St Petersburg: Russia is eyeing building the next generation of conventional submarines for the Indian Navy, a mega contract worth about Rs 80,000 crore, with Moscow pitching in strongly for a joint design and production under a government-to-government agreement.
Russia is among the four countries that have responded to the Request for Information (RFI) with regard to the much-touted Project 75 India (P75I), which envisages the construction of six new conventional (diesel-electric) submarines with Air Independent Propulsion System (AIP) that will allow the vessels to stay underwater for a longer duration.
The others in the running are France, Germany and Sweden. Russia’s proposal will hinge on its pitch joint design of the submarine and that that “India needs better submarines than the French-made Scorpene,” which the Indian Navy is in the process of inducting.
“We have developed new AIP technology and we are offering India the choice from the best of the two we have developed,” Alexei Rakhmanov, president of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) told a select group of Indian journalists here. “We believe that an inter-government agreement can be a good route for the construction of the submarines.”
The USC is the Russian umbrella organisation for shipyards and design bureaus.
With the P751 project mandating that the submarines being built in an Indian shipyard, the Russians are in talks with both L&T shipyard or state-run Hindustan Shipyard Limited as possible partners.
The P75I is being implemented under the strategic partnership model under which the Indian government will select the Indian shipyard and also the OEM. “We are ready to work with any shipyard selected by the Indian government. We are in talks with L&T and the Hindustan Shipyards,” Rakhmanov said.
The P75I project is part of a 30-year submarine building plan that ends in 2030. As part of this plan, India hopes to build 24 submarines as an effective deterrent against China and Pakistan.
Russia has offered to jointly design the submarine
Rakhmanov said they have offered to jointly design and build the next generation of submarines in India. Russia wants to use its new Lada class submarines (its export version is called Amur), being built by the Admiralty Shipyard, as the prototype for the design and construction of the new submarines.
“The submarine we are talking about is 4+ generation that has a unique set of communication, weapons and comfort for the crew,” he said. “The current Scorpene does not match it in at least two out of these three counts.”
He added that it is the perfect time to develop the joint platform which can be jointly marketed too.
Russia’s biggest design bureau for conventional submarines — the Rubin Design Bureau — said that at present, there is no submarine in the world which matches all the specifications laid down by the Indian Navy.
“Indian Navy deserves better submarines than the Scorpene submarines. The stealth, communication and the weapons capability of the Scorpene submarines are very much inferior to the Amur,” Andrew Baranov, Deputy CEO of the Rubin Design Bureau, said.
He pointed out that the Scorpene submarines, designed towards the end of the last century, are only built for export and that the French Navy itself does not operate it.
We believe that Amur is an advanced conventional submarine that is capable of fulfilling any requirement of the Indian Navy from the conventional submarines, he said.
“The Indian Navy, however, has its own specific requirement and hence we have said that P 75I is a project that has to be designed afresh and made,” he said. “The prototype for this, however, will be the Amur. Hence the experience gained on Amur will be transferred to this product.”
Russia confident of bagging project
The Admiralty Shipyard that has supplied 16 submarines to India including the first the country ever operated — the Foxtrot class of submarines inducted in 1966 — is optimistic about bagging the new contract.
“The Amur is one of the most up to date submarines in the world and some of the technical solutions have no peers across the globe,” Baranov said. “For example, its acoustic search and acoustic acquisition are unmatchable at present. It has quite a long cycle of autonomous operation though it deploys standard diesel with acid cells.”
“The equipment fitted on board uses quite small of power and it allows to considerately enlarge the cycle of autonomous operation,” Andrey A. Veselov, deputy director general for military and technical cooperation at the Admiralty Shipyard, said.
This reporter is visiting Russia as a guest of United Shipbuilding Corporation.