The Scorpene submarine project underway in Mumbai has suffered fresh troubles, with a new assessment showing another 18 months of delay even as its Spanish consultants have left the venture.
According to sources, Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) has informed the Navy that the project would be delayed by another 18 months from the 2015 deadline announced by defence minister AK Antony in Parliament last year.
Going by the latest MDL projections, the first Scorpene submarine would be ready for induction only by 2016-end. When the contract was signed, the first submarine was to be ready in 2012. However, the delay could be worse, according to other developments over the last few days.
Consultants from Navantia, the Spanish shipbuilding company, left the project in the last few days. The technical assistance pact for Navantia and DCNS, the French partner in the consortium, expired on March 31, sources said. With MDL failing to get the defence ministry's approval in time, about 10 Spanish consultants working on the submarine project left India. This could further add to the delay, sources said.
Adding to the troubles over the massive submarine project, with a budget of over Rs 23,000 crore, is the fact that the DCNS leadership is expected to meet with MDL top brass this week in Mumbai and present their own demand for additional technical assistance fee.
The developments come at a time when India's submarine fleet is expected to dwindle to just seven or so in two years time. Presently, India operates 10 ageing Russian Kilo class and four German HDW submarines. Indian Navy also has a Russian nuclear submarine INS Chakra on lease.
The Scorpene project, among the biggest defence deals signed by India till now, was concluded in October 2005. Over the years, the project has run into several delays. Originally, the first submarine was to be delivered in 2012. However, because of the complications and two-year delay in concluding contracts related to material to be procured by MDL, the project got delayed by three years.
Delivery by end-2016
Hulls for all six submarines, made of steel supplied by French division of ArcelorMittal, are ready in Mumbai, and the outfitting of equipment and systems is underway. With the Spanish consultants quitting, work on the part of the hull that they were responsible for could be delayed.
According to the new estimates, the first submarine will be ready for commissioning by end of 2016. And then, a new submarine could be ready for induction every 9-12 months.
According to the present projections, the last two submarines would have air independent propulsion systems (AIP) that would help the submarine stay underway water for one to three extra weeks. Without AIP, a Scorpene submarine can stay underwater continuously for five to six days. DRDO is presently developing an indigenous AIP, with assistance from DCNS. Initial assessments about the indigenous AIP system is said to be very good though with only about two weeks of endurance.
Tiimes of india