Need for Decomplicating acquisition of 6 submarines under Project 75(I) Program

YB WEB DESK. Dated: 5/14/2022 2:11:17 PM

NEW DELHI,May 13 The Indian Navy’s (IN) Project 75(I) to build six diesel-electric stealth submarines in India at an estimated cost of Rs 43,000 crore received a setback on April 30 when France’s Naval Group (DCNS) opted out of the race. It was one of the five foreign companies shortlisted by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as potential technology collaborators with two Indian shipyards shortlisted for building the submarines in India. Explaining the reason, Laurent Videau, Business Development Director for India and Thailand, reportedly said, “the present RFP requires that the fuel cell AIP (air-independent propulsion) be sea proven, which is not the case for us yet since the French Navy does not use such propulsion system”. The AIP technology enables conventional nonnuclear submarines to stay underwater for over two weeks without surfacing to recharge their batteries, making them more efficient than the traditional diesel-electric submarines which must surface every few days. IN’s 30-year plan to induct 24 submarines by 2030 was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in 1999, but it was only in 2005 that the first contract for building six Scorpene conventional submarines in collaboration with DCNS (now Naval Group) was awarded to Mazagaon Dockyard Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) under Project 75. While the last of these submarines is scheduled to be commissioned next year, the follow- on contract for building another six submarines under Project 75(I) is now facing headwinds because the MoD decided to acquire the submarines on a competitive basis under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model and the Naval Group’s decision to opt-out of the competition at a belated stage. Introduced in 2016 by MoD, this model was intended to ‘institutionalise a transparent, objective and functional mechanism to encourage broader participation of the private sector, in addition to capacities of DPSUs/ OFB, in manufacturing of major defence platforms, which included submarines, fighter aircraft, helicopters, and armoured fighting vehicles. The SP model envisages parallel shortlisting of foreign manufacturers whose products meet the armed forces’ requirements and the Indian companies who could tie up with the former to make the product in India as prime vendors. The process of shortlisting the foreign and Indian companies is cumbersome and potentially contentious, but to its credit, IN managed to complete these processes without much difficulty. The foreign companies shortlisted for Project 75(I) were Naval Group (France), ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (Germany), Rosoboronexport (Russia), Daewoo (South Korea), and Navantia (Spain). As for the Indian companies, in a move that surprised many as it was not in keeping with the spirit of the SP Model, MoD shortlisted stateowned Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders (MDL) alongside the private.


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