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The Philippines is an island nation, comprising thousands of islands surrounded by sea on all sides. It has the Pacific Ocean in the east and the South China Sea in the west. Philippines was the scene of some of the biggest battles at sea that were fought during World War II. These include Leyete Gulf, Mariana, and the Coral Sea around the Philippines. Though these battles are known as battles of battleships and aircraft carriers; but submarines too played very crucial roles in these battles.

After the victory of the USA in World War II, it captured the Philippines; and deployed its forces for decades, especially during Cold War. After the end of the Cold War, when the USA withdrew its forces from the Philippines; the country slowly started building its forces but surprisingly it left the submarine arm untouched till date.

So, as the South China Sea dispute with China simmers with a chance of flare-up anytime; the Philippines is finally looking towards bolstering its undersea arm by acquiring submarines. Reports say Philippines is looking to procure 4 to 5 Scorpene submarines from France, but as usual, France is doing what it is known for; asking for exorbitant prices, something the cash-strapped Philippines can hardly afford.

This is a golden opportunity for India in many aspects and India must take its chances, so what can India do? 

1. India can sell 1 or 2 refurbished Kilo submarines to Philippines charging only for their refurbishments done at Hindustan Shipyard, Vizag.

2. India can offer Philippines to build Scorpene submarines at the Mazagaon Dockyard, Mumbai in association with France.

The point is India by selling 1 or 2 refurbished Kilo-class submarines to the Philippines and charging only for refurbishment done at Hindustan Shipyard, Vizag can make a lot of money. Likewise, Philippines can gain valuable experience in submarine operation using Kilo-class submarines that can easily serve Philippines for the next 15 -20 years after refurbishment. India can make more money by providing maintenance for the Kilo-class submarines till they are in service with the Philippines Navy.

India can make a lot of money by offering Philippines a deal to build 4 or 5 Scorpene submarines at Mazagaon Dockyard, Mumbai in association with France. India has all the necessary abilities thanks to ToT from France. It also has infrastructure and personnel experienced in building Scorpene submarines having already built 6, and is all set to ask France license to make 3 more. India also has a readymade supply chain with many industries providing spare parts.

France unlike the USA mostly doesn’t attach strings to weapons it sells to others. It willingly sells 100% technology but charges high prices. India has paid what France charged after tough negotiations in many deals because it can, but Philippines with a tottering economy can’t be expected to pay exorbitant prices for defense products it buys from France. So, the best option for the Philippines is to give the contract to Mazagaon Dockyard, Mumbai to build 4 or 5 Scorpene submarines.

India not only can offer a line of credit (that France won’t) to the Philippines but also can build Scorpene submarines at a much less cost than what France will charge, thanks to lower labour costs. If India is able to get the deal, it will benefit. Not only Mazagaon Dockyard, Mumbai will manufacture submarines for export, a prestigious matter; but also service them till the submarines are in service with the Philippines Navy. It will be a win-win deal for Philippines Navy also.

Not just that, India can also offer to retrofit MAREEM AIP on submarines that will be in service with the Philippines Navy at a later date if the deal for it is signed. Do note, that MAREEM AIP has been specifically designed by DRDO/NMRL for use and installation with Scorpene submarines. As such India can offer the MAREEM AIP to all Scorpene submarines operators and make more money.
If India is able to secure the deal to manufacture Scorpene submarines for the Philippines Navy, the Mazagaon Dockyard, Mumbai production line will remain busy and manage to recover the investment made in setting up the manufacturing facility and training professionals and make a profit (first ever chance). Do note, that the cost of making Scorpene submarines for Philippines in France will be high as compared to the cost at Mazagaon Dockyard, Mumbai; due to distance and serviceability issues; if any problem arises or for refit, the Philippines will have to send the submarines to France, a costly affair; instead, it will have the option of using the facility at Mazagaon Dockyard, Mumbai.
If this deal goes through, it will also allow India to request France to bring down the cost of 3 additional Scorpene submarines that the Indian Navy needs and Mazagaon Dockyard, Mumbai wants to build to keep its production line busy. It is known to all that France is willing to sell 3 additional Scorpene submarines that Indian Navy needs but is asking for a high price. If the deal to manufacture Scorpene submarine for the Philippines Navy goes through, India can well ask France to cut the price of 3 additional Scorpene submarines, and may very well ask for a 4th additional Scorpene submarine.
That way Indian Navy will be eventually operating 10 MAREEM AIP-powered Scorpene submarines. It is a win-win situation for all the 3 parties involved in the deal; be it France, India, and the Philippines. But the big question is, will anyone in India give it a thought. That’s a big million-dollar question eventually. Let’s hope better sense prevails at all three places, and India gets to build 4 more Scorpene submarines for itself and 4 or 5 Scorpene submarines for Philippines, with France eventually getting license fees for all the submarines built.

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Article by JOYDEEP GHOSH ,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or