France’s Naval Group came to India in 2008 and for a decade has worked very closely and successfully with the Indian Navy. Tell us about the experience so far. Please tell us about Naval Group’s worldwide collaborations
Naval Group entered India in September 2008. It is present in two major cities, Mumbai and New Delhi. It aimed to support indigenisation of defence production in India through the Make in India initiative for Scorpene submarine equipment. It also aims to develop the Indian defence ecosystem and design services in India with talented Indian engineers.
Naval Group has demonstrated continuous efforts to participate in various defence and renewable energy endeavours of the Indian Navy, by empowering Indian industrial partners to cater to the requirements of the Indian shipyards and the Navy. Self-reliance, empowerment and innovation are the driving force of Naval Group in India to serve the rich Indian coastline better.
The thrust to the industrial progress of India can be clearly attributed to the one-of-a-kind initiative called Make in India. India plans to be a manufacturing hub for defence equipment on account of its increasing manufacturing skills.
Strategically significant projects have seen increased participation of indigenous content through a complex process of transfer of technology (TOT). Convergence of knowledge, ideas and competence amongst a wide array of cultures introduces an interesting element to the success story of indigenisation.
Naval Group’s endeavour in India is to be a visionary and to further its involvement in empowering more and more industries by creating a robust ecosystem that can cater to the varied defence needs of the country.
Karanj, the third of P75 Scorpene-class submarines, was launched in India in 2018 — a successful collaboration with the Indian shipyard, Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders (MDL). Can you elaborate on the key terms for transfer of technology?
The launch of Karanj on 31 January 2018 was a historic event, as MDL achieved another milestone in its submarine building programme. This followed the commissioning of INS Kalvari by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 14 December 2017, which was a matter of huge pride for MDL.
For India, this was the first time that a third submarine of a series was entirely constructed in India. This was also crucial as MDL worked fairly independently, demonstrating the success of the transfer of technology between Naval Group (ex DCNS) and MDL. As indicated by the Indian Navy and MDL, the programme has been on track for quite a while now.
MDL has now attained the level of competence and skills to build complex submarines through successful collaboration and transfer of technology. The second submarine is undergoing sea trials and getting ready for commissioning soon. Karanj will also enter the stage of sea trials soon. The remaining three submarines are also in advanced stages of being built at the MDL and will be delivered to the Navy on time.
Project-75I builds upon the foundation of the Indian partner and strives for indigenisation of technology for defence production. What is the current status? Besides the fuel cell AIP system, what differentiates Naval Group from other defence equipment manufacturers?
On P-75I, we have responded to the RFI (request for information) and we hope to be one of the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to receive the expression of interest as per the strategic patnerships (SP) model guidelines. We believe that we would be in a position to propose a submarine with enhanced capabilities to meet the entire requirement.
Regarding the strategic patnerships norms, Naval Group will continue to apply the same transparent process to transfer the needed technology to the requested domains. Our successful experience in transfer of technology should allow us to respond to and fulfill the future requirement formulated by the Indian Navy that it proposes to implement through its strategic partnership programmes.
It is the Indian Navy’s decision to choose how the project will be nomenclatured and executed. We are aware that the Indian Navy wants additional and enhanced performances and capabilities in their future submarines after the P-75I Kalvari class. The AIP and land attack missiles are among a few features known to be in the Navy’s wish list and we believe that the Indian Navy has made a very pragmatic and practical choice.
It is of utmost importance to India to build a mechanism and move towards an ecosystem favourable to OEMs and greater collaboration. In your opinion what more needs to be done to speed up the process?
It was quite an ordeal when Naval Group, under the patronage of MDL and the Indian Navy, began work in 2009. We began by identifying more than 500 companies, visited and flash audited more than 100 of them. Based on such measures, only 22 were contracted under the indigenisation programme.
Beyond these 22 companies, there are 21 more who are also considered fully qualified for further indigenous manufacturing and services. So we can easily boast of a strong industrial ecosystem of 43 Indian companies, which is still growing, keeping in mind future projects (not limited to submarines).