The Ministry of Defence has issued the “Expression of Interest” (EoI) to shortlist potential Indian Strategic Partners (SPs) under the strategic partnership model (SP Model) for the construction of six conventional submarines under Project 75 India of the Indian Navy in collaboration with the selected manufacturer.
Under the SP model, government will also nominate the foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) under the umbrella of ‘Make in India’.
This is a step towards opening a second production line for diesel electric submarines in India. The first was the procurement of 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH).
Four foreign firms have so far responded to the Indian government’s request for proposal for the project. These are French firm Naval Group, Russia’s Rosoboronexport Rubin Design Bureau, Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and Sweden’s Saab.
Project 75 India (P-75I)
P75I was first cleared in 2007, but lay dormant until now after undergoing numerous changes.
The P75I project is part of a 30-year submarine building plan that ends in 2030.
The project cost is about Rs. 45,000 crore.
As part of this plan, India was to build 24 submarines — 18 conventional submarines and six nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) — as an effective deterrent against China and Pakistan.
This project envisages the construction of six conventional submarines with better sensors and weapons and the Air Independent Propulsion System (AIP).
The project has been cleared under the strategic partnership model.
In 1999, the Cabinet Committee on Security had approved a ‘30-Year Plan for Indigenous Submarine Construction’. It was to develop two production lines on which six submarines would be built each named Project 75 and Project 75 (I) with foreign submarine makers.
These two projects will replace ageing Sindhughosh and Shishumar class submarines of Indian Navy, which numbered around 13.
INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene class submarine, was commissioned into the navy in December 2017 under Project-75; the remaining five are at different stages of construction and trials.
Current submarine arsenal of India
India’s current arsenal consists of 14 conventional submarines and two nuclear-powered submarines. Only half of the conventional submarines are operational including the Scorpene.
India also has two nuclear-powered submarines namely INS Arihant (a ballistic missile submarine) and INS Chakra leased from Russia.
India’s nuclear submarine arm is based in Visakhapatnam while the diesel electric submarines are primarily based both in Mumbai and Visakhapatnam.
Strategic Partnership (SP) Model
SP model in Defence sector was approved by Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in 2017. This was implemented to enable participation of private Indian firms in Make in India in defence. This will also ensure development of a wider skill base and will trigger innovation.
This model aims to revitalise defence industrial ecosystem, increase efficiencies, facilitate faster and more significant absorption of technology and progressively build indigenous capabilities in the private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon systems for the future needs of the Armed Forces.
The Indian strategic partner will be the systems integrator by building an extensive ecosystem and will tie-up with foreign manufacturers to cover manufacturing, transfer of technology and assistance in building.
Four segments have been identified for acquisition SP route
Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) / Main Battle Tanks (MBTs).
Air-independent propulsion (AIP)
AIP is any marine propulsion technology that allows a non-nuclear submarine to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen.
It can augment or replace the diesel-electric propulsion system of non-nuclear vessels.
In addition to bringing in the latest submarine design and technologies, it would provide a major boost to the indigenous design, construction capability of submarines in India, timely delivery of equipment to Armed forces and reduction in dependence on imports and greater self-reliance in meeting national security objectives.