German defence company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems is keen to offer its Type 214 submarine for the Indian Navy’s $7 billion P-75 (I) project, which seeks to build six new-generation diesel electric submarines. The defence major is awaiting a request for proposal (RFP) for the additional stealth submarines, and is eager to ink partnerships with Indian shipyards that include extensive offset activities and transfer of technology.
The Indian Navy currently operates 14 diesel-powered submarines, and one nuclear-powered submarine. It has been operating four HDW Class 209/1500 submarines, locally known as the ‘Shishumar’ class. The after-sales service provider, Marine Logistik GmbH, delivering spare parts for the ‘Shishumar’ class, was integrated into ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) last year. The cooperation continues under the new affiliation, with TKMS looking to support the upgrade of two vessels through the integration of the latest weapons and sensors, as well as bring its expertise in cutting-edge areas to India.
Gurnad S Sodhi, Managing Director of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems India, spoke to BusinessLine about how the company has been supporting India’s indigenous defence industry for over a quarter of a century.
Could you tell us more on the company’s plans for India, specifically with regard to Type 214 submarine?
As one of the leading European manufacturers of non-nuclear submarines and high-end naval vessels, TKMS possesses outstanding expertise in system integration and in the role of a prime contractor.
We await the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) to issue the P-75 (I) RFP, for which we plan to offer the Type 214 submarine. Besides its highly regarded anti-surface and anti-submarine operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, the HDW Class 214’s proven fuel-cell based Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system is the best available in the market.
(While conventional diesel electric submarines have to surface every few days to get oxygen to recharge their batteries, AIP systems help submarines to stay submerged for longer periods.) It offers exceptional operational advantages, combining best-in-class underwater endurance and diving depth to the Indian Navy.
Could you provide an update on the ongoing programmes with the Indian Navy?
The Indian Navy has been our customer for over 30 years. Over this period, we have demonstrated our commitment to the Indian Navy, as it has been operating four HDW Class 209/1500 submarines, locally known as the Shishumar class.
The very fact that INS Shalki and Shankul were made in India by a local shipyard under a technology transfer agreement is proof that TKMS has been supporting India’s indigenous defence industry for over a quarter of a century. We can proudly claim that even today, all our four submarines are performing very well without any inherent problems.
However, since the submarines are reaching the end of their operational cycles, we are exploring opportunities to upgrade the Shishumar class to Type 209 submarines with the Indian Navy, with special refit programmes called lifetime extensions.
TKMS is also in discussions with the Indian Navy about integration of weapon systems; we have the capacity to integrate most weapon systems that are selected by the Indian Navy into the existing Shishumar class submarines.
In fact, such customised integrations have been successfully carried out by TKMS in similar type of submarines for many other Navies of the world.
Has TKMS short-listed any Indian shipyard for collaboration or alliance?
We are aware that a well-qualified and high level committee has been formed by the MoD, which is presently evaluating the Indian shipyards. We will wait for the committee to submit its report. We respect the decision by the MoD in short-listing the most capable shipyards without any bias.
Thereafter, we will commence our detailed negotiations with the shortlisted shipyards, public and/or private.
German naval shipyards have begun to export submarines all over the world. Any specific aspect about the TKMS’ submarine that would benefit India?
Historically, no shipyard in the world has more experience in designing and constructing conventional submarines than TKMS. A robust partnership with Indian shipyards, including extensive offset activities and transfer of technology, would form the core of TKMS’ offer for the expected P-75(I) tender.
In addition, the HDW Class 214’s proven AIP system comes with a distinct advantage as they are inherently noiseless, making them ideal for submarine operations under silent conditions, thus our fleet is also known as the ‘Silent Fleet’.