The defence ministry is shortly expected to take a call on whether a Rs 2,400-crore project to extend the service life of its primary conventional submarines would be done under the Make-in-India initiative or would go to a Russian shipyard where the boats were originally manufactured.
The complicated process – which will extend the life of the Kilo class submarines by 10 years – can bring a significant amount of technology and skill to India but the Navy has been concerned that it could lead to delays. Something that it is vary of, given the declining strength of its underwater fleet.
At stake is the medium refit and life extension of two Kilo class submarines, starting with the INS Sindhuratna that is already dry docked and ready to be shipped. As per original plans that were cleared in 2016, a total of four Kilo class submarines were to be given the life extension.
While two of these were to be sent to Russia, the remaining two were to be upgraded at an Indian yard, according to a decision taken by the Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC). It is this contract for two submarines, valued at over `2,400 cr, which has become a bone of contention. Two Indian yards were in the fray for the project – L&T and the Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL)). While the private yard did not submit bids, HSL has emerged as the sole contender and is confident it can undertake the project.
“We have the capability of undertaking this project in India. We have been carrying out regular refits for Kilo class submarine at the yard and this would require much more work but we are confident that it can be done on time,” Rear Admiral LV Sarat Babu, CMD, HSL told ET.
At the back of the Navy’s mind is history with HSL – the yard took nine years to refit one its submarines, the INS Sindhukirti, as it went through financial difficulties in the past. HSL, however, believes that these problems have now been resolved with the yard having undergone a turnaround.
One hurdle that will be faced with upgrading the submarines in India is whether the Russian manufacturer would give the crucial life extension certification. This can only be done by the original manufacturer of the submarine.