are used. Even the Talwar class frigates use Zorya engines in COGAG configuration.
Due to the heavy bombing of major Ukrainian cities including Mykolaiv, many important industrial complexes have been damaged or destroyed. According to Ukrainian officials, Russia is deliberately targeting the sophisticated defence manufacturing industry. Zorya-Mashproekt is no exception. According to reports[source], the Zorya-Mashproekt factory was bombed and damaged. Photographs reveal the factory to be engulfed in flames. Thus Ukraine’s marine gas turbine manufacturing capacity has been totally destroyed. It is a matter of great concern for India.
The modern Indian navy destroyers such as the Vishakhapatnam class and Kolkata class have just entered the service using Zorya turbines. The Vishapakatnam class destroyers use 2 Zorya m36E along with 4 Zorya DT 59 turbines. The Kolkata class destroyers use 4 Zorya DT 59 turbines. The Delhi class also uses the same DT 59 and M36E turbines in the GOGAG configuration. The Rajput class destroyers only use M36E turbines. As of now, there will be sufficient spares, but the spare shortage is evident in future. Moreover, there will be no engines to fit during the midlife refit of these ships.
The Talwar class frigates also use Zorya DT 59 turbines. The existing fleet is out of danger at least for the next 10 years but the ships under construction are under serious threat. The two frigates which are under construction in Russia’s Yantar shipyard have already been launched. Thus these two are also out of danger as gas turbines have already been fitted into them. But the two frigates which have been just laid down in Goa Shipyard are under threat. The construction of the Kolkata class destroyers was also delayed due to the problem of the acquisition of gas turbines from Ukraine due to the 2014 conflict.
The latest design of the Indian navy such as the Shivalik class frigates and INS Vikrant use American General Electric turbines. The upcoming Nilgiri class use MAN diesel engines and GE turbines CODAG configuration. The future ships are expected to be based on General Electric engines. Hence the newer designs are out of danger.
Russia has been facing the same problem since 2014, which is Indian navy is yet to face. Following the 2014 annexation of Crimea, Ukraine refused to supply its turbine for Russian frigates Admiral Gorshkov Admiral Grigorovich-class (or the Talwar class) frigates. To deal with the problem, Russia commissioned NPO Saturn, the same firm that manufactures Al-31fp engines for the SU-30MKI, to design a new turbine for its frigates to replace the Zorya DT-59. Admiral Golovko has already been launched with the new Saturn power plant which consists of 2 M90FR gas turbines and 2 10D49 diesel engines in CODAG configuration.
India can discuss with Russia to establish a manufacturing line in India for these M90FR engines just like the Al-31 FP engines. That might solve the issue at least for the ships which use only Zorya DT-59 turbines only such as Kolkata class and Talwar class. Otherwise, India has to engage with Zorya-Mashproekt to transfer its technology of gas turbines. In fact, on 16 November 2021, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) signed an MoU with Zorya to manufacture the marines gas turbines locally in India and also establish a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul facility[source]. HAL had also signed an MoU with Rolls Royce to manufacture the RE MT 30 gas turbines in India and offer them to the Indian Navy[source]. However, fitting a different gas turbine is an extremely complex task. The Saturn M90FR was specifically designed to replace the Zorya DT and hence its Indian Navy’s best bet.