August 19, 2016

DCNS Unlikely to Win India's Next 6 x SSK order...maybe.

As Russia wishes to sell 6 submarines to India (for Project-75(i)) Russia's Sputnik News, August 12, 2016, has been quick to report that:

 "French Firm DCNS Fails to Find Takers in India for Its AIPS Technology"

"Sources from India's Ministry of Defense say that the AIPS technology proposed by the DCNS is similar to what is being used in Scorpene class submarines.

NEW DELHI (Sputnik) — In what could be a major setback to French naval ship-building company DCNS, its proposal to set up a 100% Indian subsidiary for manufacturing air-independent propulsion systems (AIPS) for submarines is likely to be rejected by the Indian government.

Amit Cowshish, former financial adviser to the Ministry of Defense says, "They (DCNS) are offering something which is already available in India." The Defense Research Development Organization is already developing AIPs in collaboration with DCNS for Scorpene class submarines...." SEE WHOLE SPUTNIK ARTICLE


This may initially effect the existing Scorpene "Kalvari" class contract that DCNS has with India. DCNS won the Kalvari contract in 2005 to build 6 (non-AIP) Scorpenes for the Indian Navy. AIP is now relevant because India subsequently indicated that the last 2 Kalvaris would have AIP. India's DRDO has maintained that it can supply the AIP, but this is highly ambitious.

It would then mainly fall to DCNS to organise the AIP for the last 2 Kalvaris. But India seems to be playing hardball. France may have offered an updated version of its existing AIP called MESMA. MESMA has been installed in 3 of Pakistan's DCNS designed Agosta 90Bs (Khalid class)  subs, not in anyone's Scorpenes (so far).

I suspect that India is really holding out for the advanced Reformer/Fuel cell AIP that DCNS may be working on.

This impasse in the already delayed Kalvari program not only effects the last 2 Scorpene Kalvaris. India and DCNS both know that India will (sooner or later) be selecting a winning tenderer for
 Project 75(i) class submarines. This is for 6 further, specifically AIP submarines. India also wants them to feature VLS for a number of India's touted supersonic Brahmos cruise missiles.

The ability to provide AIP and VLS is a tall order. Only Sweden's Kockums, Germany's TKMS and DCNS offer developed AIP (China is virtually India's enemy - so it has no hope of offering anything).

There are no countries/companies fitting VLS on production SSKs (that I know of). Kalibr SLCMs fired by the Kilo Rostov-on-Don's missile launching (on IS in Syria Dec 2015) very likely were through its horizontal torpedo tubes. This is also noting India's Kilos have been fitted to fire Klub missiles through their torpedo tubes.

So India, by rejecting France's AIP, at this stage will tend to pressure DCNS to make a low price  offer for the 6 future Project-75(i) submarines AND/OR France may be prepared to transfer more technology specifically advanced AIP to India.


Russia has had a great deal of trouble developing AIP (no working AIP I know of so far). India is well known to work closely with Russia on advanced submarine technologies . So if India acquired advanced AIP technology from anyone Russia may benefit and be eternally grateful... India typically stops-starts-stops on arms purchases (as France also recalls concerning the MRCA jet competition).

What might result is that advanced AIP is imprudently supplied to India - it finds its way to Russia - then Russia installs this advanced AIP and VLS into new 6 new Kilo / Amur / or Kalina class subs that Russia sells to India for Project-75(i).


What is making DCNS particularly hungry to sell Scorpenes is the low revenue turnover not only for the  Kalvari Program (signed in 2005 but only 1 sub produced so far) but also the Brazilian Scorpene program (no subs produced (ie. launched) since the 2009 commencement. See Table below

Scorpene SSKs
(14 ordered)
First Sub Laid Down
Last Sub Commissioned
9 still building
2 built
1999 O’Higgins Chile



2 built
2004 KDs...Malaysia



1 launched so far
2009 INS Kalvari India

2016 (maybe) 
(1 so far)

5 x Kalvaris 1 per year

none completed so far
2010 SBR-1 Brazil
2020 (maybe, SBR-1)

4 x SBRs (1 per year)

Low revenue from Scorpenes also likely made DCNS all the more competitive on price and technology transfer in the Shortfin bid for Australia’s future submarine competition.

India's non-aligned status, and rising wealth, helps make it a shrewd and unpredictable arms buyer.


Here's interesting corroborating commentary of August 19, 2016 regarding another stalled weapons' purchase: 

“Back in 2006 the Indian Air Force decided to buy six Airbus A330 MRTT…The Indian military procurement is notorious for its unpredictability, indecisiveness and sluggishness…Ironically there is less political opposition to inferior Russian weapons and equipment in part because the Russians are much less likely to expose corruption…”



Josh said...


India's weapon programs make the US look sane in comparison. Relying on Russia for anything, even a tech they've mastered, is a hopeless situation that one would think the Indians have learned by now. I suspect this is just the Indians wrangling for a better deal; realistically the only other way they could go is German if the Germans were so inclined.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Why didn’t TKMS participate in the submarine bidding of India? Type 212&214 are good submarines. Type 214 or 218 modified with methanol reforming fuel cell seems to be superior to French or Russian submarines with yet-proven AIP.

If DCNS really sell submarine to India, it should offer the Sortfin Barracuda instead of Scorpene. Does DCNS think that India is inferior to Australia?


Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh

I think geo-politically India nurtures its (almost) alliance with Russia as a balance against India's almost enemy China.

Also I believe Russia supplies Agni ballistic missile and nuclear (certainly submarine reactor) assistance to India. This hidden assistance is bought by the surface means of conventional arms sales.

The Germans, with their most developed AIP would be serious competitors for Project-75(i). But the Germans may reason that after "winning" Germany may not want the decade+ runaround likely to ensue. Also Germany is quite strict not losing control of still high value industrial secret eg. its more progressed Reformer/FC AIP.



Saurabh said...


Just to interject with a minor quibble. The RFP for the Project 75(I) hasn't been issued yet. So, not sure if a winning bid is going to be selected anytime soon.



Hi Pete,
Ncie to see finally you wrote again about India. It was a pleasure following your blog for Australian SEA1000 updates.. a big thumbs up for all that..

DCNS is being roped to setup a shop in India via 100% subsidiary route for the fuel cell based AIP . so you are correct on the hints that you gave.. Of course they initially tried to offer us a better Mesma upgrade which MOD declined. The fact is almost 15 months plus, it was clear that DRDO AIP may not be in a position to either support scorpenes (last subs) nor may be in a position to get them onboard P75I SSKs. So the contingency plan was roped in to get French side into multiple things.

Few examples in Underwater fleet side is
1. Instead of Blackshark HWT it will be F21 for scorpenes, Arihants and future SSK with derived technology going into Varunastra to make it more lethal.
2. SSK in all probability under P75I will be shortfin bcz India is very keen to get a part of subcontract for the Australia deal and also wishes to use the technology of Barracuda in its first 6 SSN project. The SSN project is basically a amalgation of Russian known tech with us and upgrading it with Barracuda particularly noise, stealth and reactor tech compartment and shielding.

The Russian Amur 1650 or Lada proposed is not cutting much ice with GOI. In fact Reliance Defence had submitted a proposal to build 12 Kilo 636 in Pipavav with first 2 being built in Russia and next 10 in india. GOI did not even look into it till this date.

The reason is straight and simple, the product line which comes in P75I should have features which is of the most latest technology available in the market and which can be fed into Indian SSN/SSBN programs

DCNS is also being roped in for providing similar reactor shielding in the now under plan IAC2 the CATOBAR carrier with proposed EMALS from USA.

France and India cooperation will be unprecedented. I am sure you will see lot more of a new Australia- France- India troika in submarines.

About MRTT- well IL76/IL78 MKI is being planned due to commonality aspect with exiting fleet and also bcz the price being quoted from Russian side is very cheap. But strangely A330 is also talked about being discouraged bcz of not having a back loading door as compared to ILs. On top, DRDO AWACs were suppose to be on A330 meaning it was A330 MRTT and futher A330 AWACS. We might see a Airbus make in India plan for the amount of civilian A320 Neos being ordered by the likes of Inidan LCC players like Indigo and Spicejet. SO perhaps, GOI is trying to negotiate via that route to see cost benefits and perhaps a plan to set up some major sub assemblies in India


Peter Coates said...

Hi S

Possibly as part of India's non-aligned policies and to achieve a better bargaining position India seems to like to buy consecutive and/or simultaaneous submarine classes from different builders. So India bought Kilos from Russia - 1980s on

Over the same peiod that it bought 4 x 209s from TKMS/HDW being commissioned in the 1980s-90s

About 20 years later India under Project-75 (NO i) bought 6 x Scorpenes later called Kalvari class. Part of delays because no AIP was planned, but 3 Pakistani DCNS Agostas received AIP. Hence, I think, bad DCNS feelings with India. First Kalvari now launched, due to be commissioned next month.

As Saurabh points out above no formal RFP for Project-75(i) issued yet. So TKMS cannot yet formally respond with 214s or 218s. As India's DRDO seems to strongly want technology transfer of advanced AIP TKMS may refuse full transfer. Informally seems to be offering the 214 (and maybe 218)

On high cost and India expectations that a DCNS would transfer the Shortfin's pump jet DCNS is probably not expecting to offer the Shortfin to India.

Also see and



Peter Coates said...

Hi Saurabh

Yes India has not issued a RFP for Project 75(I) although India has issued a RFI* and the competitors** seem to have replied with initial ballpark offers. Yes I said "sooner or later" for any decision on the winner - 6 years and/or completing all the Kalavaris may be required first.


** although I think Italy has long been persuaded by US/NATO not to do a combined bid with Russia.

If India is just offering US$8 Billion
for 6 subs, with a high level of technical transfer, I think that would rule out any DCNS Shortfin.



Peter Coates said...

Hi PARIKRAMA [20/8/16 4:13 PM]

Thanks for your praise :) and all those details. I'll base an article around your details on Monday.



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

The ex-Vice Admiral, Masao Kobayashi pointed out that TKMS 209, Kilo and Scorpene did not equip with towed array sonar which was an indispensable item for modern submarine (SHIPS OF THE WORLD, from 2016, No.9, by Masao Kobayashi).

By the way, Ministry of Defense will submit FY 2018 budgetary request (total amount: 5.1 trillion JPY = 66.7 billion AUD) until Aug/31. I am very interesting budget of 29SS.


Peter Coates said...

Hi S [at 20/8/16 10:58 PM]

On 209, Kilo and Scorpene not able to deploy towed array sonar.
Looking at - as India wants AIP and VLS it is more likely:
- Germany is offering the 214 that is really as heavy as a 218
- the S-80 and A26 are not yet complete so are hard to assess

Interesting Japanese Ministry of Defense will submit FY 2018 budgetary request (total amount: 5.1 trillion JPY) which is about US$42 Billion .

I'm wondering if Japan, like South Korea, is developing ballistic missiles with range to hit all of North Korea?



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

In FY 2018 budgetary request, Ministry of Defense will request 76 billion JPY (0.99 billion AUD) for a next submarine (29SS) which will be in commission until end of FY 2021. 29SS equips with improved sonar system and is more silent. (SANKEI SHINBUN, August/21/2016)

Comment: It is not clear whether the FY 2018 budget of 29SS includes the new torpedo G-RX6 or not. If cost of G-RX6s is not included in this budget request, 29SS equipped with G-RX6s will be more expensive, e.g., 80 billion JPY.


Nirmalya said...

Most likely winner for 75i will be Amur 1650. Has 10 VLS cells. It is the quietest sub in the market. With drdo aip it can be deadly in Pak theatre . For China we are building the 6 ssn

Peter Coates said...

Hi S [at 21/8/16 3:30 PM]

Thanks for the details. I aim to turn them into an article on Wednesday this week.



Peter Coates said...

Hi Nirmalya [21/8/16 4:03 PM ]

Its difficult to make claims about the Amur 1650 (including quietness) given no Amurs exist.

Quietness also relies on AIP. Russia and DRDO have not yet developed AIP.

Can you provide any details on your Amur or AIP claims?



Common Man said...

Hi Pete,

1) Russia doesn't have any SSKs with VLS in operation or under manufacturing. They have only shown a few CGIs and scale models of some Amur variants, which are highly unlikely to see the light of day. Those Kalibrs you showed were launched by their new Kilo-boats. I don't think Russia would have completely rejigged a 1970s design to install VLS on it, given the design's basic age and lack of versatility.

2) Given the "reset" that's going on in Indian defence policy (and squeezing of funds), the priority is on nuclear vessels. Which is why no RFP has been issued for the P-75I programme more than six years after the RFI (Request for Information) was issued. There is every possibility this program will not come to fruition, with the most likely alternative being additional Scorpene orders.

Peter Coates said...

Hi "Common Man"

1. Its true that no VLS for the Kalibr SLCMs was mentioned on Kilo Rostov-on-Don's missile launching Dec 2015 I'll alter the text accordingly.

It is therefore likely Rostov fired its Kalibrs through its horizontal torpedo tubes. This is also noting India's Kilos have been fitted to fire Klub missiles through their torpedo tubes.

2. Yes no P75i may occur with the emphasis on completing the Arihant SSBN class and 6 SSNs. This would signal India moving onto mainly nuclear subs as US, France, UK have done in their all nuclear sub forcess.



GhalibKabir said...

Hi Pete,

I have been a long time silent reader of your blog. It makes for factual and logical reading.
I disagree on the all nuclear navy part for IN. As I see it SSKs and SSN/SSBNs (is the difference valid anymore?) have their own roles to play. Ex:Some of the shallow waters of the Arabian sea and a potential sub usage vis-a-vis Pakistan, both imply SSKs would be needed/will make better sense. I see SSNs(I incl. SSBN, SSGN etc.) as 'power projection'/Strategic tools. Ideally a 25-30 SSK fleet for the 9 chokepoints from Red Sea to Malacca coupled with 6 SSBNs and 6 SSNs ( total 35-42 sub fleet) will be needed if China's 'screwing' around in the IoR is any indication of the menace that awaits IN in the near future.

I am inclined to think that aspects of the Barracuda Sub would be 'married' into the 'Akula' based SSN India is going to build. For that reason, I will not be surprised if the Scorpene/Barracuda gets the 75i. I realize the leak has done great damage to DCNS. The second best choice would be the Type 214 derivative with the Siemens PEMFC AIP instead of the DRDO PAFC AIP... power density, efficiency and drawdown ability wise the Siemens one is a better choice. Given the difficulties with PAFC we need Siemens or DCNS to help with AIP.

But the best choice would be Scorpene/Barracuda mix with spillover to the SSN program...

It would be great to see a 40 sub SSK/SSN fleet complemented by destroyers carrying 150 VLS (32 VLS Nirbhay, 16 VLS 600 km Brahmos and 90-100 VLS combo of Barak 8 and S-300F for area defense besides ASW missiles)and Project 17A frigates and Kamorta class corvettes supported by an air complement of S-70 ASW and MiG-29s from the carriers besides P-8, Guardian drones. That will be a sight to behold --> a true global projection capable Blue Water Navy...

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ghalib Kabir

Thanks for your comment immediately above.

I'll turn your comment and my response into an article on Indian Navy Submarine Issues, in a few days.



GhalibKabir said...

Thanks Pete. Btw, I heard some more 'details' so to speak. Apparently the Indian MoD has already asked DCNS to help with the 'quiet' aspects of the barracuda class to boost the domestic SSN's noise reduction abilities. The OK-650 derived reactor design and other aspects will be on Russian consultancy. But the French are likely to be asked to help with the interiors, Sonar and other advanced aspects as the SSNs start getting built.

The deal being the French sell a total of 12-14 Scorpene/Barracuda SSK to IN under 75i in addition to the current 6 and get to be involved in the SSN project as well. A total of 18-20 Scorpenes could become the backbone of a future Indian SSK fleet. Apparently the deal size could be worth nearly 20 bil USD for a 12-14 sub contract.

The next point is a bit more tough to believe, apparently the US has been not so 'unreceptive' to the idea of helping India add a 'electric drive' instead of the current mechanical drives on the Indian SSBNs/SSNs thereby reducing noise further...

I was and remain very skeptical on the second point. considering the obvious Russian connection for starters I don't think the US is going to that 'nice'.

I will put that in the 'too good to be true' category for now.