The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has contracted a domestic supplier, Cochin Shipyard, to upgrade and re-power its latest Brahmaputra-class frigate, INS Beas.

Under a contract worth Rs3.13bn ($37.6m), Cochin will replace the 18-year-old warship’s two steam turbines with a more efficient diesel propulsor.

Beas is the first Brahmaputra-class frigate to be re-powered from steam to diesel propulsion.

After completion of this mid-life upgrade in 2026, INS Beas will join the Indian Navy in active service with a modernised weapon suite and upgraded combat capability.

“The transformative maiden re-powering project marks a significant stride in the maintenance philosophy of the Indian Navy and repair capabilities of [Cochin],” the Indian MoD stated in its press release. “The project would involve more than 50 SMEs [small to medium-sized enterprises] and would lead to [a] generation of employment for more than 3,500 personnel.”

Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers built the Brahmaputra-class guided missile frigates for the Indian Navy.

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There are three frigates in the class that entered service from 2000 to 2005 – Beas being the latest ship – and they were all named after Indian rivers.

The Indian Navy primarily deploys the class for anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare operations.

The frigate has an overall length of 126.5m, beam of 14.5m and draft of 4.5m. The full load displacement is 3,850 tonnes. Brahmaputra can complement a crew of 313, including 259 enlisted members, 40 officers and 14 air crew members.

A transition from steam to diesel power

Currently, Beas is powered by two Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) Bhopal steam turbines that develop a total power output of 30,000bhp.

The steam turbine propulsion plant also integrates two boilers and two shafts. The propulsion system provides a maximum speed of more than 30 knots and range of 4,500m at 12 knots.

While the MoD does not reveal what type of diesel propulsion system will replace BHEL’s two steam turbines, we only need to look at the various propulsion systems the Indian Navy uses for its other warships to get a sense of the nation’s priorities.

India’s Atmanirbhar Bharat (Make-in-India) initiative explains the Indian Government’s selection of Cochin over foreign suppliers such as General Electric, a US company that has previously supplied its LM2500+ gas turbines for the Indian Navy’s two Vikrant-class aircraft carriers.

Many of the Navy’s latest warships use diesel electric propulsion too, according to GlobalData intelligence – such as the Saryu-class patrol vessels, its various submarines as well as its future Next Generation Missile Vessel Corvette, which is also manufactured by Cochin and uses combined diesel and gas propulsion.