Scorpion Submarine India's $8 Billion Project 75
|Scorpion Submarine India|
Project 75 has now become one of India's most closely guarded military projects, almost as inaccessible to outsiders as the nuclear ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant, nearing completion in Visakhapatnam.
In a giant shed in the East Yard of Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL), a 200-feet-long, cigar-shaped, metal cylinder is the first of six conventionally powered Scorpene submarines that the Indian Navy contracted to build with Franco-Spanish company, Armaris (since taken over by French shipbuilding major, DCNS).
The boat (as submariners call their vessels) is obviously close to completion - a small remaining gap at the rear will be filled by the section that holds the engine. Nearby, a second Scorpene is taking shape, metallic rings being welded together to form a hull. In the shed next door, a third vessel is racing towards completion.
MDL's current chairman, Rear Admiral (Retired) Rahul Shrawat - who inherited the Scorpene delay when he assumed charge of MDL - is upbeat. He promises the first submarine by September 2016, and to deliver the next five Scorpenes at nine-month intervals rather than the one-year intervals contracted.
Speaking to Business Standard, Shrawat promised: "We will launch the first Scorpene by September 2015 and deliver it to the navy within a year, i.e. by September 2016. The subsequent boats will be delivered at nine-month intervals, with the sixth and final vessel joining the fleet by June 2020.
Project 75 has created confidence about MDL's new ability to build submarines. The shipyard is readying to build a second line of six submarines under the new Project 75I, worth an estimated Rs 50,000 crore ($8.25 billion). Government sanction is being processed for Project 75I.
Rather than floating a global tender for Project 75I, Shrawat wants to take advantage of the experience and expertise gained during Project 75. Instead of having a fourth type of submarine in the navy's fleet (in addition to the Kilo-class; HDW and Scorpene), MDL sees the benefit in a more modern Scorpene with air independent propulsion (AIP) and land-attack missiles that the Project 75 vessels lack. Only the last two Project 75 vessels are slated to have AIP.
"Most naval policymakers would not consider it prudent to have a fourth type of conventional submarine in the fleet. I'm sure the government will feel the same. So, why not build more Scorpenes; improved with AIP and land attack missiles," says Shrawat.
Meanwhile, Indian defence shipyards are jostling fiercely for a share of Project 75I. The navy wants two submarines built abroad and inducted quickly into service, with the remaining four being built by MDL and the newly acquired defence shipyard, Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL). But L&T cites its key role in building the nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, to argue that it should build at least one Project 75I submarine.