The Ministry of Defence has finally issued the much awaited Request of Proposal (RFP) for the Rs 43,000 crore project to domestically construct six new-generation stealth submarines with foreign collaboration. It will be the first acquisition programme under the Strategic Partnership Model. The RFP was issued to shortlisted Strategic Partners or Indian Applicant Companies for the project viz, M/s Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) and M/s Larsen & Tubro (L&T) and they will tie up the foreign partner for making of submarines. MDL and L&T will tie up with one of the shortlisted foreign firms to submit their financial and technical bids.
Naval Group-DCNS of France, which is currently building six Scorpene-class submarines at Mazagon Dockyards Limited in Mumbai under Project 75 is amongst the five foreign shipbuilders. ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems from Germany, Navantia from Spain, Daewoo of South Korea and Rosoboronexport/Rubin Design Bureau from Russia are also in the race for the upcoming project. These five foreign firms are the world leaders in the field of conventional submarine design, construction and all other related technologies.
Decks were cleared for issuing of RFP or tender after last month after years of deliberations. Project "75 India" was initiated way back in November 2007 to get six conventional submarines with better sensors and weapons and an air-independent propulsion system (AIP)—all of which was to be manufactured in the country.
Project-75(I) envisages indigenous construction of six modern conventional submarines (including associated shore support, Engineering Support Package, training and spares package) with contemporary equipment, weapons and sensors including Fuel-Cell based AIP (Air Independent Propulsion Plant), advanced torpedoes, modern missiles and state of the art countermeasure systems.
"This would provide a major boost to the indigenous design and construction capability of submarines in India, in addition to bringing in the latest submarine design and technologies as part of the project," the ministry of defence said in a statement.
The foreign companies will be the technology partner in the SP Model and will enable the Indian firm for construction of submarines, achieving high levels of indigenization, and ToT (transfer of technology) for various technologies. "These foreign companies would enable setting up of dedicated manufacturing lines for these submarines in India by providing ToT for submarine design and other technologies and make India the global hub for submarine design and production," said the statement.
The project would not only aid in boosting the core submarine/ship building industry but would also greatly enhance manufacturing/industrial sector, especially the MSME by development of an industrial eco-system for manufacture of associated spares/systems/equipment related to submarines.
As the Navy's plan, the new six submarines will be nearly 50 per cent larger than its Scorpene-class submarines and capable of carrying and launching 18 heavyweight torpedoes at sea. Besides, to have more lethal firepower, the next generation submarines must be equipped with at least 12 land-attack cruise missiles (LACM) and anti-ship cruise missiles. Three Scorpene-class submarines, INS Karanj, INS Khanderi and INS Kalveri, have already joined the Indian Navy. The fourth and fifth submarines—Vela and Vagir—are undergoing sea trials. The Vagsheer, the last of its class, is under construction.
The plan was to induct 12 diesel submarines by 2012 and another 12 submarines by 2030, but repeated delays forced the Navy to rejig the plan.
While China operates 65 submarines, the Navy’s fleet of attack submarines, all diesel-powered, has come down from 21 in the 1980s to just 15 at present
The Ministry of Defence maintained that the overall aim would be to progressively build indigenous capabilities in the public/private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon systems for the future needs of the armed forces. And it will be a step towards meeting broader national objectives, encouraging self reliance and aligning the defence sector with the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Government, an MoD official said.