By N. C. Bipindra
New Delhi: India today issued a much-awaited tender documents to two major local shipyards to compete for bagging the $5.9-billion contract for six futuristic attack submarines for the navy.
This tender kicks off what is the first-ever defence procurement project under the Strategic Partnership policy, first introduced in 2016 for ‘Make in India’ military programmes.
“As a major initiative towards ‘Make in India’, (the) Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued Request of Proposal (RFP) for the first acquisition programme under the Strategic Partnership model for construction of six AIP-fitted conventional submarines named Project 75(India) [P-75(I)] for the Indian Navy, on July 20, 2021,” an announcement from the MoD said.
The RFP — government parlance for tender — was issued to shortlisted Strategic Partners (SPs) or Indian applicant companies for the project namely, state-run Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) and private sector Larsen & Toubro (L&T). “The project cost is over Rs 40,000 crore,” the statement said.
Project-75(I) envisages indigenous construction of six modern conventional (meaning, diesel-electric powered) submarines (including associated shore support, Engineering Support Package, training and spares package) with contemporary equipment, weapons and sensors including Fuel Cell-based AIP (Air Independent Propulsion plant), advanced torpedoes, modern missiles and state of the art countermeasure systems.
“This would provide a major boost to the indigenous design and construction capability of submarines in India, in addition to bringing in the latest submarine design and technologies as part of the project,” the announcement said.
Post receipt of responses to the Expression of Interest (EoI), shortlisting of potential Strategic Partners (SPs) and Foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) was undertaken.
The shortlisted SPs to whom the RFP has been issued would be collaborating with any of the shortlisted Foreign OEMs, namely Naval Group of France, Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems of Germany, JSC Rosoboronexport of Russia, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Company Limited of South Korea and Navantia of Spain.
“These five foreign firms are the world leaders in the field of conventional submarine design, construction and all other related technologies. The foreign OEMs will be the technology partner in the SP Model,” the MoD statement said.
Foreign OEMs will enable SPs in the construction of submarines, achieving high levels of indigenisation, and Transfer of Technology (ToT) for various technologies.
These OEMs would enable setting up of dedicated manufacturing lines for these submarines in India by providing ToT for submarine design and other technologies and make India the global hub for submarine design and production.
The project would not only aid in boosting the core submarine/ship building industry but would also greatly enhance manufacturing/industrial sector, especially the Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises by development of an industrial eco-system for manufacture of associated spares, systems, and equipment related to submarines.
In order to achieve these objectives, the RFP has key features like mandatory level of indigenous manufacture of platforms, ToT for design, manufacture, and maintenance of submarines and a few critical equipment and systems, setting up of an eco-system in India for such indigenisation and incentivisation for other key technologies.
The overall aim would be to progressively build indigenous capabilities in the public and private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon systems for the future needs of the Indian armed forces.
This will be an important step towards meeting broader national objectives, encouraging self reliance and aligning the defence sector with the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Narendra Modi government.