Friday, November 4, 2011
India falters in getting its new submarine plan off the block
The country's long-delayed 'Project-75India' to acquire six new-generation stealth submarines has gone into such a tailspin that it will take at least another two-three years to be even finalized.
With it taking six-seven years to build an advanced submarine, the Navy is faced with the chilling prospect of getting the P-75I boats much beyond 2020, leaving its conventional underwater combat arm without the requisite punch it will need to deter China and Pakistan.
Top defence sources say floating of the global tender or RFP (request for proposal) for the critical P-75I, which envisages manufacture of the six submarines with international collaboration for over Rs 50,000 crore, "is still several months away".
Originally, three of the submarines were to be constructed at Mazagon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai, while another came up at Hindustan Shipyard in Visakhapatnam. The other two were to be either imported from the foreign collaborator or built by a domestic private shipyard, as first reported by TOI last year.
But with the Navy and the MoD pulling in different directions on the shipyards which should execute P-75I, coupled with defence minister A K Antony failing to crack the whip and the PMO itself getting involved, three committees were constituted one after the other to examine the project.
Feedback on the report of the third committee, headed by technocrat V Krishnamurthy, which assessed the infrastructure and capabilities in private shipyards like L&T, Pipavav and ABG to manufacture submarines, will now be submitted to the defence acquisitions council (DAC) chaired by Antony.
"The RFP can be issued only by mid-2012 at the earliest," said a source. Complex negotiations will thereafter follow with the foreign vendors (Russian Rosoboronexport, French DCNS, German HDW and Spanish Navantia) because the submarines have to be equipped with both tube-launched missiles for land-attack capabilities as well as air-independent propulsion for greater underwater endurance.
"The actual contract is likely to be inked only by 2014-15. So, in effect, we are now looking at inducting the first P-75I submarine by 2022 or so," he said.
This when the 30-year submarine-building plan approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in 1999 envisaged induction of 12 new submarines by 2012, followed by another dozen by 2030.
But 12 years down the line, not a single new submarine has been inducted. Even the ongoing Rs 23,562-crore 'Project-75' to build six French Scorpene submarines at MDL is running three years behind schedule, with the induction delayed to 2015-20.
The Navy will be left with just two to three of its existing 10 Russian Kilo-class and four German HDW submarines by 2022. Consequently, even with the six Scorpenes, the nation will fall far short of the minimum of 18 conventional submarines required to deter Pakistan and China.