P-75I submarine project future uncertain after Russia pulls out

Russia concerned about the implementation aspect of the P-75I submarine project. The Indian Navy has also approached the Ministry of Defence to relax some of the conditions.

P-75I submarine project future uncertain after Russia pulls out
The Indian Navy wants ‘the latest, state of the art submarine.

Stating the terms and conditions stated in the Request For Proposal (RFP) for the construction of six advanced submarines under Project-75I as unrealistic, Russia too has withdrawn from the race.

Reports from Moscow quoting Andrey Baranov, Deputy Director General, Rubin Design Bureau, who was speaking at the Army 2022 expo, has said that the requirements mentioned in the RFP has demanded strict timeline and has put a lot of responsibility on the designer of the submarine. He also mentioned that since the submarine will be built in India the designer will have no control over its construction. He also mentioned that the Naval Group of France has withdrawn from the programme.

According to reports, Baranov has said that the project is good as far as design is concerned however with respect to implementation, it is not good.

Response time to the RFP extended

The response time to the RFP has been extended once again. Earlier it was until June 30 and now the deadline is December 31, 2022.  The Indian Navy has also approached the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to relax certain specifications. The reason being, “due to certain specifications, some of the submarine manufacturers have become non-compliant,” explained a senior naval officer speaking on condition of anonymity.

Concerns cited by Russia

Requirements specified by the Indian Navy which wants Transfer of Technology; stealth technology; state-of-the-art submarines to be equipped with powerful missiles. And so far there is no prototype available of such a submarine in the world.

Another point highlighted is the construction to be done in India, and high penalties to be paid by the OEM in case the timelines are not met.

As has been reported by the Financial Express Online earlier, Mazgaon Docks (MDL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) were shortlisted by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) as the Indian partners for the P-75I deal in 2020.

And in 2021, the Ministry of Defence issued RFP in July 2021 to MDL and L&T. They had 12 weeks time to respond and they are free to tie up with any of the five OEMs that were shortlisted earlier.

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) module

Among other issues, the tender mentioned that the submarine on offer should have an AIP module. So far only two countries in the world have this technology which is operational – South Korea and Germany.

The story so far…

For almost two decades, the Indian Navy has been planning to purchase six Project 75I submarines (P-75I).  The project was supposed to be built concurrently with the P-75 project (now Kalvari Class), which is now coming to its finale by next year. It is a part of the 30 year Submarine Building plan of the Indian Navy and was supposed to be technology from the East. The Amur Submarine from Russia was under negotiations. The requirements later changed as per the evolving environment.

Financial Express Online has reported earlier that according to the tender conditions, the winning business must offer India the technology for their manufacture. The submarines will be built at Mazagon Docks and/or in Larsen & Toubro (L&T).

Also ReadProject 75 (I) hits a huge roadblock, one major contender pulls out; Know more

The submarines must be built utilizing stealth technology and be able to hit land targets, according to Indian military requirements. Submarines must also be built in such a way that sophisticated armaments may be mounted on them in the future. In addition to these specifications for the submarines that will compete, based on the official stamen issued by the Ministry of Defence earlier, the submarines must feature an air-independent propulsion system.  Globally,  Air-independent equipped submarine makers include the French Scorpene class, the Spanish S-80, the German Type 212 and 214, Korean Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, the Swedish Gotland and Sodermanland, the Chinese Type 041, as well as the Russian projects 677 Lada and 1650 Amur.

A senior Navy officer speaking on condition of anonymity said, “The Indian Navy desires a cutting-edge submarine with AIP, powerful missiles, weaponry, and great stealth. This will establish submarine production lines in India, as well as technologies for submarine design and related equipment, establishing India as a world hub for submarine development and manufacture.”

Also ReadIndian Navy and the impending issue of AIP import for Project 75 (I) subs

None of the manufacturers has a prototype of a submarine of this kind. The submarine will have to be built under a new design or require heavy modification.  Financial Express Online has reported earlier that the RFP (request for proposal) guidelines specify an extremely short time frame and the designer is given a lot of responsibilities. At the same time, the designer has little control over the building process in India. The major need (in the RFP) is that submarines be built in India. If deadlines are not met, the penalties are severe.

OEMs shortlisted earlier

As per the tender, the Indian companies can have a work with any of the shortlisted foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs): French Naval Group, German ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), JSC Rosoboronexport, South Korean Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) and Spanish Navantia.

However, this USD 5.6 billion project of submarine building has been pushed back, as no company has submitted a response to an RFP that was published the year before.

According to the document, the P-75I submarines are needed to have a “sea-proven” fuel cell Air-Independent Propulsion.  Financial Express Online has reported that this need could theoretically only be met by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) in Germany and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) in South Korea.

Due to the weak response to the RFP, the Indian Navy extended the deadline for bid submissions from the previously extended deadline. Foreign companies have asked for changes to the strategic partnership as well as the elimination of the requirement for an in-service AIP system.

Also ReadThe wait for more submarines gets longer! Project 75 I gets delayed further

Submarines in the Indian Navy

The Indian Navy currently operates 16 diesel-electric submarines, with two further Kalvari-class vessels on the way. However, it falls well short of the required number of submarines, with older vessels slated for retirement.

Meanwhile, India’s archrival Pakistan will receive eight AIP-equipped Type 039A Hangor-class boats. The first ship is slated to sail next year, with half being built in Pakistan and the other half in China. The PN also possesses three Agosta 90B AIP submarines.

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