October 12, 2015

India May Hand Over Next Six Submarines Order To A Private Shipyard


MDL To Get More Orders; India Plans To Have Just 2 Submarine-Builders
India will soon have a domestic private shipyard building advanced submarines for its Navy. The public sector Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL), building six Scorpene submarines with French firm DCNS' help already, is likely to get more orders for building advanced submarines too.
This was indicated by Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar after he commissioned INS Kochi, a MDL-built indigenous guided missile stealth destroyer, into the Indian Navy on Sep.30, 2015.
Parrikar was responding to queries from reporters on board India's latest stealth Destroyer. This is an important bit of news for the Indian warship building sector and the world submarine-builders.
The new plan for submarine building is a shift in the Navy's plans effected by the Narendra Modi government and a significant boost to the private sector shipyards.
Parrikar indicated that the government plans to hand over the responsibility of building six new conventional submarines for the Navy to an Indian private sector shipyard.
Interestingly, a panel set up by the Defense Ministry in October 2014 to identify Indian shipyards from among five public sector and three private sector shipyards, which can boast of the capability to build Project 75I submarines, has submitted its report in March this year recommending a few names. But a final call on the report's recommendations is yet to be taken.
As part of the new plan, India would like to continue honing the submarine building skills at the MDL by giving it orders for additional conventional submarines -- possibly three more -- by providing the vessels more technological edge such as Air Independent Propulsion, Land Attack and Advanced Stealth, features that are contemporary and the best in the world.
Though the Indian Navy had in April this year declared that there would be no follow-on orders for Scorpenes, the question now arises if it is possible for MDL to shake off the Scorpenes technology when it builds three more submarines.
"If I don't add up to the production capacity of MDL by more orders, whatever capability Mazagon has developed will be destroyed and forgotten," Parrikar said on board INS Kochi, reminding the nation of the experience of losing the talent gained in building the German HDW submarines in the mid 1980s, after the deal got tainted by graft allegations.
"We had initiated contract of German HDW submarines in 1984. Two submarines we got from Germany, two were assembled in Mazagon Docks. Mazagon got some experience here. Two more were supposed to be built here. But, because of the scandal, the issue could not be pursued and we stopped at two submarines," he said.
"Here, we not only lost two submarines to be built, but the main important aspect is that all the technical expertise, including specialized welding which is required for submarine hulls -- it is not very easy to develop them -- we lost that technology. I dont want Mazagon Docks to lose these technology of submarines. So we are working out a mechanism by which Mazagon can have continuity."
The Scorpenes under Projet 75 and the six more under Project 75I apart, the government has already decided to have six new nuclear-powered submarines -- SSNs to be precise -- to be built in India through foreign help. This decision had come in February this year at the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The SSNs may continue to be built at the Visakhapatnam-based submarine building center.
The six Scorpenes, the six Project 75I vessels, and the six SSNs -- all form part of the Indian Navy's 30-year submarine building plan approved in the year 2000. The plan then was to have 24 conventional submarines built in India. Scorpenes were to be the first lot of six vessels, followed by 18 more to be built by 2030. But Scorpenes are already delayed by four years, even as the first of the six, Kalavari, is scheduled for induction in 2016.
Even if three more conventional submarines are ordered with MDL, after it completes the Scorpenes project, the total number of locally built submarines would still be short by three, compared to the 30-year plan's 24 submarines project as the requirement.
"We can't have infinite number of submarines. Same way, in the private sector, we have decided to get six submarines, and we will select the strategic partner (for building these vessels), so that one private sector and Mazagon Docks specialize in submarine production. You can't have ten people doing it, like manufacturing of cars," Parrikar said.
This plan effectively eliminates the possibility of Project 75I for six submarines going to multiple shipyards. This also gives the indication that the Project 75I may go to one of the private years - Pipavav or Larsen & Toubro. The final decision is expected soon. The Indian Navy currently operates nine Russian-origin Kilo class submarines and four German-origin HDW submarines in its fleet.


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