Defence Acquisition Council clears project to build six stealth submarines at a cost of Rs.43,000 crore

Published : June 05, 2021 16:49 IST

The launch of the third Scorpene class submarine built by Mazagaon Dock Ship Builders Limited (MDL), in Mumbai, on January 31, 2018. Photo: VIVEK BENDRE

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, formally cleared on June 4 India’s ambitious but long delayed Rs.43,000-crore project to build indigenously six new generation stealth submarines with foreign collaboration under the strategic partnership (SP) model. Code named Project-75 (I), the “I” representing India, the programme, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), is aimed at India capability to “progressively build indigenous capabilities in the private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon systems for the future needs of the Armed Forces”.

These six conventional submarines will be equipped with the state-of-the-art, air independent propulsion systems which will help them stay underwater for longer periods of time, enhancing their combat capabilities and providing the Navy with added underwater firepower. The Indian Navy, which currently has in its inventory 15 conventional submarines and two nuclear submarines, is looking to acquire a total of 24 new submarines, including six nuclear attack submarines.

The Project-75 (I) programme has been hanging fire for over two decades. While the project itself was originally cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in 1999, Acceptance of Necessity was granted for the project in 2007. The decision of the DAC, India’s apex procurement body, should now act as a catalyst in what is still a long process.

The approval by the DAC will now allow the Navy to issue requests for proposal (RFP) for the project. In January 2020, two domestic shipbuilders—the public sector enterprise Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL) and the private sector entity Larsen & Toubro (L&T)—were identified by the Narendra Modi government as strategic partners for the project. These two strategic partners were cleared to collaborate for the project with five foreign OEMs, who had also been shortlisted by the Narendra Modi government. These five OEMS are the French Naval Group, Russia’s Rubin Design Bureau, the German conglomerate Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Company and Spain’s Navantia.

MDL, in collaboration with the French Naval Group, is already building Scorpene-class submarines under Project-75 (I). Three submarines from the stables of this collaboration have already been commissioned into the Indian Navy.

Calling the DAC’s approval for Project-75 (I) as a “landmark approval”, a statement from the MoD said: “This would be one of the largest ‘Make in India’ projects and will serve to facilitate faster and more significant absorption of technology and create a tiered industrial ecosystem for submarine construction in India. From a strategic perspective, this will help reduce current dependence on imports and gradually ensure greater self-reliance and dependability of supplies from indigenous sources.”

This is the second project under the government’s strategic partnership model, the other being the procurement of 111 naval utility helicopters (NUH) to replace the Navy’s outdated fleet of French-designed Chetak helicopters. Though cleared by the DAC in August 2018, there has been almost no progress in the Rs.21,738 crore project.