The Indian MoD has shortlisted two Indian shipyards and five foreign submarine manufacturers for Project 75-India (P75I) submarine build program that envisages the construction of 6 new generation attack submarines in India at a cost of over $6.3 billion. Long delayed and ambitiously set up, the project saw definite movement today with a meeting of the apex Defence Acquisition Council today downselecting Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) and L&T as the Indian Strategic Partners (SP). One of these firms will be chosen to construct six submarines in country.
The P75I line is a follow-on to an existing line in India. India currently has an active submarine production line at the state-owned Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) that has delivered the first two of six Naval Group Scorpene-class submarines to the Indian Navy. The P75I program will choose from five submarine types, with the MoD today approving that set too: the French Naval Group Scorpene, the Russian Rubin Design Bureau Amur 1650, German Thyssenkrupp Type 214, Spanish Navantia S80 and an offering from South Korea’s DSME.
Importantly, today’s downselect by the MoD formalises the rejection of India’s Adani Group from contention. The Adani Group had sought to be considered as a Strategic Partner in a tie-up with the state-owned Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL).
The Swedish Saab Kockums A26 and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Soryu-class were prospective contenders early in the program but dropped out along the way. As things stand, the Indian government will now push ahead with choosing selecting a submarine and getting one (or both) of the selected Strategic Partners to build them in India.
The Indian Navy currently operates Russian Kilo-class and German Type 209 conventional submarines, with the first of six Scorpene-class submarines being the latest into service. While the P75I submarines will be newer generation boats overall, the biggest capability jump will be in endurance and survivability from the mandatory Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) that will differentiate these submarines from every other that the Indian Navy operates. The P75I is also expected to stipulate weaponry requirements like fitment of the submarine-launched BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. Watching from the sidelines, BrahMos Corp. has had discussions for years with the P75I’s possible vendors, confirming two years ago to Livefist that all likely contenders are on board for a vertical launch BrahMos fit and later, the BrahMos Mini from torpedo tubes.
Russia seeks a virtual walkover in the program, judging that the process has too many moving parts, and that the Indian government is being overly optimistic in how it has constructed the process. France’s Naval Group believes it has an edge with the existing Scorpene build program, proposing that the existing line can easily construct improved Scorpenes with MESMA AIP segments. While the program is widely perceived to be a toss-up between the Russian and French submarines, Indian defence tendering mandates an expanded competition, borne out by the MoD’s selection today of five prospective submarine vendors.
As Russia gets set to fight for the P75I @MakeInIndia submarine contest, Livefist’s @ShivAroor gets up close with the Russian Navy submarine that will be the source of the ‘Amur 1650’ that’s will compete against French, German & Swedish contenders. pic.twitter.com/R9Y2kTS8IP
— Livefist (@livefist) July 11, 2019
With clear numbers finally giving much-needed shape to the plodding P75I project, the most crucial phase of the effort now looms. Not only will this be a huge test of the much-bandied Strategic Partnership (SP) model, but will be experimenting thus at a time when the Indian Navy is desperate now to let submarine strength levels fall any further than they already have. Sea denial capabilities have come under tremendous pressure in recent years owing to expanded Chinese submarine activity in the Indian Ocean.
In its nascent stages, India is also developing a nuclear-powered attack submarine type. Details in this Livefist video: