India’s order for six conventional submarines, costing Rs 43,000 crore, could go to two companies instead of one, given the current geopolitical situation, a top official of one of India’s submarine makers has claimed.
The Request for Proposal (RFP) for the construction of the Project P 75 (I) submarines under the strategic partnership model is expected to be issued in July. The Defence Acquisition Council has given the go-ahead for the same in June.
The order will go either to Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders (MDL) or Larsen & Toubro (L&T) -- the two domestic companies which have to partner with one of the five international original equipment manufacturers (OEM).
If the government looks at the possibility of having parallel production of more than just one submarine at a time this would dramatically reduce the time required to produce the vessels.
Narayan Prasad, Chairman and Managing Director, said: “In the current geopolitical scenario, if the government concludes that the threat perception in the Indian Ocean Region and the South China Sea is so pronounced that they need parallel production of these vessels in a shorter horizon, such concepts can also be conceived. I can’t rule it out.”
The acquisition, which is one of the biggest under the ‘Make in India’ strategic partnership model, is aimed at boosting India’s submarine fleet, most of which are over 25 years old.
Tech cross-transfer possible
“At any point of time, when the government decides that (MDL and L&T) can join (forces), there could be a cross transfer of technology to quickly build the submarines. We can examine those possibilities, and that is a huge potential. We will not be able to rule it out completely,” Prasad added.
It would take about eight years from the awarding of contract to the handing over the first submarine to the Indian Navy. The delivery of the remaining submarines will be done at an interval of 12-15 months. If the order is split between MDL and L&T, it would substantially cut down the delivery period.
The five global OEMs are Russia’s Rosoboronexport, Germany’s ThyssenKrupp, France’s Naval Group, Spain’s Navantia and South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. These companies were shortlisted by an empowered committee last year.
“After the RFP floated, they will give about four months’ time for bid submission. This is a very complex programme, in which there is a field evaluation trial of a new technology called air independent propulsion system. All the five technology partners are located in five different countries, so this will take a certain amount of time,” Prasad added.
These conventional diesel-electric submarines are bigger than the six Scorpene-class submarines manufactured by MDL in Mumbai. Three such Scorpene submarines (P75) have been handed over to the Indian Navy while the fourth, INS Vela, is set to join the forces before the end of FY22.