The Indian Navy’s second batch of six diesel-electric attack submarines (SSK) under the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) Project-75 India (Project-75 I) program will not be fitted with an indigenous air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, according to local media reports. Instead, the service will import ready-made AIP technology from a foreign vendor.
India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has been working on the development of an indigenous AIP system at its Naval Materials Research Laboratory at Ambernath with its partners Larsen & Toubro (as lead system integrator), Thermax, and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing for a number of years.
This system, envisioned to be full developed and ready by 2024, will be installed on the Navy’s fleet of six Scorpene-class (Kalvari-class) SSKs, built under a $4.16 billion contract by French submarine maker Naval Group in cooperation with Indian shipbuilder Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL).
The six boats will be retrofitted with the AIP system during their first major overhaul approximately six to seven years after the commissioning. The first-of-class INS Kalvari was commissioned in December 2017, while the second boat of the class, the INS Khanderi, was commissioned in September 2019.
India’s Defense Acquisition Council, MoD’s principal procurement body, approved the procurement of six new Project-75 I SSKs in January. “The approval is the first move to revive the Project 75-I acquisition program which has been in the pipeline for over a decade and was first approved by the MoD in November 2007,” I explained at the time.
International bidders for the Project 75-I subs include Naval Group, Rubin Design Bureau (Russia), and Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (Germany). SSK types under consideration reportedly comprise SAAB-Kockum’s A-26, Rubin’s Amur-1650, Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft Type 214, and (once more) Naval Group’s Scorpene SSK. The total contract value is estimated at around $5.6 billion.
The Project 75-I SSK program was first approved by the MoD in November 2007.
The project will run under under the MoD’s strategic partnership model within the framework of the Defense Procurement Procedure 2016, which aims behind to boost the manufacturing of indigenous military hardware as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” policy.
Under the new procurement model, the foreign ship maker, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), will have to partner with local shipyards, designated as Strategic Partners (SPs).
“The SPs in collaboration with OEMs have been mandated to set up dedicated manufacturing lines for these submarines in India and make India the global hub for submarine design and production,” the MoD said in a statement in June of this year. “All six submarines under this project will be built in India by the selected Indian Strategic Partner in collaboration with the selected OEM.”
The selection of the foreign-made AIP system will depend on the selection of the submarine type. Naval Group is considered to be the current OEM frontrunner.