India to Kick-Start Submarine Acquisition

By admin • June 17th, 2010

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India Defence Online, New Delhi — The Indian Defence Ministry is expected to iron out the rough spots in the Project 75-i for the Indian Navy involving the French Scorpene submarines, which will improve the underwater combat capabilities of India. The $6 billion programme involving the second line of submarines has been plagued with constant delays.

Project 75-i is three years behind schedule and the six new submarines were to roll out in 2012 onwards, with one submarine being developed per annum. The Indian Defence Ministry has not yet been able to identify a shipyard for this crucial programme in the public or private sector.

The Indian Navy has been pressing the Defence Ministry to opt for a shipyard other than the Mazagon Docks, which has its hands full, for the initiation of Project-75I. Following this, a tie-up with the foreign manufacturer can be started for the manufacturing of the vessels. The RFP (request for proposal) to submarine manufacturers like Rosoboronexport of Russia, DCNS/Armaris of France, HDW of Germany and Navantia of Spain can be issued only after the shipyard is identified.

The project 75-i involves six Scorpene submarines to be built at the Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL) shipyard under a transfer of technology agreement with France’s DCNS for the Indian Navy. The submarines were being acquired under a $3.6 billion contract signed in 2005 and will be commissioned in the Indian Navy from 2012 through 2018. In June 2009, the Project 75-i had fallen 2 years behind schedule and France had hiked up the price of some key components resulting in a per boat price increase from $500 million to $600 million.

Meanwhile, a proposal to fit an additional section in the submarine for vertically launched Brahmos missiles was shelved with the Indian Navy preferring an Air independent propulsion (AIP) unit instead. The Indian Navy wants all the six new submarines to be equipped with AIP systems to boost their operational capabilities, apart from having stealth, land-attack capability and the ability to incorporate futuristic technologies. While conventional submarines need to surface every few days to get oxygen to recharge their batteries, AIP systems can stay submerged for much longer periods.

The Indian Navy desperately needs this second line of submarines because in a few years, the Indian Navy will be left with just five to six of its present fleet of 16 diesel-electric submarines which includes 10 Russian Kilo-class submarines, four German HDW and two virtually obsolete Foxtrot submarines. While India lags behind China and Pakistan in terms of nuclear submarines, it hopes to make its indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant operational in a couple of years. Besides, it is also inducting the Akula-II class attack submarine `K-152 Nerpa’ on the basis of a ten year lease from Russia this year.

source: india defence online

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