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November 12, 2014

DCNS hopes to expand footprint in India


At the Nantes-Indret Centre of French Shipyard DCNS, where naval propulsion and energy generation systems for conventional and nuclear submarines are developed and tested, four neatly-packed cooling systems are kept for delivery to Mazagon Dock for fitment on the Indian Scorpenes under construction.

Alongside, there’s a bigger refrigerant, still being put together, meant for the latest of U.K.’s Astute class of nuclear attack submarines (SSN). Nearby is a completed system for the French Navy’s new-generation Barracuda SSNs.

The Indian Scorpenes are on schedule, putting delays behind them, with the first slated for launch of trials in September next, say DCNS officials.

However, while India has closed a contract for delivery of Exocet SM39 missiles for the subs, a decision has been deferred on procuring the Franco-Italian Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes, pending corruption probe against Italian Finmeccanica whose firm WASS manufactures the torpedoes. India may then go with a German torpedo, says a DCNS official.

The second diesel generator for the second Indian Scorpene awaits bench-test at the test-bed in Nantes.

The company’s facility at Cherbourg worked on the technology transfer and quality and technical specifications for the Indian Scorpenes.

“It has been a big adventure,” says Antoine Sajous, Asia Pacific sales head of DCNS.

While the company has built and is building Scorpenes for Malaysia, Brazil (where it’s a part-owner of the domestic Scorpene-building project) and Chile, it took sometime to set up the infrastructure for Scorpene construction at MDL.

“Its east yard has grown four times its size from the time the construction had begun and sports the kind of hangars and specialised equipment we have at Cherbourg. Technology was acquired pretty fast and there’s stringent quality standard maintained. It would all go waste if they are to stop with the six subs,” he says, suggesting India would do well to go for advanced Scorpenes for its follow-on conventional subs envisaged for construction in India under the Navy’s P75-I.

He says the company, which is also bidding for know-how partnership with MDL for modular construction and design support for the proposed P17-A stealth frigates, desires to bolster its partnership with it.

Eric Droz-Bartholet, head of international submarine business, says India could make DCNS a part-owner, a la Brazil, in P75-I construction for ease of technology transfer and building.

“Eventually, MDL could be a global export centre for parts of submarines,” he suggests.

The company is also pinning its hopes on bagging the order for construction of landing platform docks (LPDs) in partnership with Pipavav, for which it provided a design based on the Mistral-class of vessels. “We understand that it is before the technical evaluation committee at the moment. Pipavav has ramped up its infrastructure to execute the project,” says Jerome Penicaud, bid manager.

The Indian LPD tender stipulates building of two vessels by a yard selected while two would be built by Hindustan shipyard on nomination basis. ABG Shipyard, L&T and Pipavav are in contention for the project.

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