Modi Government Kicks Off Much Needed ‘Mother of All Underwater Defence Deals’

An agonizing 10-yeardelay. A delay due to a lack of political will to safeguard India’s shores weakened our maritime security terribly especially at a time when China is rapidly expanding its military prowess at sea. The Narendra Modi government has finally rectified this delay and set the ball rolling.

The government has kick-started a deal to build six advanced stealth submarines for an estimated Rs 70,000 crore ($10.9 billion) in collaboration with an Indian shipyard. The nations in the fray are France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Spain and Japan.

The six shipbuilders from the six countries who will be bidding for the project are – Naval Group-DCNS (France), ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (Germany), Rosoboronexport Rubin Design Bureau (Russia), Navantia (Spain), Saab (Sweden) and the Mitsubishi-Kawasaki Heavy Industries combine (Japan).

It’ll make you cringe with pain that this deal – called Project-75 – was first accepted in November 2007 but languished in politico-bureaucratic apathy. The interests of the nation were almost always kept last by the Congress government that was run from 10 Janpath.

It is still early days in the deal but at least this very crucial program has begun. “It may take around two years for the original equipment manufacturer (OEM)-Indian shipyard combine to be down-selected. Moreover, the first new submarine will roll out only seven to eight years after the final contract is inked. But the aim is to fast-track the entire process,”said a defence ministry official.

The Indian Navy wants six new diesel-electric submarines to have land-attack cruise missiles, air-independent propulsion for greater underwater endurance and the capability to integrate indigenous weapons and sensors.

“The stress will be on transfer of technology from the OEM and indigenization. The submarines, to be built with indigenous steel, should also be less maintenance-intensive to ensure a better operational cycle with minimal downtime,” said the official.

According to the project, the Navy will have 18 diesel-electric submarines as well as six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) and four nuclear-powered submarines with long-range nuclear-tipped missiles (SSBNs) for effective deterrence against China and Pakistan.

Currently, six French Scorpene diesel-electric submarines are being built in Mazagon Docks under the Rs 23,652 crore Project-75. They will all be delivered by 2021.

The Navy is in a tight spot as far as its submarines are concerned. It has just 13 old conventional submarines with only half of them being operational at any given time because at least 10 of them are over 25 years old, apart from two nuclear-powered submarines, INS Arihant and INS Chakra.

This surely gives us an idea as to how depleted the Navy is when it comes to submarines. China has 5 times the submarines India has which shows that India may not be capable of taking on China at sea, and all due to pathetic ignorance of the Congress government. They truly did much more harm to the security forces than good!

Vinayak Jain