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Scorpene project runs into rough weather

The Rs 18,798-crore Scorpene submarine project runs into rough weather due to delay in technology transfer, reports Rahul Singh.

delhi Updated: May 28, 2008 02:01 IST
Rahul Singh

After the Russians failed to stick to the deadline for readying aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov for the Indian Navy, it is now the turn of the French to let India down. The Rs 18,798-crore Scorpene submarine project has run into rough weather due to delay in technology transfer.

The navy may not be able to induct the first submarine by the 2012 deadline, with the French yet to part with crucial details of technological know-how, including design and drawing documentation. A senior navy official confirmed to HT on Tuesday that the project had been delayed by a year due to “teething problems”.

The Scorpene deal was signed in October 2005.

The Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Limited is to build six Scorpene submarines under the project, which would ultimately improve India’s indigenous capabilities in submarine design and construction. DCNS, the French firm that has developed the Scorpene, had assured the Indian Navy earlier this year that issues surrounding technology transfer had been taken care of and the first of the six Scorpene submarines would roll out by 2012. The remaining five are scheduled to follow at a rate of one per year.

However, the navy’s latest revelation on the status of the project is likely to fuel concerns about the depleting war-waging potential of the navy. In March 2003, the Defence Acquisition Council had said the force level of the navy should not dip below 142 ships and submarines. But the figure currently stands at 129. Worse, the navy’s stealth frigate and destroyer projects, worth Rs 19,763 crore, are also plagued with time and cost overruns.

Aside from the six submarines being built at Mazagon Docks, the Indian navy is exploring the option of adding six more submarines to its fledgling underwater arm. A global tender for the second line of submarines is planned for 2009. Apart from the German HDW and Russian Amur submarines, French firm DCNS would be eyeing a repeat order.

The navy’s existing submarine fleet is humble comprising a mere 16 conventional diesel-electric submarines, including 10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDW-class and two vintage Foxtrot-class vessels. The Scorpene project is crucial for the navy given it will be left with just around 10 submarines by 2015.