SOURCE: Harsha Paike / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
The Project-75I tender has got quite interesting in the current scenario after the Soryu class submarines have entered the fray. The Soryu class is an evolution of the previous Oyashio-class and is named after mythological blue dragons. Although the deal is still at a raw stage, the timing has become crucial. But why does the entry of Soryu make it interesting now? For three key reasons.
Firstly for Geopolitical reasons: With bilateral and defence ties between India and Japan growing steadily when both are tied up in territorial disputes with China, it opens up a number of possibilities. Till now India and Japan had the US acting as the link in the South China sea and the Indian ocean.
Japan is presented with an opportunity to gain invaluable support from India which allows much more breathing space for it in the Indian ocean region if required. Such a foothold in the region works well for both countries and it allows for significant manoeuvring for both in the region. From India’s perspective, it counters China’s “string of pearls” strategy by splitting the “string” in the Indian ocean. The deal if signed will be working at a pace dictated by the increasing need for both India and Japan to secure the maritime passage which is already threatened by China’s aggressive posturing.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is dealing with a steep fall in approval ratings and might have to deal with reduced US naval presence in the region as the focus for US shifts from China to North Korea. Stronger defence ties with India might be the answer for it as it can possibly prevent China from linking the Indian Ocean and the South China sea completely. With the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) signing,
India has been teasing crucial BrahMos sales with Vietnam and also searching for any options to gain any foothold in the region. It will be a major boost if this deal goes in favour of Japan. Russia is under a severe cash crunch due to the sanctions from the west and does not have anything else to gain from the deal except financially. Amongst all the countries in the bid at the moment, only Japan stands to gain excluding the financial aspect.
Secondly for technological factors of the submarines in the fray: Known to be probably the most silent submarine compared to any other today, the reason for its extreme stealthiness is a well-kept secret. Japanese technology in terms of silent propeller mechanisms has a proven track record and a reputation for being the quietest in the world. It has got the Swedish Kockums Stirling AIP(Air Independent system) manufactured under licence by Kawasaki Heavy industries and also its known to be the first submarine class to be installed with Lithium Ion batteries in the latter vessels. Adding to the stealth is anechoic tiles covering the entire submarine. It has a displacement of 4200 tonnes which makes it one of the bigger diesel electric submarines in the world which implies a much larger payload making it an efficient stand-alone hunter-killer submarine.
And thirdly the economics behind the whole Project. The Soryu class is significantly cheaper than others when normalised to its size with a rough price tag of $540 ? 550 million dollars and already 4 vessels have been commissioned. A rough comparison for eg:- S-80 submarine of Navantia which is almost a third of Soryu’s size is tagged at nearly $680 ? 700 million dollars. Also, the manufacturing of Soryu has been at a steady rate implying it has overcome the initial teething manufacturing problems for any new design. DCNS has hurriedly offered the “Super Scorpene” which is still a design concept like the U-216 of Germany’s HDW as well as the Amur of Rosoboronexport. The recent data leak of DCNS has cast doubts on how much of the crucial details have been exposed.
India has got a chance to play its cards right and wait for China’s move in the next year. Moreover, it can get an opportunity to tilt the dynamics into its favour forcing China to adopt a reactionary role.