The govt has cleared the P75I plan under the strategic partnership model. The project envisions India building 6 conventional submarines.
New Delhi: The Nirmala Sitharaman-headed Defence Acquisition Council cleared the much-awaited Project 75 India (P75I), which envisages the construction of six conventional submarines with better sensors and weapons and the Air Independent Propulsion System (AIP). The project has been cleared under the strategic partnership model.
India’s current arsenal consists of 14 conventional submarines and two nuclear-powered submarines.
Under the strategic partnership model, an Indian shipyard will be selected by the government, which will also nominate the foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) under the overall arch of ‘Make in India’.
P75I was first cleared in 2007, but lay dormant until now after undergoing numerous changes.
India’s 30-year plan
The P75I project is part of a 30-year submarine building plan that ends in 2030. As part of this plan, India was to build 24 submarines — 18 conventional submarines and six nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) — as an effective deterrent against China and Pakistan.
Former defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said in 2016 that the submarine plan should continue till 2050, and that India should look to build more than 24 such vessels.
Of the 14 conventional submarines India currently possesses, including the Scorpene, only half are operational at any given point of time. India also has two nuclear-powered submarines — INS Arihant (SSBN, a ballistic missile submarine) and INS Chakra (SSN, a nuclear-powered one) leased from Russia.
Firms in contention for P75I
Four foreign firms have so far responded to the Indian government’s request for proposal for the project.
These are French firm Naval Group, Russia’s Rosoboronexport Rubin Design Bureau, Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and Sweden’s Saab.
Indian shipyards in contention
The Ministry of Defence had appointed a high-powered committee to assess the eight Indian shipyards and select the one eligible for the project.
The eight-member committee, which studied both public and private shipyards, is believed to have cleared all eight shipyards.
However, it is expected that the state-run Mazagon Dockyard Limited (MDL), which manufactures the Scorpene submarines, is likely to bag the deal.
Private player Larsen & Toubro may be also be in contention for the project.
Submarine strength of China and Pakistan
The Pakistan Navy is estimated to have 10 submarines, of which five French-origin Agosta 90B class (Khalid class) conventional vessels are fully operational, according to the Indian Navy.
Pakistan has signed a deal for eight conventional submarines with China, after it failed to get the vessels from France and Germany due to price and technology transfer issues.
It is estimated that China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has four Jin-class SSBNs and nine SSNs.
Estimates also suggest China has a fleet of 40-plus diesel-electric submarines beset by maintenance issues.