August 14, 2012

Pvt firms may get nod to make subs

Within a decade, Indian private shipyards may manufacture conventional submarines for Indian Navy as a section within the Navy is keen on permitting submarine manufacturing in these yards to accelerate the laggard acquisition process.

With the Navy keen on getting submarines in adequate numbers quickly to make up for its fast depleting submarine fleet and order books of government shipyards being full, roping in private yards is on the agenda of both the Navy and defence ministry. Currently only two government yards in Mumbai and Visakhapatnam are making submarines for the Navy.

Larsen and Tubro (L&T) is believed to be the front runner after it proved its worth with the Arihant programme in which it successfully made the hull of the first nuclear-powered submarine “INS Arihant”. L&T yard in Gujarat is understood to have made the second nuclear-powered submarine as well.

“L&T has demonstrated its capability. It has technical expertise and manpower. It is not yet a full shipyard, which may take a few years to complete. But the company wants to know from the government about its role in naval ship and submarine building plans before it makes the necessary investment,” sources said.

Navy’s ageing submarine fleet is depleting fast. Navy has 11 operational submarines out of which 4-5 remain at shipyards at any given point of time for maintenance leaving only half-a dozen for operational purposes.

The first batch of new submarines (Project-75) is delayed by three years. The first Scorpene submarine being manufactured at Mazgaon Dock Ltd in Mumbai will be ready by 2015 and the entire fleet of six submarines should be inducted by 2018. The future of the second assembly line (Project-75 I) hangs in balance. After receiving initial approval from the defence ministry in 2010, the P-75 I is stuck due to an improvisation made by the Navy in the original proposal.

To reduce delivery time, the Navy proposed to make first two submarines in P-75 I on the yard of foreign collaborator and the remaining four on Indian yards.

However, the defence ministry threw a spanner arguing manufacturing submarines on foreign yards could not come in the category of “indigenous production” and the proposal has to be processed again from scratch.

“The tender formulation for the P-75 I is ready. We want government’s approval for initiating the tender. We want to avoid a single vendor situation,” said Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma.

Deccan Herald

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