NEW DELHI: The ball has formally been set rolling for what will be India's biggest-ever defence project till now: the acquisition of six new-generation stealth submarines, with land-attack capabilities, for over Rs 50,000 crore.
The government has now issued a global request for information (RFI) to armament majors to submit their initial offers by the end of this month for the six submarines to be constructed under 'Project-75 India'. This comes after the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), chaired by defence minister A K Antony, cleared P-75I in June, as was first reported by TOI. The gigantic naval project 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.
Under P-75I, while two submarines will be imported from the foreign collaborator's shipyard, the other four will be built indigenously under transfer of technology. Three of these will be constructed at Mazagon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai, and the fourth 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. "Giving one submarine to HSL under P-75I is clearly aimed at establishing a robust second submarine line there, in addition to MDL, for future projects like P-76," said a senior official.
Interestingly, the RFI says the foreign collaborator has to specify the air-independent propulsion (AIP) being offered for the project. Conventional diesel-electric submarines have to surface every few days to get oxygen to recharge their batteries. But with AIP systems, they can stay submerged for much longer periods, narrowing the gap with nuclear-powered submarines which can operate underwater for virtually unlimited periods.