multi-role fighters for the IAF was the “mother of all defence deals”,
think again. The stage is now being set for an
even bigger project—this one worth over Rs 50,000 crore for six
new-generation submarines for the Indian Navy.
The Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), chaired by defence minister A K
Antony, has finally decided that three of the six submarines will be
constructed at Mazagon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai and one at Hindustan
Shipyard Ltd (HSL) in Visakhapatnam, with the help of a foreign
“The other two submarines will either be imported from the foreign
vendor directly or constructed at a private shipyard in India.
Fresh estimates show each of these six diesel-electric submarines will cost almost Rs 8,500 crore,” a source said.
Under the programme—called Project-75 India
(P-75I)—apart from stealth, land-attack capability and the ability to
incorporate futuristic technologies, all the six new submarines will be
equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems to boost their
Conventional diesel-electric submarines have to surface every few days to get oxygen to recharge their batteries. With
AIP systems, they can stay submerged for much longer periods, narrowing
the gap with nuclear-powered submarines which can operate underwater
for virtually unlimited periods.
The selection of the foreign collaborator for P-75I will, of course,
take time because a RFP (request for proposal) will first have to be
issued to submarine manufacturers like Rosoboronexport (Russian),
DCNS/Armaris (French), HDW (German) and Navantia (Spain). Shortlisting
and detailed technical and commercial negotiations will follow, before
the actual contract can be inked.
Navy has reasons to be worried. By 2015 or so, it will be left with
just half of its present fleet of 15 ageing diesel-electric
submarines—10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDW and one Foxtrot.
Moreover, it has been hit hard by the almost three-year delay in the
ongoing Project-75 for six French Scorpene submarines at MDL, under
which the vessels were to roll out one per year from 2012 onwards, with
price escalation pushing the total cost beyond Rs 20,000 crore, as was
first reported by TOI.
For P-75I, the second line of submarines, the navy was keen on a
private domestic shipyard to tie-up with the foreign vendor since it
felt MDL was already “overloaded” with orders and quick delivery
schedules were “critical”.
But the DAC has decided otherwise, holding that the infrastructure and
capabilities acquired by MDL in the Scorpene project could not be
allowed to go waste.
“Let’s hope thing go smoothly now, and instead of 10 years, the navy
gets its first submarine under P-75I in six to seven years,” an
Submarines can be game-changers in any conflict.
And if they are armed with nuclear-tipped missiles, they provide the
most effective strategic deterrent available around the world at this
point of time. The US and Russia, after strategic arms reduction pacts,
in fact, plan to retain over 60% of their nuclear weapons in the shape
of SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles) fitted on
nuclear-powered submarines called “boomers”, or SSBNs.
Though India does not have nuclear submarines and
SLBM capabilities at present to complete its “nuclear triad”, it hopes
to move forward by inducting the Akula-II class attack submarine K-152
Nerpa on a 10-year lease from Russia in October this year, and then the
first indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant by early-2012.
Pakistan, incidentally, already has its first Mesma AIP-equipped
submarine, PNS Hamza, the third of the French Agosta-90B submarines it
has inducted since 1999. It is now looking to induct three advanced
Type-214 German submarines with AIP. China, in turn, has 62 submarines,
with 10 of them being nuclear-propelled.