Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Govt sets fresh deadline for delivery of Scorpene subs

Faced with a reality of an ageing fleet of submarines, India has set a tight schedule for the state-owned shipyard Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) for the delivery of six diesel-electric Scorpene submarines to the Indian Navy. MDL has been asked to deliver one submarine every six months starting August 2015. All the six have to be commissioned by September 2018.

All the six submersible machines are in various stages of construction and each one is hidden behind a covered building yard in Mumbai that is heavily guarded from snooping eyes. This is the first time in decades that India is building the potent submarines on its soil. French Naval engineering company DCNS is the foreign partner.

Originally, the first Scorpene was to be delivered in December 2012 and the other five submarines were to follow at one-year intervals till December 2017. The submarines are being built at $4 billion (approx Rs 18,000 crore).

Chairman-cum-Managing Director of the MDL Vice-Admiral HS Malhi (retd), informing a team of reporters from Delhi on the progress of the important programme, said “The fabrication of the pressure hull is moving before schedule and in line with the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security. The first submarine will be delivered in August 2015.”

By next year, the fabrication of all six submarines will be done and the MDL will get ready to build the next lot of submarines, under the project codenamed ‘75-India’ at a projected cost of $11 billion (approx Rs 49,500 crore).

Global majors have responded to India’s bid in partnering the project. These include Russia’s Rosoboronexport, French DCNS, German HDW and Spanish Navantia.

The development of the Scorpene is critical for the Navy. At present, the Navy operates 14 diesel-electric submarines after it decommissioned two Foxtrot-class submarines last year. Of the 14 submarines, 10 are Kilo class Soviet-origin vessels and the rest are HDW German-origin vessels. Till the Scorpene comes up, the Navy has re-jigged its maintenance schedule for the existing lot.

India intends to have a 30-vessel submarine force for the Navy that should be in place by 2030. This will include three nuclear-powered submarines, the first of that lot, the INS Arihant, is already launched at sea and is being outfitted.

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