India Moves Ahead with New Build Submarines

By India Strategic

New Delhi. Twenty-one years after being cleared by a key Cabinet panel and 14 years after an Acceptance of Necessity (AoN), the Defence Ministry on June 4 cleared the Indian Navy’s Rs 45,000 crore ($6 billion) proposal for acquiring six advanced diesel-electric submarines with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) to be built domestically under the strategic partnership (SP) route through Transfer of Technology (ToT) from the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM).

The Defence Acquisition Council, at a meeting chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, cleared the issue of a Request for Proposal (RFP) to state-owned Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) and the private sector L&T for building the Project P75I submarines under ToT from the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).

“The DAC also approved proposals concerning Capital Acquisitions of various equipment for modernisation and operational needs of the Armed Forces amounting to approx. Rs 6,000 crore ($823 million),” the Defence Ministry said. This relates to the modernisation of the Army’s Air Defence guns.

Describing the approval for the P75I submarines as “a landmark”, the Defence Ministry said it is “the first case processed under the Strategic Partnership model. This would be one of the largest ‘Make in India’ projects and will serve to facilitate faster and more significant absorption of technology and create a tiered industrial ecosystem for submarine construction in India. From a strategic perspective, this will help reduce current dependence on imports and gradually ensure greater self-reliance and dependability of supplies from indigenous sources”.

“With accord of this approval, the country will be enabled to achieve its 30-year Submarine construction programme envisioned by the Government to acquire national competence in submarine construction and for the Indian industry to independently design and construct submarines in India. The availability of new technologies and advanced manufacturing capabilities to the Industry will be an important step towards enhancing the nation’s quest for self-reliance in modern conventional submarine construction and sustainment activities whilst creating direct and indirect job opportunities in India,” the Ministry said.

The project “provides a unique long-term opportunity and planning certainty for the industry to invest and support submarine construction. It will also infuse the latest technology and weaponry for submarines in India through strategic tie up between Indian Industry and leading foreign OEMs”, the ministry said.

MDL is executing an Indian Navy contract for six Project P75 Scorpene submarines, three of which have been delivered, two of which are undergoing trials and a sixth is under construction. L&T has constructed two of the three nuclear-powered submarines that have been delivered while a third is under construction.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had cleared the P75I proposal in 1999 while the Navy was granted the Acceptance of Necessity granted in 2007 for the six submarines to be constructed under the strategic partnership model that aims to boost India as a manufacturing hub for defence equipment, as also to to establishing an industrial and R&D eco-system that will meet the future requirements of the Armed Forces, besides pushing exports.

The Indian Navy currently operates 12 submarines.

The Ministry also noted the long-pending need of the Indian Army for modernisation of its Air Defence guns.

“These had been earlier procured only from foreign sources. With the continued thrust of Ministry of Defence towards ‘ÁtmaNirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Make in India’, an enthusiastic response from about a dozen Indian companies was received. All of them have expressed their willingness and commitment to manufacture this complex gun system and associated equipment by ensuring technology assimilation in India. Accordingly, the DAC accorded approval of procurement of Air Defence Guns and Ammunition at an approx. cost of Rs 6,000 crore under the Buy & Make (Indian) category.

“Further to better equip the Armed Forces to meet the operational challenges and facilitate faster induction of required arms and ammunition, the DAC extended the timelines for progressing urgent Capital Acquisitions under the delegated powers to the Armed Forces up to August 31, 2021.  This will enable the Armed Forces to complete their emergent and critical acquisitions,” the Ministry said.

This article was published by India Strategic in June 2021.