September 29, 2015

US and France in Talks with India to Assist India's Nuclear Submarine Program


India's indigenous nuclear testbed submarine INS Arihant. Structure incorporates some Russian and possible French features. Reactor draws on much Russian assistance.
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Russia has leased INS Chakra II to India. But Chakra's large size and much aging technology may well encourage India to seek French and US help to build a smaller, more modern, SSN.
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Please connect with Submarine Matters Indian Submarine Propulsion Reactor Needs - Arihant, Aridhaman & Chakra II, October 4, 2015.

COMMENT

India’s news provider The Economic Times (see specific article link below) has reported early discussions of US and French shipbuilders with India regarding possible future assistance for India’s nuclear propelled attack submarine (SSN) program.

The Economic Times article has sufficient detail and the tone to be credible. This is unexpected news. While there have been rumours over the years that France assisted India with some structural features of nuclear submarine Arihant, Russia has been India’s more obvious source of nuclear assistance. 

Over the years Russia:

-  Leased INS Chakra I (a Russian Charlie class SSGN in 1988-91).

-  Assisted India with the reactor and structure for the Arihant – a nuclear propelled testbed submarine, and

-  Has leased to India INS Chakra II - a Russian Akula class multi-purpose nuclear submarine, from 2011 for a 10 year period.

The reasons for the Chakra II lease may be for Indian crew and technicians to gain nuclear experience, probably working with Russian advisers, probably with some technology transfer. Chakra II is most likely non-operational. As Chakra II weighs 8,000 tons (surfaced) it is probably too heavy (with construction and maintenance costs too high) to be a prototype SSN for India. As the Chakra II-Akula class is a 30 year old design its technology may be too dated and loud in operation to be used as India's model SSN - to launch a class of 6 Indian SSNs over the next 20 years. Russia’s much more modern Yasen class SSGN also suffers from being 8,000 tons (surfaced) probably too heavy for India’s budget or needs.

As well as selling nuclear technology to India France may see the technology as a sweetener for France to win the Project-75I tender for 6 AIP SSKs. In doing so France could head-off any Russian strategy to offer further nuclear submarine assistance jointly with 6 Kilos or Amur SSKs to India for Project-75I. France’s Barracuda SSN (see the article below) would be more the size, 4,765 tons (surfaced), and modernity that India wants in an SSN.

The US has much submarine technology (eg. sonars, combat system features, better reactors and vertical launch systems) that India would find attractive. This is also in the context of India now being the US’s second largest conventional weapons buyer.


Biswajit Pattanaik in Comments [Oct 2, 2015 8:42PM] advised concerning:
-  French assistance with sub-systems for Arihant class SSBN from Coyard of France joint venture wiuith FlashForge (FF) an Indian company for supplying customised valves, pipings & fittings for submarines (including the Arihant calss S2/S3/S4 SSBNs).
-  Another joint venture between FF & Nereides (French) to provide the towed array antenna and 
-  SAGEM of France providing their SIGMA 40 ring laser gyro inertial navigation system (RLG-INS) for the Submarine

Biswajit also advised US based L-3 KEO owned RIVA Calzoni (Italy based) have provided non-hull penetrating masts & periscopes. 

If the talks with the US and France concerning SSNs fall through, India may always gain in terms of leveraging more sensitive nuclear submarine technology from Russia. Any Russian, US or French technical assistance for an Indian SSN would also flow through to India’s SSBNs which are still under development.

Submarine Matters article India's Unnamed Project for 6 SSNs Begins, May 29, 2015 carried an Indian report that India wanted 6 SSNs, mainly based in or near Visakhapatman (the main naval base on India’s east coast) orientated against the geostrategic threat from China. Such a threat would probably come from Chinese SSNs and SSBNs and perhaps eventually Chinese carrier groups. 

Issues for Australia

For Australia the prospect of the US and France helping regional power India with key nuclear technology is less of a proliferation worry because India already has nuclear submarines and nuclear weapons. It is hoped that India would not use its nuclear submarine force to dominate the Indian Ocean in ways detrimental to Australia.

If talks eventually lead to a joint US-France-India build of a small, more economical, SSN then that may be a much more useful future nuclear propelled submarine to sell to Australia than the overly large and crew intensive Virginia SSN or limited reactor Barracuda SSN. Of course Australia is not contemplating buying nuclear submarines for the foreseeable future.

ARTICLE


India may get US, French cos as partners for building nuclear submarines

NEW DELHI: For the first time India has options when it comes to finding a partner to build a military nuclear asset. Besides Russia, ship builders from France and the US have started initial conversations with the defence ministry on participating in an Indian effort to build a new class of nuclear-powered attack submarines 

Russia has been the traditional ally of India when it comes to sensitive technology and strategic systems 

But a Navy plan for constructing six new nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) to patrol the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond has prompted 'discussions' with the two western nations, sources familiar with the development told ET. The Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared Navy's proposal in February. 

The Indian SSN project — expected to cost over Rs 1 lakh crore [more than US$5 Billion] — is an ambitious plan to design and produce a nuclear attack boat with the help of the private sector. If this materialises, it will propel India into a select league of the five nuclear powers that have such a capability. SSNs are nuclear powered submarines, but do not carry nuclear warheads, relying instead on conventional weapons and stealth to hunt ships and other submarines. The last country to enter this club was China in 1974 with its Han class boats. 

Sources told ET that senior representatives from the submarine branch of a leading US conglomerate have met key Indian defence ministry officials regarding the project. The efforts included a top level meeting in July. The discussions have been kept low key given the sensitivity of the project and details are not available. 

Similarly, French representatives have also approached the Indian side for exploring avenues for cooperation on the project in the past few months. While the French submarine manufacturer has not commented on the project, the Indian side is interested in the new 'Barracuda' SSN being developed by French ship builder DCNS. A senior DCNS representative refused to take questions on the matter. 

The new nuclear submarine for the French Navy is currently under construction and is expected to start sea trials by next year. The Barracuda was also showcased at the Defence Expo held in New Delhi last year. As reported by ET, India is also in talks with Russia to lease a nuclear attack submarine — a newly built, customised boat that could give engineers a first-hand look at construction technology and process.”

Unlike a nuclear missile armed submarine (SSBN) that is designed to carry out a nuclear strike, nuclear propelled attack boats (SSNs) are considered less sensitive, with their primary role being hunting vital enemy naval ships and submarines. While foreign assistance on SSBNs is a complex matter, there have been examples of nations sharing non-nuclear technology for SSNs. France is at present assisting Brazil with its first nuclear submarine project. The deal involves France helping Brazil with the non-nuclear components of the submarine, with the South American nation using its own reactor and fuel.

India's first SSBN, the INS Arihant, is currently undergoing sea trials in Vizag. It is expected to carry out a weapons test shortly. The only SSN in service with the Navy at present is the INS Chakra, an Akula class submarine on a 10 year lease from Russia to train Indian crew for such operations. 

FURTHER COMMENT

Please link with:





Pete

9 comments:

Biswajit Pattanaik said...

Hi Pete,

Regarding US or France helping India build its SSN:
The Indian Navy has zeroed in on the Scorpene's SSN version & the all-electric propulsion system (that does away with reduction gearboxes) to be driven by the PWR, will come from GE-Alstom, a US-French JV company(or GE Owned).
And even that will be on the sub-system level to be specific.But the Russian help will be not far away.
Given the current situation its the best solution for IN in cost wise & the time period wise.Plus with the Scorpene SSKs which the IN will have in the future it will have a strong eco-system for the said platform.
And given the current security situation it could well turn out to be a pragmatic decision.
We just have to wait to see how it turns out.

Regards

Biswajit

Peter Coates said...

Hi Biswajit

Thanks for the details. All those components and competition between the US, France and Russia to provide them, should be advantageous for India.

Regards

Pete

Biswajit Pattanaik said...

Hi Pete,

Thanks for the reply.
A lot of things is happening behind those closed curtains.

I don't know for sure that all the combo of French-US-Russian components will be advantageous for India or not.Like will all those components from different countries will together in a cohesive manner or not? Anyways that's a disscussion for the future.

What do yoy think will be outcome of RAN's future sub program? Which country is in the best position to provide you with your desired sub? Any news on that front???? Are you staisfied how the said program is progressing?

Pete,if time permits please do an article on RAN's future strategy,policies etc....

Regards

Biswajit

Peter Coates said...

Hi Parikram
On India nuclear submarine matters

Thanks. Doing Submarine Matters is a pleasure.

Responding to your comments in turn.

Re Ausindex-15 I have done a Submarine Matters article on that at http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/positive-response-to-hmas-sheean-visit.html . Yes it seemed very much an ASW and perhaps Chinese subs in the Indian Ocean were of interest.

Noting that I have referred to The Economic Times article at http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/us-and-france-in-talks-with-india-to.html . I think India may buy some design features from the US/France but not buy whole SSNs from the US and France.

The list of suitors also relates to Project-75(I for India) for six future AIP SSKs possibly from Russia, Germany, France, Sweden. Japan is not in the competition for various reasons including its Soryu is too large (3,000 tons (surfaced) and expensive for what India wants. India probably wants a sub of around 1,800 tons (surfaced).

Yes US and France partly want to help India in the SSN program for the money, to reduce the influence of Russian help and reduce the chances Russia winning Project-75I.

Interesting Arihant will be part of fleet review in Feb 2016. Also Chakra II (an Akula) is an issue. Yes such open US and French potential help was surprising although I already heard rumours Arihant had some French features.

Yes that quote well indicates that US and France may help with some components but not build whole SSNs for India.

Scorpene and Barracuda SSN are both designed/built by DCNS – so they would share many non-nuclear features.

India may want a reactor similar to the K15, 150 MW that France has in the Barracuda - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Barracuda-class_submarine .

France and Brazil haven’t said much about the SN-BR “Scorpene SSN” which may not have been laid down yet. The Barracuda would have some quieting and electrical system features that are on the latest Scorpenes. France scales down similar hull structures from its SSBN down to its SSN and presumably down to Scorpene.

No the US only substantially shares its SSN technology with the UK. Japan SSK only with Australia, so far. India and Russia being involved together on high tech reactor development is one reason other countries are cautious about sharing their “crown jewels” with India.

Don’t know about Arihant’s noise levels. India would need to do around 15 (low failure rate) tests of K4 and K5 SLBM (from moving subs not just stationary pontoons) to prove that it had a true, working, SLBM missile system.

Thanks for the info. Yes MIRVing the Agnis (and then SLBMs) is a subject of interest and articles in my blog. eg at http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/latest-news-of-agni-v-test-may-be.html

Australia would be smart to consider buying the TKMS Type 218SG (or a sub in the 2,000 tons (surfaced) range) which I think is similar to the Dolphin 2. http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/key-tkms-type-218sg-details-revealed.html The Dolphin 2 itself is probably too specialised for launching nuclear SLCMs (“Popeye Turbo”) to be of direct interest. See.
Unfortunately Australia seems determined to buy an extraordinarily expensive and large (4,000 tons (surfaced)) orphan submarine.

India may be interested to use Israeli nuclear SLCM launch and missile technology for fitting on SSKs. China may also be interest in nuclear SLCMs on the Qing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_032_submarine or advanced Yuan due to very slow progress with China’s SSBN and SSN (SLCM). I don’t know whether China would risk India’s wrath if China transferred such technology to Pakistan.

Please keep me in mind for a consultancy on all this :) Regards Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Biswajit [Oct 2, 2015 1:23AM]

Re "What do I think will be outcome of RAN's future sub program?" The Australian Government will make a decision who wins sometime in 2016. An election in 2016 may influence the announcement date.

"Which country is in the best position to provide you with your desired sub?" Probably Germany (on features, efficiency and price) but Japan will probably win for alliance reasons (which includes Japan and the US alliance).

On Process - Yes, having a straight technical tender did not work well producing the Collins (Germany almost won). The Competitive Evaluation Process recognises that such a huge, expensive process has many political-national interests.

"Pete,if time permits please do an article on RAN's future strategy,policies etc" Though I'm more a submarine specialist when the 2015 Australian Defence White Paper is released (perhaps Nov 2015) I will write more generally on the RAN's future strategy.

Regards

Pete

Biswajit Pattanaik said...

Hi Pete,

Thanks for the detailed reply.

In your response to Parikram i want to add some more info:

1) "Interesting Arihant will be part of fleet reviewin Feb 2016." Yeah, for sure that will be interesting.Plus the Chinese are also coming.As is RAN isn'it?

2)"Yes such open US and French potential help was surprising although I already heard rumours Arihant had some French features."
....French are the second most reliable partner of India in senstive & hi-tech platform after the Russians.France in the past had also helped the Indian space program.Plus the Indian GPS equivalent IRNSS satellites also have French Atomic-Clocks in them.They have already provided some important sub-systems for Arihant class SSBN-for e.g. FlashForge (FF) an Indian company have a JV with Coyard of France for supplying customised valves,pipings & fittings for Warships & Submarines(including the S2/S3/S4 SSBN). Another JV between FF & Nereides (French) provides the towed array antenna.
Also US based L-3 KEO owned RIVA Calzoni(Italy based) have provided non-hull penetrating masts & periscopes.Plus SAGEM of France have provided their SIGMA 40 RLG-INS for the Submarine.

3)"India may want a reactor similar to the K15, 150 MW that France has in the Barracuda" Some time back one Retd. Admiral of IN said they have asked BARC(Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) to develop a 190Mw PWR with HEU for possible fittment on the 2nd Aircraft Carrier (IAC-2) plus the forthcoming SSBNs & SSNs that will appear after 2025 time frame.I understand that India will be taking the help from France to increase the life of the reactor from the current 5-8yrs to around 10-15yrs.And the the AREVA built K15 uses LEU for its opertaion but India is investing in HEU type reactor.

4)"Yes MIRVing the Agnis (and then SLBMs) is a subject of interest" Most probably 3-4 MIRVs will be the average,otherwise the K-Series based SLBMs will be an easy target for the BMD Systems.SLBM launching system of India will be a very close version of the Russian SLBM launching system.

5)"Australia would be smart to consider buying the TKMS Type 218SG (or a sub in the 2,000 tons (surfaced) range) which I think is similar to the Dolphin 2. http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/key-tkms-type-218sg-details-revealed.htmlThe Dolphin 2 itself is probably too specialised for launching nuclear SLCMs (“Popeye Turbo”) to be of direct interest." Do you think RAN would be intrested in that kind of SSK? Given that Aussie politicians are quite interested in the Japanese Soryu SSK.

continued......

Biswajit Pattanaik said...

continued.......

6)"India may be interested to use Israeli nuclear SLCM launch and missile technology for fittingon SSKs." Most certainly India will be interested in such a capability.Nirbhay Cruise Missile will be having a SLCM version in the coming years & this could be the area where the Israelis & Indians could collaborate for the said capability.But for the Vertical launch capability the French & Russian help could come. ☆)"http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/israel-submarine-capabilities/" In this article they say the Popeye-Turbo have a instrumented range of around 1500kms.

7)"China may also be interest in nuclear SLCMs on the Qing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_032_submarine or advanced Yuan due to very slow progress with China’s SSBN and SSN (SLCM). I don’t know whether China would risk India’s wrath if China transferred such technology to Pakistan." He...He...He.. India's wrath... :-D Yeah,i belive so that the Chinese won't be providing this capabilty to Pakistan.But you never know.If they do so then India may also provide them with a Tit-for-Tat policy.And given the current economic condition in which Pakistan (they are in big circular-debt) is, it may not be possible for them to have this or will be able keep them(provided they have this capability or in the future someone provide them with) for long.Having a large fleet of Submarine with economy which is in doldrums is not such a good scenario.

And thanks in advance for your future article on RAN's future strategy, whenver the 2015 Australian Defence White Paper comes out.

Regards

Biswajit

Peter Coates said...

Hi Biswajit

Thanks for your October 2 comments. I'm caught in the celebrations for Hawthorn's smashing Aussie Rules Grand Final victory http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-03/afl-grand-final-hawthorn-west-coast-eagles/6825474

So I'll respond in more detail tomorrow.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Biswajit [Oct 2, 2015 8:42 & 8:44PM] Taking your points in turn

1) I’m not part of the Aus Gov or Navy so don’t know whether the RAN will turn up at fleet review Feb 2016.

2) . Interesting “French sub-systems for Arihant class SSBN-for e.g. FlashForge (FF) an Indian company have a JV with Coyard of France for supplying customised valves, pipings & fittings for Warships & Submarines(including the S2/S3/S4 SSBN). Another JV between FF & Nereides (French) provides the towed array antenna. Also US based L-3 KEO owned RIVA Calzoni(Italy based) have provided non-hull penetrating masts & periscopes. Plus SAGEM of France have provided their SIGMA 40 RLG-INS for the Submarine.” I’ll add those details to my new post http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/submarine-propulsion-test-reactor-needs.html

3)"India may want a reactor similar to the K15, 150 MW that France has in the Barracuda" Some time back one Retd. Admiral of IN said they have asked BARC(Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) to develop a 190Mw PWR with HEU for possible fittment on the 2nd Aircraft Carrier (IAC-2) plus the forthcoming SSBNs & SSNs that will appear after 2025 time frame. I understand that India will be taking the help from France to increase the life of the reactor from the current 5-8yrs to around 10-15yrs.And the AREVA built K15 uses LEU for its opertaion but India is investing in HEU type reactor. I’ll also add those details to my new post http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/submarine-propulsion-test-reactor-needs.html

4) 3-4 MIRVs per missile makes for a reliable start – on the way to 10 MIRVs. I suspect the Russians were helping with ballistic missiles especially the more difficult science of SLBM launching.

5) No, I think Australia would be smart to consider 2,000 tons (surfaced) 218s but I think Australia is now locked into the US preference for our Japanese ally’s 3,000+ ton (surfaced) Soryu.

6) I think the Israeli “Popeye” is a cover term for an Israeli “range of around 1500kms” Tomahawk style SLCM. Probably the 650mm Dolphin 2 horizontal tubes allows for capsule-then-launch (noting US Seawolf SSNs do not have vertical launch but have 660mm torpedo tubes for capsule launching Tomahawks and quieter launching of Mark 48s). Jewish Americans would help with the technology (quiet) transfer to Israel. I’ve heard of joint Indian-Israeli missile testing in the Indian Ocean. Near Israel waters are too congested for Israeli testing.

7) Yes Pakistan can’t afford the 8 Chinese subs often quoted. Maybe China might donate 4 Yuans. In terms of Indian wrath I consider India supplying 4 subs to Taiwan to be the most viable tit-for-tat, though unlikely.

On RAN's future strategy. The RAN’s newly acquired 2 LHDs and 3 AWDs soon are mean’t to provide a (semi-independent of the US) Aussie capability to handle a crisis like East Timor 1999 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_East_Timorese_crisis , and the 2 LHDs for natural disasters (cyclones, Tsunamis) or power projection-citizen evacuation from trouble spots like occasionally unstable Fiji. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1987_Fijian_coups_d%27%C3%A9tat

Regards

Pete