Indian submarine- Image: Reuters
The Defence Ministry on Tuesday issued the request for proposal (RFP) or the formal tender to domestically build six conventional submarines for the Navy at a cost of over Rs 40,000 crore, over a month after the mega acquisition project was cleared. It will be the first project to be implemented under the strategic partnership (SP) model that allows domestic firms to collaborate with foreign players to produce high-end military platforms in India.
The RFP was issued to the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T), the two Indian companies shortlisted following a long-drawn process, according to the defence ministry.
Both L&T and MDL will have to collaborate with one of the five already short-listed foreign shipyards -- Daewoo Shipbuilding (South Korea), ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (Germany), Navantia (Spain) and Naval Group (France) and JSC ROE(Russia).
"These five foreign firms are the world leaders in the field of conventional submarine design, construction and all other related technologies. The foreign OEMs (original equipment maker) will be the technology partner in the SP model," the defence ministry said.
"Foreign OEMs will enable SP for construction of submarines, achieving high levels of indigenization, and transfer of technology (ToT)," it said in a statement.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) last month approved the issuance of the request for proposal (RFP) for the acquisition programme named Project-75(I).
The ministry said the OEMs would enable the setting up of dedicated manufacturing lines for the submarines in India by providing ToT for submarine design and other technologies and make India the global hub for submarine design and production.
"The project would not only aid in boosting the core submarine, shipbuilding industry but would also greatly enhance manufacturing/industrial sector, especially the MSME by the development of an industrial ecosystem for the manufacture of associated spares, systems and equipment related to submarines," the ministry said.
In order to achieve these objectives, the RFP has key features like mandatory level of indigenous manufacture of platforms, ToT for design, manufacture and maintenance of submarines and a few critical equipment and systems.
Under the strategic partnership model, domestic defence manufacturers are allowed to join hands with leading foreign defence majors to produce high-end military platforms to reduce import dependence.
The Indian Navy planned to acquire 24 new submarines, including six nuclear attack submarines, to bolster its underwater fighting capability under a 30-year programme that will end in 2030.
It currently has 15 conventional submarines and two nuclear submarines.
The Navy has been focusing on significantly bolstering its overall capabilities in view of China's growing efforts to increase its military presence in the Indian Ocean Region.
The Indian Ocean, considered the backyard of the Indian Navy, is critical to the country's strategic interests.
According to global naval analysts, the Chinese navy currently has over 50 submarines and about 350 ships. The total number of ships and submarines is projected to go past 500 in the next 8-10 years.
The Indian Navy is also in the process of procuring 57 carrier-borne fighter jets, 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) and 123 multi-role helicopters under the strategic partnership model.