Japan and Spain have opted out of India’s long-pending proposed project to build six advanced stealth submarines for an estimated Rs 70,000 crore ($10.9 billion) through a collaboration between a foreign ship-builder and an Indian shipyard.
Sources said four ship-builders, Naval Group-DCNS (France), ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (Germany), Rosoboronexport Rubin Design Bureau (Russia) and Saab Kockums (Sweden) had responded to the initial RFI (request for information) issued by the Indian Navy for the conventional submarine programme called Project-75 (India). Mitsubishi-Kawasaki Heavy Industries combine (Japan) and Navantia (Spain), however, failed to do before the deadline ended on Monday.
Under Project-75 (I), which has been languishing in files for over a decade after it was granted “acceptance of necessity” in November 2007, the Navy wants the six new diesel-electric submarines to have land-attack cruise missiles, air-independent propulsion for greater underwater endurance and the capability to integrate indigenous weapons and sensors as and when they are developed.
While Russia, Germany and France already have submarine-building experience in India, Japan with its Soryu-class submarines was included as a contender for Project-75 (I) after it ended its self-imposed arms export embargo, as was first reported by TOI in January 2015. But Japan, which has little experience selling its military products in the global arms market, apparently wanted a direct government-to-government deal with India for the project.
It is, of course, going to be a tough competition for the four submarines – Scorpene (Naval Group-DCNS), A26 (Saab Kockums), Amur (Rubin) and Type 214 (TKMS) – left in the fray. Based on their responses to the RFI, the Navy will now formulate the technical parameters (naval staff qualitative requirements) for the kind of submarine it requires.
The formal tender or RFP (request for proposal) will then be issued for the four to submit their technical and commercial bids. The Indian shipyard for the collaboration with the selected foreign vendor will be chosen in a parallel process under the defence ministry’s new “strategic partnership” policy.
As earlier reported by TOI, it will take around two years for the original equipment manufacturer (OEM)-Indian shipyard combine to be down-selected. Once the contract is finally inked, it will take another seven to eight years for the first new submarine to roll out.
As per approved plans, the Navy should have 18 diesel-electric submarines as well as six nuclear-powered attack submarines (called SSNs) and four nuclear-powered submarines with long-range nuclear-tipped missiles (SSBNs) for effective deterrence against China and Pakistan, as was earlier reported by TOI.
But the force is grappling with just 13 old conventional submarines, only half of them operational at any given time because at least 10 of them are over 25 years old, apart from two nuclear-powered submarines, INS Arihant (SSBN) and INS Chakra (SSN). The second indigenous SSBN, INS Aridhaman, is slated for the delivery within the next few months.
INS Kalvari, the first of the six French Scorpene diesel-electric submarines being built in Mazagon Docks under Project-75 at a cost of Rs 23,652 crore, in turn, was recently delivered to the Navy but is yet to be formally commissioned into service. The other five will progressively follow till 2020-2021.