Indian Navy’s P75I submarine programme in troubled waters
Cairo – Hany Kamal eldin ..
Trouble and delays continue to dog the navy’s plan to build six modern conventional submarines that can stay underwater for prolonged duration, with foreign collaborators failing to meet a deadline for submission of bids.
Sources said that the Rs 43,000 crore P 75I programme-under which an Indian shipyard will construct submarines domestically in partnership with a foreign technology partner-is being given another extension, with a new deadline for bid submission being set for August 2023.
As per the original plan, Indian shipyards had to submit a consolidated bid with a foreign collaborator in 2021. After a series of issues were raised regarding liability clauses and other difficulties, the deadline was extended to June 2022. This was further extended to December this year as no responses were received.
As reported by ET, foreign technology partners are finding it difficult to meet critical specifications for underwater endurance and stealth, besides having concerns on technology transfer. While Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) and South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) have been in talks with Indian shipyards on the technical aspects of designing a new submarine for India, critical parameters required by the navy are being found difficult to meet.
The latest extension, sources said, was received on November 30, with the navy giving shipyards an additional nine months to put together a bid. The unique feature of the new submarines is a sea-proven Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system-a critical component that will enable these boats to remain submerged for over two weeks, against the 2-3 days of underwater endurance of current submarines.
However, foreign technology partners are struggling to meet technical requirements, though some of their concerns over clauses in the draft contract, which placed almost unlimited performance and delivery liability, have been addressed.
Transfer of technology is a key requirement of the tender but it is learnt that at least one of the foreign bidders is yet to obtain permissions to share critical technology that was developed using government funding.
Indian companies shortlisted for the construction-Mazagaon Dockyards Ltd (MDL) and Larsen and Toubro (L&T)-have been in discussions with foreign technology partners from Germany, France, Russia, South Korea and Spain for the past few years to firm up a technology transfer plan.
However, only Germany and South Korean participants remain in the game as the navy has put the condition that the bidder needs to have a sea-proven AIP system. Russia, France and Spain do have AIP technology but it is not fitted on a submarine where it can be demonstrated. AIP technology has been successfully demonstrated by DRDO but is yet to be sea proven. The home-grown AIP can be fully compliant with all requirements in a little over three years, according to DRDO officials.