The Indian Navy is issuing fresh ‘request for information’ (RFI) to five international companies for 150 heavyweight torpedoes for submarines at a cost of $300 million. Sources told FE that the RFIs have been sent to French company Naval Group (formerly known as DCNS), German ThyssenKrupp, Swedish SAAB, Rosoboronexport (Russia) and a Japanese company. “Earlier, the original RFI for the heavy torpedoes was for 98, now the numbers are in bulk. The idea is to buy initial and the rest will be under ‘Make in India’ with an Indian partner,” said the source. These torpedoes are very important for the submarines and when India gets INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene class stealth submarine built under Project 75, later this year, it will be ‘without’ heavyweight torpedoes. This submarine is currently undergoing extensive sea trials.
Work is expected to start on INS Khanderi, the second indigenous Scorpene-class submarine, which was recently launched at MDL. These are conventional diesel-electric subs made by DCNS (Naval Group) of France. Long delays in the Scorpene (project 75) at MDL, which was intended to induct the vessels at the rate on one ship per year since 2012, have left the submarine force well below the requisite levels.
Early this year, the government cancelled its previous contract to buy 98 Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes from – Whitehead Alenia Systemi Subacquei (WASS) – a subsidiary of the Italian defence group Finmeccanica. It may be recalled that the group was blacklisted after it was alleged that another subsidiary of the company – AgustaWestland – had paid bribes to secure a contract to sell 12 medium-lift helicopters to India.
The foreign companies have to select their partners in India as the torpedoes are expected to be made here under the Strategic Partnership Model. The Modi-led NDA government is keen to reduce India’s dependence on foreign equipment manufactures. It has opened up defence manufacturing to Indian private sector. The SP route envisages that the Indian private companies will tie-up with foreign manufactures to get technology and in return the government will assure orders and allow exports as well.