SOURCE: JATIN RAM / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Come next Wednesday, State-owned Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders will launch the last of the Kalvari-class submarine that will soon go for user trials to be followed by induction in the next few months. The contract that was concluded in 2005, after 4 years of delays in its 17th year is nearing completion, but the induction of six new-generation submarines will not come as a force multiplier as the existing submarine fleet is already reaching the end of its shelf life with no clear cut solution presented by the Navy for way head.
30 Year Plan fades
In 1999, the Indian Ministry of Defence approved plans to acquire 24 conventional submarines under its 30-year submarine plan where it had planned to acquire diesel attack submarines six each from Project 75 and 75I followed by 12 from Project-76 with two parallel production lines for two different submarine designs of Indian origin. 2022 marks the 23rd year of the 30-year submarine plan with just six induction but last year30-year submarine plan was amended to reduce fleet projection to just 18 submarines as the fund will be utilized for the development of six new nuclear attack submarines.
Project-75I in doldrums
The latest delay in Project-75 (India) is due to the stringent deadline put forth in the request for proposal (RPF) issued by the Ministry of Defence in July 2021 which could be heading to a single foreign vendor situation with South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering offered KSS III design only submarine left that has sea-proven Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system.
Russia, France, and Spain are disqualified due to stringent requirements since they don’t have sea-proven Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system, and recently Germany too has called it quits after raising concerns that some conditions are impossible to be fulfilled, including a high indigenous content percentage and almost unlimited liability on the foreign technology partner.
Re-tendering or removing the requirement of sea-proven Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system will mean that the whole process will not start before 2024 and give or take another two or three years before the winner is declared. Project-75I first faced delays due to the framing of requirements and now due to a lack of OEMs in the competition as it has entered an endless loop of delays and uncertainties.
Mazagon Dock in Docks
Mazagaon Dockyard Limited (MDL) which had the infrastructure to manufacture 11 submarines will be soon staring at an idle and empty dry dock facility since the Navy has been sitting on its request to manufacture three additional Kalvari-class submarines with higher indigenous content percentage. The offer of developing extended Kalvari-class submarines also has fallen on deaf ears and no clarity on when Project-75I will take off. what is clear is that Mazagaon Dockyard won’t be working on new submarines program any time soon.
DRDO Proposal sunked
Defense Research and Development Organisation had offered its diesel attack submarine design to be considered to bridge the submarine shortfalls but the Navy rejected it fearing that the technology required for developing diesel attack submarines based on local design is still not ready yet and the complex next-gen pump-Jet propulsion that Navy seeks is mastered by few and none in India have the experience to develop them but recent tenders for development of small pump-Jet propulsion likely to be used for research and development purpose does hint that at least in Project-76 will see have a majority of the system that are of Indian origin.
You don’t talk about the grandson when the father is yet to be born, Project-75I delays mean, that India’s plans to master submarine tech by the time Project-76 is executed might be further delayed beyond mid-2030 since many of the next-gen technology can’t be developed before it is absorbed first. Project-76 was to get a technical base after project completion of Project-75I and the Nuclear attack submarine program but it is unlikely that the Navy will be talking about it any time soon until it can sort out the mess it is in due to delays in the Project-75I program.