P75I: Its Time that India look Local for Submarine production

India is now finally getting set to issue the formal tender for the long-pending over Rs 42,000 crore project to make six new-generation stealth submarines domestically with foreign collaboration.

India’s Project-75(I) most important and strategically significant naval programs being undertaken by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for construction of six conventional submarines for the Indian Navy for Rs 45,000 crore is likely to face further delays as tight defense budget and Chinese virus pandemic situation in the country and halted economic activity leaves little room for India to carry out major defense acquisition programs.

Project-75(I) was supposed to be the last time India built-in India, next-generation conventional submarines through technology transfer from foreign partners before India moves to local design and production of next-generation 12 submarines in near future. The current situation does provide the Indian Navy and Private sector shipyards and defense firms an opportunity to fast track what was was initially planned in the development of local submarine technology.

Super Kalvari+ class

While Process to initiate Project 75I tender was started in 2014, Navy is yet to select an Indian shipyard nor any foreign original equipment manufacturer has been selected for the program to move forward. Due to delays in implementing Strategic partnership (SP) model and due to long cumbersome procurement procedure adopted to execute the project, many in Indian Navy fear that Project 75I too will face delays of 4-6 years like its predecessor Project-75 program derailing India’s 30-Year Submarine Building Plan for induction of 24 submarines in a phased manner completely.

With China making rapid increase in its footprint in Indian ocean , Recent reports hint that Navy and Government of India are considering a proposal floated by defence PSU to use Kalvari class submarine as a template to develop a new class of submarine which will replace imported content in the submarine with local alternatives sourced from Nuclear Arihant class project.

Kalvari+ will feature DRDO developed Air-independent propulsion (AIP) system and will also incorporate Vertical launch system (VLS) to launch Submarine launched Cruise missiles (SLCM) like BrahMos and Nirbhay.

Kalvari+ will have stretched midsection to accommodate VLS due to which submarine will have higher displacement and will also have improved operational range.

Kalvari+ will have higher indigenized content and will have locally developed submarine Sonar suite, periscope and other sub-systems which India can source from Arihant class project. Kalvari+ not only will reduce timeline required to manufacture this six submarines for Indian navy but it also will help Public and Private sector companies to be better prepared to gain experience and expertise before India can initiate Project-76 which is to be executed after Project 75I.

Indian Navy under Project-75(I) can convert existing Nuclear Attack Submarine design into a Conventional design and use technology received under TOT for the Scorpene submarine program to develop a Hybrid Indian-French conventional submarine.

Naval Group SMX 3.0

French shipbuilder Naval Group (NG) confirmed that they have offered their new SMX 3.0 next generation diesel-electric attack submarine to the Indian Navy (IN) to meet requirements under its P-75I submarine project.

This offer was made to replace an earlier offer by NG based on an enlarged Scorpene-class design.

The new SMX 3.0 is a 3,000-ton diesel-electric submarine design that slots in between NG’s other submarine offerings, including the 4,000-ton Shortfin Barracuda, known as the Attack-class with the Royal Australian Navy, and the 1,800-ton Scorpene which is already in service with the IN as the Kalvari-class.

The SMX 3.0 incorporates the latest digital technologies for improved responsiveness and functionality resulting to operational efficiency and versatility. It has better power management with the use of the Air Independent Propulsion Fuel Cell Second Generation (AIP FC2G) anaerobic propulsion system.

Amur-class submarine By Russia

The Amur-class submarine (named for the Amur River), is one of the latest Russian submarine designs. It is advertised as an export version of the Lada-class, a modernised version of the Kilo-class submarine with improved acoustic stealth, new combat systems, and an option for air-independent propulsion (AIP).

These submarines are distinguished by the capability of firing up to 6 missiles simultaneously against sea and coastal targets, state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems and a sonar with a unique passive antenna to detect silent targets at a large range. Acoustic signature of the Amur 1650 submarine is several times lower compared to Kilo class submarines which are currently considered to be the most silent in the world.

Indian Navy can procure design for the Upgraded Amur class submarine from Russia and use that as a base to develop a new submarine with Indian technologies which already has been developed for India’s nuclear submarines.

Project P-75I  not only will reduce timeline required to manufacture this six submarines for Indian navy compared to time required for developing scorpene class submarine but it also will help Public and Private sector companies to be better prepared to gain experience and expertise before India can initiate Project-76 which is to be executed after Project 75I.

Submarines are, in fact, the ultimate stealth weapons. Despite advances in sonar technology over the decades, detecting, tracking and targeting submarines remains extremely difficult, particularly in the Indian Ocean where the salinity of the seas and the presence of thermal zones of variable water temperature, make submarine detection extremely difficult. The value of submarines as strategic assets is indispensable. P75 ,P75I and Project 76 are critical in the country’s endeavor to complete the nuclear triad and protect its areas of national interest particularly the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).The completion of these projects is essential to fulfill the Indian Navy’s ambition to be a full fledged blue water Navy and to enhance its ability to project power in consonance with India’s increasing economic and geostrategic power.

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