The Process for the Project 75I for building next generation submarine will be through by the next year, says Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar. He was addressing a press conference ahead of Navy Day. The Navy Chief also said that a timeline of 2047 has been set for making the force ‘Atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant).
Navy Chief responded to the Financial Express when asked about the capability gaps especially on the delays for crucial next generation submarine project—P-75(India). Since the project is yet to take off under the strategic partnership model, where does the P75I stand now? The major concern remains on the fuel cell air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, a stated requirement under the programme.
Navy Chief replied: “It is a complex process. It is under the strategic partnership model. It the new way of doing business where we want to develop capabilities on this with private players. So, there are a lot of challenges. So, there has been a little bit of delays. The Indian applicant companies and the OEMs who are joining with them had apprehensions which we have addressed.”
Highlighting the concerns over the technical ambiguity over the project, Navy Chief remarked: “It is the new area for the people involved in the procurement and the companies involved along with OEMs which are participating. So, these challenges are getting addressed.” Clarified Navy Chief Admiral R Hari. He further added: “They [OEMs] had number of queries and those queries were duly processed. There concerns were addressed. We are hopeful now it will go forward in a few months.”
As a major initiative, Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued Request for Proposal (RFP) for the first acquisition programme under the Strategic Partnership Model for construction of six AIP fitted Conventional Submarines named Project 75(India) [P-75(I)] for the Indian Navy, on July 20, 2021. The RFP was issued to shortlisted Strategic Partners (SPs) or Indian Applicant Companies for the project viz, Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) and Larsen & Tubro (L&T). The project cost is over Rs 40,000 crore.
The ambitious Project-75(I) puts forth the plan for the indigenous construction of six modern conventional submarines (including associated shore support, Engineering Support Package, training and spares package) with contemporary equipment, weapons & sensors including Fuel-Cell based AIP (Air Independent Propulsion Plant), advanced torpedoes, modern missiles and state of the art countermeasure systems.
As project, P75I would further provide a major boost to the indigenous design and construction capability of submarines in India, in addition to bringing in the latest submarine design and technologies as part of the project.
Minesweepers for IN
Since 2004, we are talking about 24 minesweeping vessels which is so critical for the safety of boats, ports and marine trade. Where do we stand now in terms of those acquisition? Also, the RFI was issued in this direction way back. Are we going through Atamanirrbharta (self-reliant) route on the minesweeping acquisition process?
Navy Chief said: “As far as the minesweeping vessels are concerned, we have worked on the QR sometimes back. Now there is a rethink. Instead of going for a pure mine sweeping vessel, we are looking at the new concept of using drones — underwater autonomous systems which is being followed worldwide. So, we are looking at new concept of Motherships with autonomous systems around the ships.”
This clarifies as how IN is proceeding towards the new approach for the Minesweepers. The Indian Navy will be calling out for such Minesweepers with autonomous vehicles very shortly. It is pertinent to note that there will be new RFI based on the new design and tech infusion based on high-capacity sensors and detectors.
Aircraft Carrier (IAC-2)
The Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said the plan for a bigger Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-2) is put on hold and IN is examining the possibility of a repeat order for a Vikrant-class carrier. Earlier, Navy has been pushing for the IAC-II having a displacement of 65,000 tonnes with enhanced technological upgradation.
Admiral Kumar said: “At the same time, Vikrant’s commissioning, was also marked by another momentous change, as the Navy adopted a new Naval Ensign. This change, reflecting the larger National intent to shed colonial vestiges, was brought about in a swift and decisive manner – reflecting the Navy’s organisational agility and responsiveness. Vikrant, for the foreseeable future, will remain a shining symbol of aspirational India, and will contribute to enhancing India’s global stature, proudly flying our Tiranga across the far reaches of the world’s oceans.”
On the proposed indigenous Twin-Engine Deck-Based Fighter Aircraft (TEDBF), Navy Chief said a ‘draft cabinet note’ is being prepared and the plan is to have a prototype of the jet by 2026 while its production would start by 2032. He added that it is progressing under the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) which is the nodal agency for the design and development of the TEDBF. Separately, Admiral Kumar also clarified that the selection process between Boeing’s F/A-18 and Dassualt Aviation’s Rafale M have been evaluated by the Navy which is to operate from the carriers in the interim.
AatmaNirbhar by 2047
Admiral Hari said: “The Navy has made a commitment to the top leadership to be fully AatmaNirbhar by 2047.”
As recent global events have amply underscored, this vision cannot be met in letter and spirit if we remain dependent on others for our security needs. To that end, the Government has clearly spelt out the need for AtmaNirbharta. The Indian Navy, on our part, has made an unequivocal commitment to be fully AatmaNirbhar by 2047.
“Both these aspects – budget and combat readiness – are now increasingly being looked at ‘jointly’ by the three Services. To my mind, jointness is the only way forward, as we prepare to fight and win the wars of tomorrow. The Late Gen Bipin Rawat had laid the foundations for increased synergy between the Armed Forces, and the present CDS, Gen Anil Chauhan, has provided renewed impetus to this effort. The Indian Navy remains fully committed to greater jointness and cohesion towards collective and effective outcomes,” Navy Chief said
Navy Chief also highlighted the budgetary allocation, said; “In driving self-reliance and technology development, the Indian Navy is well established on a path of budget optimization. The Navy’s share of the Defence Budget this year was 17.8 %, and in using this judiciously, we have achieved a Revenue to Capital expenditure ratio of 32% – 68% – which accords us flexibility in pursuing our capability developments plan.”
Agniveers for IN
A critical aspect related to capability accretion, is human resource development. Towards this end, implementation of Agnipath has been a much-needed transformational change. the Navy Chief remarked: “We have already inducted our first batch of Agniveers – comprising 3000 recruits who are currently undergoing training at our training base – INS Chilka. Importantly, this batch of Agniveers includes 341 women trainees – once again – a transformational step. While we already have women officers posted on frontline units, they will soon be joined by women in all ranks.”