Saturday, December 31, 2011

With eye on China & Pak, India to revamp sub fleet

NEW DELHI: Faced with a fast-depleting underwater combat arm even as both China and Pakistan bolster their fleets, India is looking at major rejig of its submarine production plans to ensure its operational readiness does not get further eroded in the coming years.

For starters, the case for equipping the last two of the six French Scorpene submarines being built at Mazagon Docks with the crucial air-independent propulsion systems is being "progressed'', say defence ministry sources.

The six diesel-electric Scorpenes are slated for delivery in the 2015-20 timeframe under the ongoing Rs 23,562-crore 'Project-75', three years behind schedule. AIP in the fifth and sixth vessels, at a cost of an additional Rs 1,000 crore each, will give them a deadlier punch and stealth because they will be able to stay submerged much longer before surfacing to get oxygen to recharge their batteries.

India is likely to go in for three additional Scorpenes after the first six. "While no decision has yet been taken, it makes economic sense since six of them are being built at MDL. The second submarine workshop at MDL will get operational soon,'' said a source.

It will also be operationally expedient since, as was first reported by TOI earlier, the long-delayed follow-on 'Project-75India' to acquire six new-generation stealth submarines will take at least another two to three years to be finalized. It will take another seven years, if not more, after that for the first new submarine to roll out.

'Going in for three more Scorpenes is one way out of the logjam over P-75I, with Navy and MoD yet to agree on the shipyards to execute the project. The French companies will charge hefty amounts for the ToT (transfer of technology) packages for the three more Scorpenes,'' he said.

The P-75I programme may also be expanded to include nine submarines, all equipped with both tube-launched missiles for land-attack capabilities as well as AIP, instead of the six planned for well over Rs 50,000 crore.

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