To shore up its depleting submarine fleet, India will this year issue a $11 billion global tender for building six more next generation vessels, navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said here Wednesday.
The new submarine program, known as Project 75I, will be a follow-on to the six Scorpenes that are being built at the Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) under Project 75.
“The government has already cleared Project 75I. At the moment we are going through the process of Request For Information (RFI). I hope within this year we will be able to push the tender,” Verma said on the sidelines of a National Maritime Foundation seminar on submarines.
French firm DCNS is now executing the Project 75 Scorpene orders in collaboration with MDL at a cost of $4 billion. The Indian Navy operates 14 diesel-electric submarines at present after it decommissioned two Foxtrot class submarines last year. Of the 14 submarines, 10 are Kilo class Soviet-origin vessels and the rest are HDW German-origin vessels.
The navy issued the RFI for Project 75I in September last year and some of the global firms that have responded to it are Russian Rosoboronexport, French DCNS/Armaris, German HDW and Spanish Navantia. The Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony had given a nod for Project 75I last July.
On the capabilities of the Project 75I submarines, Verma said they would have better capabilities to detect and hide from enemies and an improved combat management system, sensors and detection range.
Under Project 75I, the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology will be incorporated in the submarines to increase their capability to remain submerged for longer periods of time.
India is expected to induct the 12 Project 75 and 75I submarines in the next decade-and-a-half. The submarine induction program of the navy has suffered due to a three-year delay in the Scorpene project, resulting in the fast depletion of the fleet.
The 12 vessels would now be inducted one after the other over six years beginning 2012. The vessels are part of the 30-vessel submarine induction plans of the navy that was approved early in the last decade.
The number of navy’s submarines is likely to be just the half of the current 14 vessels in 2015, as most of them are aging and would be decommissioned in the next five years.
Under the plans for Project 75I, India would order two submarines from a collaborating foreign shipyard while the rest four would be built at two different Indian shipyards — Mazagon Docks Limited and Visakhapatnam-based Hindustan Shipyard.
The navy was keen on a private domestic shipyard to tie-up with a foreign vendor for the six new submarines as it was of the view that Mazagon Docks was already ‘busting at its seams’ with orders and timely delivery of the second line of submarines was ‘critical’ to maintaining its operational readiness.
But the DAC decided otherwise, holding that the capabilities acquired by Mazagon Docks through the Scorpene project should not be wasted.