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India’s submarine fleet currently consists of 16 boats: 10 Russian SSK Kilo (Sindhugosh) Class, 4 locally built SSK U209 (Shishumar) Class, a leased nuclear-powered Improved Akula Class SSN from Russia (INS Chakra), and its own INS Arihant SSBN. Most of the Kilos have been modernized, but readiness rates for India’s existing submarine fleet sits below 40%, and the U209s will have trouble lasting much beyond 2015. With Pakistan acquiring modern submarines, and Chinese submarine building exploding, expanding India’s submarine fleet became an obvious national priority.
In 2005, India confirmed that it would buy 6 Franco-Spanish Scorpene diesel submarines, with an option for 6 more and extensive technology transfer agreements. Unfortunately, 7 years after that deal was signed, “Project 75″ has yet to field a single submarine. A poor Indian procurement approach, and state-run inefficiency, are pushing the country’s overall submarine force toward an aging crisis. This DID FOCUS article covers the Scorpene deal and its structure, adds key contracts and new developments, and offers insights into the larger naval picture beyond India.
The Scorpene Class
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The SSK Scorpene Class diesel-electric fast attack submarine was jointly developed by DCN of France and Navantia of Spain, and incorporates advancements that stem from being developed about 10 years later than DCN’s Agosta 90 Class. Many of the Scorpene’s internal systems and weapons, however, are shared with Pakistan’s Improved Agosta 90B.
Displacing 1,565 metric tonnes, the standard CM-2000 Scorpene Class is 71.7m (219 feet) long with a submerged speed of over 20 knots, and submerged range at 100% battery usage and 4 knots speed of 134 hours or 536 miles. This new submarine class incorporates a high level of system redundancy to achieve an average 240 days at sea per year per submarine, and the endurance to undertake a 50 day patrol before being resupplied. In addition, its maximum diving depth is 300 meters (about 1,000 feet), giving the commander good tactical freedom for a conventional submarine.
The Scorpene’s SUBTICS combat management system, with up to 6 multifunction common consoles and a centrally situated tactical table, is co-located with the platform-control facilities. The vessel’s sonar suite includes a long-range passive cylindrical array, an intercept sonar, active sonar, distributed array, flank array, a high-resolution sonar for mine and obstacle avoidance and a towed array. Each Scorpene submarine features 6 bow-mounted 533mm torpedo tubes, and stores 18 weapons divided between torpedoes, missiles, and mines (stacked, up to 30).
India was leaning toward Finmeccanica’s Black Shark, the same heavyweight torpedo used in Chile’s Scorpene subs, but that decision has been put on hold by corruption allegations. Fortunately, a contract for the MBDA SM-39 Exocet was signed along with the original submarine contract. The Exocet SM 39 variant is launched from a submarine’s torpedo tubes using a VSM (Vehicule Sous Marin), a self-propelled and guided container that will maneuver before surfacing so as not to reveal the position of the submarine. Once it surfaces, the Exocet missile leaves the VSM and proceeds to the target like a normal surface variant of the missile.
In addition to these regular weapons, the Scorpene platform also offers advanced capabilities for mine warfare, intelligence gathering and special operations.
Scorpene subs can hold a total company of 31-36 men, with a standard watch team of 9. The control room and the living quarters are mounted on an elastically supported and acoustically isolated floating platform, really a ship within the ship.
The India order brought the number of committed Scorpene submarine sales on the international market to 10. Scorpene orders worldwide now sit at 14, and include Chile (2 O’Higgins class CM-2000 with split Navantia/DCN production, both delivered); Malaysia (2 with split Navantia/DCN production); and now India (6 from DCN-Armaris and local manufacture, 3 each CM-2000 and AM-2000 AIP, delivery expected 2015-2020). Brazil would later undertake its own project, which will build 4 SSK Scorpenes and 1 nuclear-powered SSN fast attack submarine.
India’s Submarine Programs
Current Project 75 figures:
Submarines: 6 CM-2000 Scorpene Class, #5-6 may have AIP, but that’s unlikely.
Contract signed: 2005
Schedule: Delivery from 2015-2018. Likely to go later.
Cost: INR 235.62 billion
Project 75 has an pre-priced option for 6 more Scorpenes, but India as decided to pursue a follow-on “Project 75i” as a separate program instead. It could field 6 more Scorpenes, or it could field a very different design. The sections below provide more details.
Schedule, Cost & Plans
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The Scorpene deal had simmered on the back-burner for several years, and media reports touted a deal as “close” in 2004, but nothing was finalized until late 2005. The cost had been subject to varying estimates over the life of those multi-year negotiations, and continued to change after the contract was awarded, but the final figure for the first 6 boats is now generally accepted as being about $4.5 billion.
India’s long-term objective is full made-in-India design, development and construction of submarines. Construction is the first step, and “Project 75″ Scorpene submarines will all be built in India at state-owned Magazon Docks Ltd. (MDL).
That insistence on local production, rather than having the first couple built at their home shipyard with Indian workers present on exchange, has cost India. There have been issues involving technology transfer and negotiations, but it’s also true that MDL simply wasn’t ready. Expected delivery dates for the first 6 were set at 2012-2017, until everyone had to bow to the obvious and begin promising 2015-2018. Given the record to date, and the difference between schedule slippage of 1st vs. final deliveries, it’s reasonable to expect deliveries stretching beyond 2018. Recent reports are even suggesting that deliveries may not begin before 2017.
Meanwhile, costs are growing.
Planned costs for the Project 75 deal had a range of reported figures, until a contract was signed. In the end, the reported figure was Rs 15,400 crore, or $3.5 billion converted equivalent at the time. Subsequent auditor reports indicated that the program would actually cost about Rs 18,798 crore (about $4 billion), and escalations to Rs 20,798 crore/ $4.38 billion and then Rs 23,562 crore/ $4.56 billion have followed. That makes for about a 25.4% cost increase from the auditors’ baseline.
Tracking actual contracts is more difficult. Contracts signed as of August 2009 totaled INR 207.98 billion/ Rs 20,798 crore. The contracts were signed at different times, and will be paid over different periods, so a true currency conversion is difficult. A weakening American dollar and Euro have cushioned the increases somewhat, but most of the project’s cost involves local currency purchases. Contracts reportedly include:
Rs 6,315 crore contract with DCNS’ predecessor for transfer of technology, combat systems and construction design.
Rs 1,062 crore contract with MBDA for sea-skimming Exocet missiles and related systems
Rs 5,888 crore contract with MDL for local submarine construction
Rs 3,553 crore set aside for taxes
Rs 2,160 crore for other project requirements
Rs 2,000 crore added in March 2010 to cover added finalized costs of the “MDL procured material (MPM) packages”
Rs 2,764 crore unaccounted for yet in public releases, but envisaged in final INR 235-237 billion program costs.
Timeline & Industrial Arrangements
Project 75 & 75i Timelines
A March 8/06 release from the Indian Ministry of Defence gives the long history of this contract’s genesis. After numerous delays, final negotiations were held with vendors in 2005. This reportedly cut INR 3.13 billion from the 2002 negotiated position, and involved other concessions. Even so, India’s program budget had to rise in order to accommodate the final contract.
As is often true in India, some of this was self-inflicted. In 2009, India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reported that the government’s delays in finalizing a deal had probably raised the project’s cost by 2,838 crore, or about 15% of the project’s total cost – and that was before the additional Rs 2,000 crore contract to DCNS was finalized in 2010.
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On the industrial front, the Scorpene deal will enable India to reopen its submarine building assembly lines. The initial plan was for all 6 boats to be built entirely in India by Mumbai-based Mazagon Dock Ltd. (MDL), whose submarine lines had been shut down since the finished the licensed manufacture of German HDW Type 209 diesel subs in 1994. That plan has remained fixed, despite delays created by MDL’s work.
The French firm DCNS (Thomson CSF became Thales, which became the Armaris naval JV, then DCNS) was set as the overall industrial prime contractor for this program. DCNS is also in charge of the technology transfer and delivery of all services and equipment, and DCNS subsidiary UDS International will supply the combat systems with help from Thales. An ancillary contract signed between DCNS’ predecessor Armaris and MDL provides for a team of French technical advisers during the construction of the first 2 submarines.
Tracking contract value for foreign firms is challenging.
The key foreign contractors for the Project 75 Scorpene buy are DCNS and Thales, who will provide the “MDL procured material (MPM) packages” of propulsion, sensors, weapons systems etc. that fit into the hull. When the initial contract was signed in 2006, Thales revealed that India’s Scorpene contract was worth nearly EUR 600 million (USD $736 million) to their company, in return for key subsystems for the submarines’ 6 UDS International SUBTICS integrated combat systems, underwater sensors, communications and optronics, and electronic warfare equipment. A corresponding DCN news release put the total value to all members of the DCN Group at EUR 900 million, but did not address possible overlaps with Thales.
Finalized supplier contracts changed overall totals, which increased by EUR 300 million to about EUR 1.8 billion total. The allocations also changed, since Thales sold part of its naval business to DCN in 2007, creating DCNS. Some of the Thales products destined for the Scorpene became part of the DCNS Group when the merger took place.
A variety of Indian subcontractors, such as SEC, Flash Forge, Walchandnagar Industries, et. al. are involved in the submarines’ construction, manufacturing and delivering specific parts for incorporation into the vessels.
By late 2010, delays at MDL led to reports that Scorpene construction might be altered to include other Indian shipyards, and even DCNS in France. That shift to other shipyards hasn’t happened for Project 75, but it is planned for the follow-on Project 75i. Whether that plan can survive rent-seeking lobbying by India’s state-owned industries remains to be seen.
The AIP Option
MESMA AIP section
Like many modern diesel-electric submarines, the Scorpene class is exceptionally quiet. It can also be equipped with an additional MESMA brand AIP (air-independent propulsion). A CM-2000 Scorpene can operate underwater for 4-6 days without surfacing or snorkeling to get oxygen to recharge its batteries. An AM-2000 Scorpene AIP, in contrast, will be able to operate underwater for up to 18 days depending on variables like speed, etc. Each AIP system costs around $50-60 million, as they require adding a new 8.3 meter (27 foot), 305 tonne hull section to the submarine. The resulting AM-2000 Scorpene AIP is 70m long, and displaces 1,870t.
Naval Chief Admiral Arun Prakash has said that the agreement gives India the option of incorporating AIP technology after delivery of the 3rd submarines. India’s Navy appeared to be opting for this choice for Scorpenes 4-6, but decided in typical Indian fashion to try to develop their own AIP “hull plug” for the Scorpene. They’re now talking about fielding only submarines 5 & 6 as AIP boats, if the technology is ready. The need to test such systems extensively after they’ve been developed means that DRDO has effectively already defaulted on their future 2015 delivery target, even as Pakistan fields all 3 of its Agosta 90B boats with mature French MESMA AIP technology inside.
India’s Submarine Plans
U209 Shishumar class
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Most of the Project 75 delays, and many of the cost increases, are attributable to India’s slow decision making and lack of readiness. Meanwhile, India’s existing fleet continues to age, and the size of India’s submarine fleet will become a serious concern by 2016 or so.
“Project 75″ had options for another 6 submarines, but that option has been replaced by a 6-boat “Project 75i” competition. Introducing another competition slows India to add improved technology, including an Air-Independent Propulsion module and the ability to carry supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles. On the other hand, it also adds industrial disruption from a new design.
India’s deeply flawed procurement process adds even more risks. The risk of delay has already materialized. Despite initial solicitations in 2008, the 75i RFP still pending in 2013, and India is unlikely to field any Project 75i submarines before 2023. The second risk is that a new competition will become bogged down in allegations and/or protests like so many other Indian projects, and fail to deliver anything.
If India can overcome its government’s own obstacles to fielding an effective submarine force, reports by Indian media describe a long-term desire to manufacture up to 24 submarines in a phased manner. Admiral Prakash confirmed that target, and used the objective of “24 subs in 30 years.”
DID reminds our readers that long term plans for major capital acquisitions have a way of shrinking over time as budgetary tradeoffs are made – 32 DD (X) destroyers for the USA became 12, and then 3. Nevertheless, options and/or future schedule delays could easily keep submarine production for India going to 2030 or beyond, and the buildup of China’s forces in particular is likely to keep submarines high on India’s defense priority list.
Time will tell if actual budgets and shipbuilding performance can match the Navy’s appetites.
India’s Scorpene Project: Contracts & Key Events
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Jan 19/14: Salvage? India has reportedly received 2 RFP responses for a DSRV rescue submarine, in case there’s another submarine emergency. Meanwhile:
“After an exhaustive study, an empowered committee of the Indian Navy has submitted to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that to salvage the sunk, Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhurakshak, will cost upto [sic] Rs 300 crore. However, the MOD is yet to respond. It was learnt that a final decision on this is now being awaited since the MoD is ‘vetting the entire proposal’. It was also learnt that the navy has recommended a particular firm in its report to the MoD.”
That’s about $50 million, and even after paying it, the boat probably can’t ever be returned to service. On the other hand, no salvage means that the Board of Inquiry is stalled, which matters because there are strong suspicions the she was sunk by a terrorist attack (q.v. Aug 14/13). The sunken sub is also taking up an important berth in Mumbai’s crowded naval base. Sources: India Today, “Salvaging INS Sindhurakshak to cost upto Rs 300 crore, navy tells MoD” [sic].
Jan 19/14: Accident. The Kilo Class boat INS Sindhughosh runs aground while trying to enter Mumbai Harbour. Its entry was delayed, and by the time it was cleared, the tide was too low. Salvage efforts rescue the sub by floating it off as the tide rises.
The Indian Navy is initially saying that there was no damage, and that the submarine remains operational. It’s hard to see how this can be determined without a drydock examination, but so far, no decision has been made to do that. Or to launch a Board of Inquiry. Sources: India Today: “Navy salvages submarine INS Sindhughosh stuck off Mumbai coast” | Calcutta Telegraph, “Armed sub scare”.
Jan 18/14: Torpedoes. India’s DAC may have cleared the INR 18 billion buy of 98 WASS Black Shark heavyweight torpedos, but the Ministry of Defense has cold feet after the Jan 1/14 cancellation of fellow Finmeccanica Group AgustaWestland’s AW101 VVIP helicopter contract, and is “doing a rethink.”
Finmeccanica won’t be blacklisted, because it would affect too many other Indian programs and fleets. State-sector delays have already pushed the initial Scorpene delivery back to September 2016, so the MoD can afford to dither. Even so, the AW101 court case will take a while, and a decision will probably be needed while it’s still in progress. The Indian Navy is just lucky the submarines weren’t delivered on time, then forced to go without torpedoes. Which may still happen, unless the Ministry is forced into action. Sources: Times of India, “Defence ministry reviews move to buy torpedoes”.
More costs, and more delays, all preventable; BrahMos can launch underwater, just not deploy; Torpedo buy hung up; China buying more advanced Russian subs.
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Dec 23/13: Torpedoes. India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approves an INR 18 billion proposal to buy WASS Black Shark torpedos for the Scorpenes. The decision comes a week before the government decides to cancel a different Finmeccanica group contract for AW101 VVIP helicopters, which is about to become a strongly-contested court case. Sources: The Week, “Proposal to buy torpedos from AW’s sister company”.
Dec 17/13: Project 75i. With its submarine force waning, the Indian MoD announces that 2 of the coming Project 75i submarines will be built abroad:
“Based upon the Naval HQ proposal, Defence Acquisition Council has taken a decision that P-75 I project will have 4 submarines (out of six) built within the country (03 at Mazgaon Dock Limited, Mumbai and 01 at Hindustan Shipyard Limited, Visakhapatnam, on Transfer of Technology, and two to be built in collaborator’s yard abroad.”
Nov 30/13: Scorpene supplemental. France is reportedly offering India an interesting deal. DCNS would build 2 Scorpene submarines in France, for delivery that would coincide with the induction of India’s 1st locally-built boat. In 1 stroke, they’d give India’s navy enough working modern submarines to meet naval commitments, until the rest of the Scorpenes arrive in service.
France is also reportedly pushing to have India make a 2nd-generation fuel cell MESMA system India’s official “Plan B,” in case DRDO can’t meet its 2015 delivery commitment for an indigenous Air-Independent Propulsion supplementary system. Extensive testing requirements for AIP systems all but guarantee that DRDO’s AIP is already late, but DRDO insists as usual that they’re on track this time. Their preferred approach is to wait until official failure in 2015 before beginning any decisions. Which would, of course, hold up construction of submarines #5 & 6, further crippling India’s submarine fleet, while India’s bureaucrats and politicians take their customary years to make a decision.
DRDO is correct to worry that acceptance of MESMA AIPs in the last 2 contracted boats would badly damage hopes for a DRDO-led AIP retrofit of the first 4 Scorpenes. It would also strengthen DCNS’ position for Project 75i, of course, by offering fleet commonality, while proving that MDL is already trained to accomplish MESMA AIP fit-outs. Sources: Livefist, “France Offers 2 Quick Scorpenes, DCNS ‘Worried’ About DRDO’s AIP”.
Aug 26/13: Project 75i. In the wake of the Sindhurakshak’s sinking, Indian media report that the country may look to lease a 2nd nuclear submarine from Russia. On the SSK front, the Times of India reports that defense minister A K Antony may be rethinking the Ministry’s slowness, and consider compromising his own renewed push toward an all-indigenous procurement policy.
In India, this consists of asking bureaucrats to kindly expedite the Project 75i building plan, 14 years after the program was approved to go forward. The paper reports that a Draft CCS Note with required specifications, concrete building plans, etc. will be sent to the Cabinet Committee of Security in “a month or so,” and that it contains the Navy’s requested provision that the 1st 2 submarines would be built abroad. If CCS approval leads to a fast contract, it’s entirely possible that India could have 2 operational Project 75i submarines before it has 2 operational Project 75 Scorpenes. That would shore up the submarine force quickly, but it would also be embarrassing.
The rest of Antony’s reaction consists of chest-beating about no more schedule slippages at state-owned Mazagon Docks Ltd., and calls for better and “faster” refits and maintenance for the shrunken 13-sub fleet – 11 of which are 20-27 years old. Can the Minister guarantee either outcome? No. Are they even technically achievable? If he knew, he would have been doing it already. Sources: Times of India, “Submarine shock: Antony fast-tracks projects”.
Aug 14/13: Sunk. An explosion and fire sink the Kilo Class INS Sindhurakshak while the boat is docked in Mumbai, killing 18 people on board. Firemen manage to contain the blaze to the submarine, so it doesn’t end up sinking the submarine docked next to it as well.
The explosion happens the day before India’s independence day, and the comprehensiveness of the damage leaves observers inside and outside India considering the possibility that it was a terrorist plot. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “INS Sindhurakshak crippled; experts blame battery fire and ammunition explosion” | The Hindu, “Submarine blasts due to ‘possible ignition of armament’” | Hindustan Times, “Russia distances itself from India sub disaster”
July 23/13: Late, again. MDL Chairman and Managing Director Rear Admiral Rahul Kumar Shrawat (ret.) confirms to The Hindu that “We have set a new target of September 2016 for delivery of the first Scorpene,” instead of the already-late date of 2015. Deliveries were originally slated to begin in 2012, and the latest confession won’t win many fans in the Indian Navy. The Hindu:
“The Navy, however, is livid over the yard’s persistent disregard for deadlines. Top Navy officials rue that by the time the Scorpenes are commissioned, they would be obsolete. The first three Scorpenes will not even have air independent propulsion (AIP)…. MDL’s long-drawn procurement processes and sluggishness in technology absorption gave the projects hiccups at the start itself. Meanwhile, the project cost grew exponentially from the original Rs.18,798 crore to Rs. 23,562 crore in 2010 with a renewed timeline.”
May 14/13: The Hindustan Times illustrates the dire situation facing India’s navy, due to mismanagement of India’s submarine programs:
“As reported first by HT on April 9, a confidential defence ministry report had warned that India had never before been poised in such a vulnerable situation and its undersea force levels were “at a highly precarious state.” …China operates close to 45 submarines, including two ballistic missile submarines. It also plans to construct 15 additional Yuan-class attack submarines, based on German diesel engine purchases.
The size of India’s submarine fleet will roughly be the same as that of the Pakistani Navy in two years…. merely six to seven submarines, including India’s first and only nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant.”
That may be a bit pessimistic. The 4 U209s will need to begin retiring, leaving 10 Sindhugosh (Kilo) Class submarines that began entering service in 1986. At least 8 of those have been refitted under Project 08773, and can be expected to serve for several more years. That makes 9 submarines, but at Indian operational levels, that leaves just 3-4 boats available for missions. On the other hand, China’s fleet is venturing into the Indian Ocean more often, and bases like Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Pakistan will make that easier and easier. Keeping up with Pakistan won’t be enough, and the article is correct to point out that India is barely clearing even that low bar. Hindustan Times.
April 15/13: More delays and costs coming. The Times of India reports that bureaucratic delays by the Ministry of Defence may force Scorpene submarine deliveries to start in 2016, even as costs are set to rise again:
“According to sources, Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) has informed the Navy that the project would be delayed by another 18 months…. Consultants from Navantia, the Spanish shipbuilding company, left the project in the last few days. The technical assistance pact for Navantia and DCNS, the French partner in the consortium, expired on March 31, sources said. With MDL failing to get the defence ministry’s approval in time, about 10 Spanish consultants working on the submarine project left India…. DCNS leadership is expected to meet with MDL top brass this week in Mumbai and present their own demand for additional technical assistance fee.”
Every problem listed here was preventable, and so is the crisis coming to India’s submarine force. A contract that built the first 2 boats abroad, with Indian engineers and specialists working at the foreign shipyard before transferring home to build the last 4 at MDL, would have cut technical assistance requirements, while delivering working submarines to the navy on time. India’s Navy has learned that lesson, and is lobbying hard for an analogous arrangement under Project 75i. Based on reports to date, the ministry hasn’t learned anything, and is resisting. Its political leaders would rather have the vote bank of state run jobs, and their associated financial arrangements up and down the supply chain. Even if that costs more, and leaves India strategically vulnerable. Somehow, that isn’t corruption.
March 20/13: BrahMos underwater. India successfully tests its supersonic PJ-10 Brahmos Mach 2+ cruise missile from a submarine. BrahMos joint venture CEO A Sivathanu Pillai describes it as the 1st underwater firing of a supersonic cruise missile anywhere in the world, and the missile successfully hit its target 290 km / 156 nm away.
Here’s the catch: none of India’s current submarines can fire the new submarine-launched missile. It’s too big to launch from a torpedo tube, and will need to use a vertical launch tube with the correct diameter. India’s Project 75i submarines are nearly certain to add this modification, but they won’t be ready until 2023 at the earliest, a decade after a submarine-launch Brahmos conducted its 1st test firing.
New Indian Express editorial director Prabhu Chawla attributes this disconnect to poor planning in the MoD. The truth is that there has been no shortage of planning, or lead time. Solicitations for the follow-on Project 75i reportedly began in 2008, and there is still no RFP. Likewise Air-Independent Propulsion was discussed in 2006, but the ball has been dropped and it’s unlikely to appear in any of the 6 ordered Scorpene submarines. What has been in short supply is timely execution, thanks to a combination of delays stemming from MoD practices, industrial failures, and hindrances put in place by politicians. No amount of planning can trump that. Times of India | Chawla op-ed.
March 18/13: Legal. India PIB:
“A complaint was received alleging financial irregularities against the then Director in-charge of Scorpene Submarine project in a Defence Shipyard. The complaint is under enquiry.”
March 11/13: Torpedoes. Defense minister Antony offers a written Parliamentary reply to say that India still hasn’t finalized a contract for torpedoes. A Special Technical Oversight Committee (STOC) was convened to review the complaints about the proposed Black Shark buy, and approved it as fair and to procedure. The high-level political Defence Acquisition Committee accepted the report in September 2012 (6 months ago), and has done… nothing. The purchase has now been delayed for over 3 years.
Welcome to India. Part of the reason involves allegations that WASS’ parent firm Finmeccanica paid bribes to secure a contract for 12 AW101 VVIP helicopters. In Italy, its CEO is facing bribery charges, and has been deposed. That sort of thing could get the parent firm blacklisted, which would also scuttle the torpedo buy, and could make it difficult for India to build its Vikrant Class indigenous aircraft carriers. As of March 11/13, Finmeccanica subsidiary AgustaWestland has been given a ‘show cause’ notice regarding cancellation of the AW101s, but did not have the contract cancelled until January 2014. No blacklisting will follow. See also Jan 12/10, Jan 31/11, Oct 28/12. India PIB.
March 8/13: China. An analysis piece in The Hindu by Vladimir Radyuhin points out that China continues to build a modern submarine fleet – including the most advanced conventional subs from Russia. The problem may be a pervasive one, stemming from poor Russian delivery and support on one hand, and India’s red-tape slowness and inability to make decisions on the other:
“At the end of last year, Russia concluded a framework agreement with China for the sale of four Amur-1650 diesel submarines…. It will also mark the first time that Russia has supplied China with more powerful weapon platforms compared with Russian-built systems India has in its arsenals. In the past, the opposite was the rule…. India risks being eclipsed by China on the Russian radar screens. As Russia’s top business daily Kommersant noted recently, even today, Russian officials from top to bottom tend to look at India with “drowsy apathy,” while Mr. Putin’s visit to India last year was long on “meaningless protocol” and short on time and substance.”
Jan 4/13: Investigation. India’s Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has launched an inquiry against Commodore (ret.) Gopal Bharti, who heads up Project 75. The inquiry is in response to an unnamed internal whistleblower. The financial irregularities which include train fare reimbursement and taking his son abroad at public expense, aren’t earth-shattering. On the other hand, the CVC is investigating allegations that Bharti deliberately refused to place orders for 170 critical items, and are curious about the disappearance of 15 high pressure specialized underwater valves from his department.
Innocent until proven guilty, but the range of allegations are pretty broad. Times of India.
India gambles on own AIP system – will it even be ready?; Kilo Class upgrades done; Project 75i gets official OK, but no RFP; India looking for land strike missiles on 75i subs.
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Dec 4/12: AIP. StratPost offers an AIP system update from Indian Navy chief, Admiral D.K. Joshi
“AIP plugs for the fifth and sixth of (Project) 75 are under consideration. [DRDO's Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL)] has been tasked to develop that. It is doing so. What is to be seen is whether the… timeline Matches the delayed production timelines of (Project) 75. In case this comes online in conformity with the fifth and sixth ones they will be put into place, but if for some reason they are not ready at that point in time we would not delay the production timelines…. This would [also] become an option for any of the subsequent indigenous options [Project 75i]…. The next line will have an AIP plug.”
Meanwhile, all 3 of Pakistan’s comparable Agosta 90B submarines will include DCNS’ mature MESMA AIP technology.
Dec 5/12: Project 75i. India’s cabinet Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AON) for buying “Project 75i”, India’s next 6 submarines. A global RFP is reportedly due “very soon,” and the Indian government has reportedly decided to spend up to $10 billion/ Rs 55,000 crore on India’s future submarine force.
Project 75i diesel-electric SSK subs will have air-independent propulsion, and India is also looking to equip them with conventional land attack missiles. DCNS could offer the AIM-2000 Scorpene with the MESMA AIP, and might be able to offer integration of MBDA’s developmental MdCN cruise missile. The MdCN is already slated for DCNS’ SSN Barracuda Class nuclear fast attack submarines, and the right electronic commonalities could give any French proposal a notable advantage over German and Spanish competitors.
If India prefers its own BrahMos missile, on the other hand, 2 things will happen. One is that the playing field will be level. The other is that any submarine chosen would have to be a modified design, with vertical launch tubes sized for BrahMos. Indian government | Zee News.
Oct 28/12: Torpedoes. More headaches for India’s Black Shark torpedo buy. As if their direct competitor’s complaint wasn’t enough, a probe is now underway into India’s EUR 560 million purchase of 12 AW101 VIP helicopters. AgustaWestland is also a Finmeccanica company, and there are several cases of India’s blacklist laws being invoked against firms on the basis of mere corruption allegations, with no available proof.
The Rs 1,700 crore buy of 98 torpedoes for the Scorpene fleet was expected to be followed by a similar buy for Project 75i’s 6 submarines, and possibly a 3rd buy to plus up stocks and equip the new SSBN Arihant Class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. That could mean a total of up to Rs 5,100 crore, or about EUR 733 million / $947 million at risk given current conversions.
As for Atlas Elektronik’s claims that the torpedo bid was rigged (vid. Jan 31/11 entry), the Indian MoD’s Acquisitions Wing, Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), and Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju have all rejected the claims, despite strong circumstantial evidence. India MoD | India’s Business Standard.
July 17/12: Sub-contractors. SEC Industries and DCNS today officially inaugurate new 1,500 m2 of workshop facilities at SEC’s Hyderabad facilities, and formally deliver cofferdam door coamings after successful Factory Acceptance Tests. The work was done under a September 2011 sub-contract between SEC DCNS India Pvt Ltd., and a second sub-contract for additional work was signed in 2012 (vid. March 23/12 entry). DCNS.
June 23/12: Kilo Class. Russia completes its set of 7 mid-life refits and modernizations of India’s Kilo Class submarine fleet, which were delivered from 1986 – 2000. Russia handled repairs and modernization for 7 boats, while Indian shipyards have delivered 1 and are working on another 2.
This last boat, INS Sindhurakshak ended her mid-life refit in Zvezdochka about 15 years after she was built. A submarine’s expected safe lifetime is usually about 30 years, but India may be forced to contemplate a 2nd refit series. Ortherwise, they may not be able to keep their overall submarine fleet at acceptable levels, while they wait for Scorpenes and Project 75i boats arrive. Additional refit efforts generally cost more for each additional year of safe service delivered. The Hindu.
June 11/12: Industrial. DCNS signs a strategic partnership for bringing DCNS technologies, methods and skills into India’s private Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Company Limited. Pipavav is a shipbuilder, repair & dry-docking firm, and were recently chosen by MDL to form a Joint Venture to build warships for the Indian Navy. DCNS.
March 23/12: Sub-contractors. DCNS India announces a Scorpene sub-contract and transfer of technology with SEC Industries Pvt Ltd of Hyderabad, India. The deal for hull hatches, cofferdam doors, knuckle hoses, ballast vent valves, High Pressure air cylinders, weapon handling and storage system is worth about Rs 310 crore/ EUR 50 million. To make this work, DCNS will provide SEC with full plans for the components, training for over 40 SEC personnel at DCNS facilities during 2012-2013, plus 5 years of on-the-job training and support for manufacturing and quality control at SEC in Hyderabad.
SEC is known in Indian defense circles as a manufacturer of missile airframes and components, and signed a deal with Israel’s IAI back in 2008. The company’s previous experience had been with heavy pump set and road-roller equipment. DCNS.
March 19/12: Delays. The 1st Indian Scorpene sub is now confirmed as scheduled for delivery in June 2015, barring further delays, and program cost is now confirmed at Rs 23,562 crore (currently about $4.56 billion).
The original schedule was for delivery by December 2012, with submarines arriving each year until December 2017. The new official schedule has deliveries beginning 2.5 years later in June 2015, with submarines arriving every 9 months until September 2018. Costs are up about 25.4% from the original CAG-audited cost of Rs 18,798 crore after the deal was signed, or 87% over the program’s initial 2002 figure. Indian MoD | New Kerala | PTI
Inquiry into Black Shark torpedo buy; Scorpenes will be late; Do India’s U209s need life extensions now?; Navy wants Project 75i to be a mix of foreign and locally-built, in order to be on time; State-run stranglehold on Indian defense industry; MDL-Pipavav public-private JV to build and service warships.
Sept 13/11: Industrial. Private shipbuilder Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Company (PDOL) and state-owned Mazagon Dock (MDL) agree to form India’s first public-private partnership venture to build warships and submarines for the Indian Navy.
Mazagon Dock Pipavav Ltd will be held 50/50, and it will help MDL fulfill existing orders while competing for future defence contracts in India. Pipavav chairman Nikhil P Gandhi is quoted as saying that it’s “primarily to fast-forward the process of warships and submarine contracts held currently by the MDL.” India’s Financial Express | Indian Express.
July 29/11: Rear Admiral MT Moraes takes over as the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Submarines) at Delhi, to look after the planning and acquisition of submarines.
Rear Admiral Srikant is also slated to take over as Flag Officer Submarines (FOSM) based at Visakhapatnam, this is the indian Navy’s class authority on submarines, responsible for defining standards, policies and procedures for their operations and maintenance. Rear Admiral G Ashok Kumar will take over as Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) at Kochi. India MoD.
June 8/11: Sub-contractor. DCNS India Pvt. Ltd. signs an undisclosed contract with Flash Forge India Pvt. Ltd., an ISO 9001:2008 certified manufacturer of customized special material forgings based in Visakhapatnam.
This first contract with Flash Forge for the manufacturing of mechanical equipment is the conclusion of a long process for DCNS, which involved identification of potential partners, audits of the manufacturing and quality processes, qualification, and then a competitive Request For Proposal (RFP). With a lot of the advance work out of the way, DCNS expects to announce other local contracts in the near future. DCNS.
June 6/11: IANS relays a report in the May 2011 issue of India Strategic, quoting DCNS India Managing Director Bernard Buisson to say that 2 Scorpene combat systems have been delivered to Mazagon Docks Ltd. (MDL). They’re in the process of integrating the first one.
Buisson reportedly said that there are about 20 – 25 French engineers assisting in technology transfer, and added that DCNS has had technical discussions with the Indian Navy on installing MESMA air independent propulsion (AIP) systems on board the last 2 submarines. That move would raise the subs’ cost, and DCNS said they are (still) awaiting the Navy’s response. IANS | India Strategic.
May 18/11: Delays. The Times of India reports that 2 Indian naval crews will be going to France “after some months” to train for operating the SSK Scorpene fast attack submarines. The article notes that by 2020, India’s fleet will comprise just 5 Kilo Class and 4 U209 Shishumar class boats available, and quotes an unnamed official:
“We now hope to get the first Scorpene by August 2015. Each submarine will have just a 36-member crew since automation levels in them are very high,”… “The first Scorpene will be ‘launched’ into water in 2013, and will be ready for commissioning by August 2015 after extensive harbour and sea trials,” said a top DCNS official. “The target is to deliver the sixth submarine by 2018, one every nine months after the first one in 2015. The third and fourth submarines are already under construction at MDL…”
April 6/11: Stretch the Shishumars? The Scorpene project’s lateness, and uncertainties around Project 75I award and delivery dates, have led India’s Navy to talk with Germany’s HDW about upgrading the capabilities, and extending the lifespans, of its existing U209 Shishumar Class boats, inducted from 1989-1994. Zee News.
Feb 16/11: P75i. Indian media quote Indian navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, who reiterates that the follow-on program to the Scorpene deal is already cleared by India’s government. The result could add 6 more Scorpenes to the order books, or it could result in a parallel program to build another model. With 7 of India’s 14 active submarines due for retirement by 2015, and the Scorpene program 3 years late because of self-inflicted delays, the Indian government’s unwise choice to avoid building any Project 75 Scorpene submarines in France has created a looming crisis for the Navy.
Verma says that the Navy is going through responses to the September 2009 RFI, and hopes to be able to issue a tender in 2011. Responses have reportedly included DCNS (Scorpene AIP), Germany’s HDW (U214) and its Swedish Kockums subsidiary (several options, incl. the forthcoming A26 design), Navantia (S-80), and Russia’s Rosoboronexport (Amur 1650), He adds that Project 75i is looking for an improved combat management system, better sensors and detection range, and the certain inclusion of Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology. Reports place the order total at $11 billion, but that seems high even if it includes both the current $4.38 billion for Project 75′s 6 subs, and a Project 75i program for another 6 diesel-electric boats. Time will tell.
The current plan is for India to order 2 submarines built at the winning foreign shipyard, and build 3 at Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) in Mumbai, and 1 at Hindustan Shipyard in Visakaphatnam. That’s similar to the Project 75 plan pushed by India’s Navy, who wanted 2 boats built abroad because they feared that delays and performance issues might create problems for the Scorpene. Political favoritism overruled that request, and the feared scenario has come to pass. This time, the government is showing slightly more flexibility, by approving the plan to have 2 submarines built abroad in order to avoid a complete crash in fleet numbers. On the other hand, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) refused to accept the recommendation the Project 75i avoid MDL, due to that shipyard’s existing workload. Instead, the government assumes that it would be able to build 3 more submarines, which may even be of a different type, on an accelerated production schedule, while still delivering all 6 Project 75 Scorpene boats to the revised schedule. Yeah, right. IANS | Times of India.
Jan 31/11: Torpedo trouble? India’s Central Vigilance Commissioner has opened an inquiry into Project 75′s planned buy of 98 heavyweight torpedoes, after Atlas Elektronik GmbH executive director Kai Pelzer reportedly lodged a direct complaint. The complaint refers reportedly refers to irregularities in the conduct of the procurement process, including specific charges of corruption. The CVC inquiry was ordered in December 2010.
Atlas Electroniks’ complaint is straightforward: the competition was rigged. The RFP makes the torpedo vendor responsible for seamless integration and/or interface of the torpedo with the SUBTICS combat system. The Finmeccanica/DCNS Blackshark is the Scorpene’s default torpedo, but Atlas had to have their plan approved by the MoD’s Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC). That approval was given, but Atlas’ integration proposal was failed in the user trials. India’s DPP, Para 13, doesn’t allow requirements that “prejudice the technical choices by being narrow and tailor made.” The TEC’s approval escaped that trap, but Para 70a allows only one remaining vendor after trials. Atlas says this was the Navy’s intent all along.
The inquiry suspends India’s planned buy of Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes from Finmeccanica subsidiary Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel (WASS), until this can be sorted out. Atlas Elektronik Gmbh was offering their DM2A4 Seahake. Both torpedoes feature advanced seeker heads, and can be controlled by a trailing fiber optic cable. Defense World | Economic Times of India | Subsequent Business Standard coverage.
Jan 18/11: Industrial. India’s Economic Times sums up the latest revisions to India’s Defence Procurement Policy, amid hopes that the stranglehold of state-run firms on major Indian defense contracts might be loosened:
“…(DPP) 2011 has made it clear that the state-owned companies will get preference while awarding major defence contracts. Private sector will get certain concessions, but the situation has not gone down well with the players… According to DPP 2011, foreign defence vendors can now discharge their offset obligations in the civil aviation, internal security and training sectors, compared to the earlier mandate of discharging the same in the defence industrial sector only… The minister also brushed away concerns that the new policy guidelines related to the capital intensive shipbuilding industry favoured the defence PSUs, in spite of the demonstrated ability of private sector companies, such as Larsen and Toubro (L&T) and Pipavav Shipyard in recent years… L&T, which has invested millions on its state-of-the-art shipbuilding facility at Hazira, was promised a critical role in developing and manufacturing India’s second submarine line, Project 75I, along with the state-owned PSU Mazagon Dock, but was later sidelined… The new policy – which has divided procurement into two different sections – mandates that the DPSU shipyards will be given contracts on a nominated (non-competitive) basis, while the private shipyards will have to participate through a competitive bidding process. Further, it remains the government’s call to decide which contract should be open to competitive bids in the first place, raising questions of whether the government is queering the pitch further.”
Costs rise, delivery slips; India picks WASS Black Shark torpedoes.
December 2010: Torpedoes, etc. WASS (Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei) has launched its first subsidiary in India: Win Blue Water Services (WBWS)/ It will focus on naval equipment, market research and analysis, supporting offset and supply chain management, and creating a service hub for the Middle East and Asia.
WASS has operated in India since 1975. Their A244/S light torpedo recently received an Indian contract to upgrade their stocks to Mod 3, and their Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) partnership is producing the C303 anti-torpedo countermeasures system, which is already 50% indigenized. The firm sees opportunities in artificial underwater targets, underwater surveillance systems for strategic areas and offshore energy production, etc. The more work it does, the more value it can count toward Indian requirements for industrial offsets, and the more it can compete with “indigenous” products for the Indian Navy. WBWS is planning to start joint ventures for its different domains, and is in the process of discussions with Indian companies including Larsen & Toubro. India Strategic.
Dec 2/10: Delays. The headline reads “After delays, Scorpene submarine now on track: Navy chief.” Unfortunately, the IANS article doesn’t offer many specifics to support that contention, so it’s hard to evaluate.
Nov 30/10: P75i. India’s PTI reports that Russia’s Rosoboronexport will offer the latest Amur-1650 class submarines to India for Project 75i, the follow-on tender for 6 new submarines that will either extend or complement the current Scorpene contract.
The Amur is known as the Lada class in Russia, and renaming it the “Amur” for export is probably a good idea, in case anyone still remembers those infamous Lada automobiles. The new class was developed by the Rubin Central Design Bureau of Naval Technology as an improvement to the Project 636 Advanced Kilo-class diesel-electric fast attack submarines, and is said to be even quieter. The 1,765t Amur 1650 variant is larger than the Amur 950 model, and has an option for air independent propulsion. It lacks the 950′s 10 vertical launch tubes, relying instead on 6 reloadable torpedo tubes.
Sept 29/10: Industrial. An Asia Times article, “Leaks in India’s submarine strategy,” says that the submarine construction program has changed:
“India is in the process of getting six Scorpene subs… to be built at the Mazagon facility in Mumbai… but this procurement is experiencing a slowdown. Mazagon Docks in Mumbai will construct three of the six, Hindustan Shipyard Ltd in Visakhapatnam will construct one, and the other two may be procured from foreign sources or built by another private shipyard in India.
“The delivery of the first of the French Scorpenes, which was supposed to enter service in December 2012, has been delayed. Antony addressed this situation in parliament only a few weeks back. This will clearly impact upon India’s undersea force levels,” said [Observer Research Foundation senior fellow Dr. Rajeswar] Rajagopalan. “India has about 35 private shipyards, of which L&T [Larsen & Toubro Ltd] and Pipavav are believed to be competing to build the two submarines, of the six planned.”
The report adds that shrinkage of India’s operational submarine fleet may even force 2 submarines to DCNS shipyards, so they can be delivered and become operational in time. As of March 2012, however, India has done none of these things – just added more overhead and reports, and pushed delivery back.
March 10/10: Costs. DefenseWorld reports that the Indian government has approved another Rs 2,000 crore for the Project 75 Scorpene submarine program, to cover the purchase of contractor-supplied MPM equipment packages for the Project 75 Scorpene submarines.
Negotiations over the price increase have been stalled since October 2005, which has delayed the Project 75 program by 2 years.
Extra for equipment packages
April 26/10: Delays. Sify News quotes a Parliamentary response by defence minister Antony regarding the Scorpenes:
“A programme of construction of six Scorpene submarines is currently underway at Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) under transfer of technology from a French company. As per the contract, the first submarine was scheduled to be delivered in December 2012 and thereafter one each every year till De