Friday, November 4, 2011

Plans to acquire six new-generation stealth submarines chokes on red tape

NEW DELHI: The country's long-delayed 'Project-75 India' 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.

As it takes six-seven years to build an advanced submarine , the Navy is faced with the chilling prospect of getting the P-75 I boats much beyond 2020, leaving its conventional underwater combat arm without the requisite punch it will need to deter China and Pakistan. Defence sources say floating of the global tender or RFP (request for proposal) for the critical P-75 I, 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-75 I, 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 will now be submitted to the defence acquisitions council 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. "The actual contract is likely to be inked only by 2014-15 . So, in effect, we are now looking at inducting the first P-75 I submarine by 2022 or so," he said.

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