According to highly-placed sources in the defence ministry, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is outsourcing from private manufacturers parts of the submarine, known as the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), and the test launcher for the Sagarika (Oceanic) nuclear-armed SLCM.
Mumbai-based Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has won the contract to build the ATV’s hull. L&T has an annual turnover of Rs 80 billion ($1.7 billion). Selected for efficiency and better ‘manpower management’ than the state-owned facilities, the engineering company has also successfully developed a missile launcher to test the Sagarika. L&T handed over the missile launcher to the Navy for the first round of trials to be held later this year.
With a projected range of 300 km, Sagarika has been designed at the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), under a classified naval weapons programme in Bangalore, along with “substantial” Russian input. Both L&T projects are based at the Hazira dockyard in Gujarat.
Official sources said L&T had already built sections of the ATV’s hull and floated them on a barge to Visakhapatnam on the east coast, the only Indian naval dockyard to refit submarines. The ATV will eventually be built at Mumbai’s Mazagon dockyard.
Cmde (Retd) Ranjit Rai, a naval Analyst, confirms that L&T, India’s largest defence engineering company, has the capability to manufacture submarine shells and reactor modules as it can handle advanced welding procedures for any material which is critical in submarine Hull construction. L&T have also discussed submarine manufacture with the Amur Submarine builders of Russia.
L&T has been involved in making the trial Submarine shell and the Reactors which MDL also tried.
L&T have made reactors for General Electric for exports, and India’s nuclear plants. It is also understood that the the Amur class ship-builders have an agreement with L&T to build Amur Class submarines.
Now that 26 per cent FDI is permitted in defence industries, there is scope for foreign parties to undertake sub-assembly works even for the ATV of the DRDO/Navy. ATV is India’s euphemism for a nuclear-propelled submarine.