India is getting ready to create another flutter in the arms bazaar — 10 months after it selected French firm Dassault Aviation for a $18-billion (Rs. 99,000 crore) deal to equip the air force with Rafale fighters.
This time, India will spend more than $10 billion (Rs. 55,000 crore) to scale up the navy’s undersea combat capabilities — inducting next generation submarines — to deter China, which has more than 50 conventional submarines in its fleet, but nearly two-thirds of those are outdated.
The Indian Navy’s existing submarine fleet is rather humble, consisting of just 10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDWs and an Akula-2 nuclear-powered attack submarine leased from Russia at $1 billion (Rs. 5,500 crore).
Navy chief Admiral DK Joshi said the defence ministry’s acquisition council had given the go-ahead for buying six submarines under a project codenamed P-75I. He said a global tender would be floated “very soon”.
Already, six Scorpene submarines are being built at the Mazagon Dock Ltd with technology from DCNS under a $4.3-billion (Rs. 23,562 crore) project called P-75.
Joshi said the new subs – bigger than the Scorpene – would be equipped with air-independent propulsion systems to recharge their batteries without having to surface for more than three weeks. The subs would also have land attack missile capability, defence minister AK Antony told Parliament on Tuesday.
Now, shipbuilders DCNS of France, HDW of Germany, Rosoboronexport of Russia and Navantia of Spain are expected to make a beeline for the order to build a second line of submarines in the country.
Two of the new subs will be constructed at a foreign shipyard while the remaining will be built in India. DCNS chief operating officer Bernard Planchais told HT, “We don’t yet know what the Indian Navy wants. But we will fulfil the navy’s requirements on the basic Scorpene platform.”