May 13, 2012

India's Project 75I Tender for 6 more SSK submarines one tiny step closer

Contender for Project 75I? Model of Russia's Amur Class Submarine  which may include 10 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells. VLS may meet the expected missile criteria for Project 75I.

The Times of India, February 17, 2011 reports:

"Tender soon for Rs 50k crore stealth submarine project

"NEW DELHI: India will soon float the global tender for construction of six new-generation stealth submarines with the help of a foreign collaborator, which at a cost of over Rs 50,000 crore [equals US$11.05 Billion = 500,000,000,000 x US$0.0221 as at 17/2.2011 by my estimate] will be the country's single biggest defence project till now.

This comes after the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), chaired by defence minister A K Antony, last year cleared this submarine programme called `Project-75India' [shortened to Project 75I or P-75I] and then subsequently issued RFIs (request for information) to five submarine manufacturers, as was first reported by TOI.

Selection of the foreign collaborator for P-75I will, of course, come after the five -- Rosoboronexport (Russia), DCNS/Armaris (France), HDW (Germany), Kockums ( Sweden) and Navantia (Spain) -- respond with their final proposals to the tender.

"The government has cleared P-75I, which is the next lot of six submarines... At the moment we are in the RFI process. I hope within this year we would be able to push off the tender,'' said Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma on Wednesday, on the sidelines of a seminar on submarine operations.

This naval programme will clearly overtake the Rs 42,000-crore project to procure 126 multi-role fighters for IAF, so far dubbed the "mother of all defence deals'', which is in the final selection phase now.

The six new vessels will have land-attack capabilities as well as air-independent propulsion (AIP), which substantially enhances a diesel-electric submarine's capability to stay underwater without frequently surfacing to get oxygen to recharge its batteries.

As per the approved plan, while two submarines will be imported from the foreign collaborator, the other four will be built indigenously under transfer of technology. While three will be constructed at Mazagon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai, the fourth will be built at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL) in Visakhapatnam.

MDL is already engaged in building six French Scorpene submarines under Project-75, currently valued at Rs 23,562 crore, which incidentally is running three years behind the 2012-2017 schedule set for it earlier.

Navy is keen that P-75I gets going as soon as possible since it will be left with just over half of its present fleet of 14 ageing conventional submarines -- 10 Russian Kilo-class and four German HDW -- by 2015 or so.

Though India does not have nuclear submarines and SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) capabilities at present to complete its "nuclear triad'', it hopes to induct its first indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant by 2012. Moreover, it hopes to also induct the Akula-II class nuclear-powered submarine K-152 Nerpa on a 10-year lease from Russia this year."
Its interesting to see how slowly the wheels of Government move. Three years ago, on February 17, 2008 CNN-IBN reported

"...India has made it clear that it wants more muscle at sea and has kick-started the process of acquiring six new hunter-killer submarines and seven new frigates.Of particular significance is its decision to go in for a new line of submarines, which will for the first time give India an assured capability to attack targets on land from under the sea.

Request for information have recently been issued to the French DCNS, Spanish Navantia, Russian Rubin and German HDW.

[It appears the field has actually been expanded, as at 2011, with the addition of Kockums].

"It is a new submarine. It is not the Scorpene and it is a bigger submarine with specific features," Alain Fougeron, Executive VP, DCNS says about its new submarines.

The key differentiator from its existing fleet of 16 submarines will be a new class of missiles, which will establish India as the leading naval power in the region.

"The missile component of the Submarine weapon is very important and it should be very powerful," Andrey V Efimov, Manager, Rubin Design Bureau, says.

By considering four options India has sent a message that it wants to diversify its weapons procurement beyond traditional arms supplier Russia.

Its 30-year submarine building programme had envisaged a Russian line of Amur submarines beside the French Scorpene for which India signed up in 2005.

But now the Amur is not a certainty even though the Russians claim it is superior.

"Its capable of providing salvos for different targets," Efimov says about Amur submarines...."

Over three years there now appears to be more uncertainty over Project 75I with none of the previous Scorpene batch (under previous Project 75) yet being launched and the apparent widening of the Project 75I first from four to now five possible bidders. Selection for political reasons or taking into account other weapons projects may trump any pure performance criteria.

Does anyone wish to put forward a Project 75I  favourite? And for what reasons?

I was alerted to the above article by an Anonymous reader - whose tips and advice have proven very valuable over the years - Much Appreciated :)