July 21, 2017

India's Closeness to Russia May Handicap Submarine Project P-75(I)

In the last 24 hours India's Deccan Herald and other quality Indian news outlets have carried an important Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announcement. My comments are in [...] brackets.

India's MoD has issued the long anticipated request for information (RFI) to 6 submarine suppliers to participate in the construction of 6 advanced conventional diesel-electric submarines under the Project-75I (I for India). This will be a $9.5 Billion (so far) project

Companies invited, via the RFI, to provide information are:

-  France's Naval Group (formerly DCNS)
-  Russia's Rosoboronexport
-  Spain's Navantia
-  Sweden's Saab
-  Germany's TKMS, and
-  Japan's MHI (which would include KHI).

The RFI is just the beginning of a lengthy selection process [1] that may take 5 years till a winner is chosen, then another 5 years to commission the first sub. The winner will need to:

-  partner with an Indian company, and
-  build the submarines in India [Australia has similar rules] 
-  [The winner will need to facilitate provision of air independent propulsion (AIP). Long discussed is
   the winner being prepared to share the AIP technology with India's Defence Research and
   Development Organisation (DRDO)]
-  [also long discussed as a requirement is the fitting of a vertical launch systems (VLS) or at least the
   ability to torpedo tube launch long range, land attack, cruise missiles]

For more information see the WHOLE DECCAN HERALD article.


FURTHER COMMENT 

India has for over a decade been conscious that its strategic competitors have been exceeding India's very slow submarine production (and purchasing) rate.

China has produced dozens of submarines in the last two decades with increasing numbers featuring the advantage of AIP. India has no AIP conventional submarines and India's submarines are mostly of less stealthy, old, designs.

Pakistan already has 3 AIP submarines and has ordered 8 submarines designed by China. These 8 will likely have AIP fitted or retrofitted.

It is not yet clear whether India wants average sized submarines (about 1,900 tonnes submerged) or is thinking of a larger, more capable, design.


Risk P-75I Technology May Flow to Russia

Some RFI invitees may be worried about India's close high tech & sensitive submarine relationship with Russia. Meaning there is a perceived risk that India may transfer some P-75I tech to Russia (eg. AIP & pressure hull formulas?). RFI invitees may therefore limit the submarine technology they build into their submarine proposals to India.

Then Russia may on-transfer tech secrets to China. This is noting Russia likely transferred nuclear sub technology and certainly Kilos to China in the past. China increasingly has the kind of money to attract "Russian" high defence tech.

The depth of Indo-Russian submarine relations can be seen in Russia taking the unusual path of:

-  allowing India to finance the final completion of INS Chakra "II" 

-  Russia leasing Chakra II to India for 10 years (in practice forever?). Russia obviously provided
   some Russian crew and maintainers, particularly working with Chakra's reactor, and

-  Russia's extensive help with the Indian submarine reactor program. This was acknowledged by
   former Prime Minister Singh who presided over INS Arihant's "launch" in 2009. An
   acknowledgement voiced by no-one else I'm aware of. 

As a sweetener for Naval Group to be announced P-75I winner, India may quietly ask for some French nuclear propulsion/propulsor/hull technology.

[1] In terms of the glacial age of Project P-75I see the Submarine Matters' article of 2012.


Chart above reflects why India needs to buy (from overseas) or locally build P-75I submarines quickly - not the usual spread-the-commissions-till-all-happy-time of 10 to 15 years. The chart is still fairly accurate - numbers of conventional subs (SSKs) are 13 Indian vs 61 Chinese. Adding China's ally Pakistan's 5 makes India's shortfall even more serious.
---

Pete

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Japan had already participated in the submarine bidding in Australia. That’s enough.

Regards

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

A think Japan may be worried about India's close high tech & sensitive submarine relationship with Russia. Meaning there is a perceived risk that India may transfer some P-75I tech to Russia (eg. AIP & pressure hull formulas?).

Then Russia may on-transfer tech secrets to China. This is noting Russia likely transferred nuclear sub technology and certainly Kilos to China in the past. China increasingly has the kind of money to attract "Russian" high defence tech.

India-Russia submarine proximity can be seen in Russia taking the unusual path of:

- allowing India to part finance the final completion of INS Chakra "II" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_submarine_Nerpa_(K-152)

- Russia leasing Chakra II to India for 10 years (in practice forever?). Russia obviously provided some Russian crew and maintainers, particularly working with Chakra's reactor, and

- Russia's extensive help with the Indian submarine reactor program. This was acknowledged by former Prime Minister Singh when Arihant was "launched" in 2009 but by no-one else I'm aware of. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/INS_Arihant#Launch

As a sweetener for Naval Group to be announced P-75I winner, India may quietly ask for some French nuclear propulsion/hull technology.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

The likelihood of an India-China ground war in the border around Bhutan is greater than a naval conflict in the Indian ocean.
KQN

Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN

Right you are KQN.

Also border scuffles in Kashmir...

Cheers

Pete

GhalibKabir said...

Having followed this since 1992, I think India made two mistakes in the 1980s-1990s.

One, it did not internalize the know how on DE sub construction when they jointly constructed the Type 209 with HDW (thanks to the Soviets putting pressure and causing bribe allegations to get leveled against HDW if I remember right) ---> the price gets paid even today as India was stuck with the Kilos and got next to nothing in tech help on DE Subs.

Two, there were sane voices in the 1990s that called for a tiered sub force of small inner EEZ focused DEs, outer EEZ and ocean going DEs and Nuclear subs besides investments in sonar technology and torpedoes prudently and using money as efficiently as possible.

Financial constraints not withstanding, a more focused effort could have allowed India to master DE construction along with the AIPs...thanks to govt lethargy esp 2004-2014, as of now,

the varunastra torpedo has seen the light of the day (thanks to a determined now ex-DM Parrikar) while the SSBN program has progressed kinda ok. The rest leaves much to be desired (even after we generously allow for genuine difficulties that DE sub programs like Australia, Spain's (S-80)etc have undergone globally)

The Indian Navy desperately needs to put two SSKs to sea every 14-16 months or so for the next 10 years besides one or two SSN/SSBNs every 3-4 years to have a decent sub force by 2030.

We are not even scratching the surface in terms of active towed sonars, Ship borne attack helicopters for the carriers, destroyers, frigates and the 4 planned LHDs...

the navy alone will need US$ 10-15 billion in capital spending each year through 2030 (plus rapidly scaled up construction timeframes) to deter the PLAN from mugging it in the IoR

PS: Also, the launch of the Type 055 by PLAN means the IN needs more VLS in its surface ships (at least 96 I would say 56 SAMs plus 40 for AShMs and LACMs)... that is enough manufacturing for 30-40 years right there...

PPS: I am less worried about the North East of India as China cannot walk in like 1962. This is the classic salami tactic of taking a ridge-line and asking for 'resolution' and appearing 'reasonable'. Many readers might not know what exactly in this region the PLA got a bloody nose in 1967 from the IA.(80 IA deaths vs 400 odd Chinese)

usually India would quietly 'fold' and it has not happened this, hence this 'screeching' rhetoric and threats from China. it is bluster and a game of chicken, and as of now the the bluff has been called.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ghalib Kabir

1. The Indian Navy indeed needs to:
- speed up production of its current Kalvari-class subs
- accelerate the P-75I selection process (perhaps with a view to start production by 2024)
- develop SSNs with some sense of urgency (lots of Russian, or other, help essential)

2. It could be India has another objective in purchasing so many arms from Russia (eg, tanks, jets and surface ships). Using this strategic purchasing strategy India has relied too much on Russian pressure against China to limit current/future border skirmishes. This Indian reliance may be be less effective as China's economic (and with it strategic) power over Russia increases.

Regards

Pete

GhalibKabir said...

Allow me to respond by point

1. The Scorpenes are getting churned at the rate one every 9-11 months. all six will get inducted in the next 3 years. post 2014, the push is there to finish them quickly...

2. Accelerate the selection process? well everyone wants it, but I think this makes for a truly irritating dilemma:

A. the Germans with their U-214 can help with DE numbers but likely will limit their support for much needed help on AIP or Li battery tech,

B. the French could have helped but stand compromised (Scorpene leak (plus the more damaging tech related DCNS submission to Australia on limiting ToT to India))

C. Russia Link: The fact remains only the Russians (comparatively) have shared know how to a decent extent.However post Arihant reactor help, Russian help has imho maxed out. Also, using Russia to pressure/intercede with China ended in the early 2000s.

India is hence on its own with border issues and on the SSK/SSN front, which is fine (and even better in the long run and worth the pain if suffered for the right outcome)


The ideal solution that might truly help India in the long run could be the following

1. Outright purchase of 6 Type 214 ocean going DEs and 2-3 Vidar 7 type inner EEZ small DEs (for Pakistan)---> beefs numbers asap and can be done G2G route quickly ala Rafale

2. Use the local private sector full tilt and made them cooperate in producing a smaller 3500-4000 ton submerged non-nuclear AIP/Li-battery powered DE sub based on Arihant miniaturization (50% size of the SSBN)

3. assign public-private sector shipyards to focus on SSNs with knowhow sharing across with the domestic SSK and SSBN teams to get max benefits overall. for example: HSL-L&T-HBL will only focus on SSK-AIP while Mazgaon+xyz private player will focus on SSNs.

1+2+3 will be very expensive, will need a lot of focus and will be human resource intense, but like India's artillery and surface ship story, this is the only thing that will wean India off foreign dependence.

Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
Check out this article

India is shopping for submarines as China extends its reach into the Indian Ocean
http://www.businessinsider.com/india-to-buy-submarines-amid-china-naval-activity-in-the-indian-ocean-2017-7

Peter Coates said...

As I was saying about India's closeness to Russia on many high tech submarine matters, including Russia transferring propulsion reactor design and nuclear submarine mission operating knowledge to India.

The Hindu, August 1, 2017 reveals http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/vice-admirals-actions-impacted-n-capabilties/article19403651.ece :

"...other competent [Indian Navy] officers, most of them pioneers trained in Russia to run the reactors of nuclear submarines, in the nuclear submarine arm of the Navy."

"...INS Chakra [not totally clear if they mean Chackra I (K-43) [1] or II (ex Nerpa (K-152))) [2] but probably Chakra II] was the first nuclear submarine and it was leased from Russia to India. A total of seven officers were trained as Reactor Operators in Russia. Commander Luthra was one of those pioneering seven officers aboard INS Chakra who were trained in Russia at an exorbitant cost...The order points out that Commander Luthra was sent to Russia twice for a total duration of approximately 40 months for his training."

ends with "However, the damage done to the nuclear arm and the massive losses incurred in the expensive training is forever, admit Navy officers."

[1] Chakra I https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_submarine_K-43

[2] Chakra II https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_submarine_Nerpa_(K-152)

Pete