German HDW Type-214 Submarine

The Navy, which is staring at a dwindling sub-surface fleet, is looking to procure six advanced diesel-electric submarines under Project-75I

Germany is soon expected to present a proposal to India for the sale of advanced conventional submarines through the government-to-government route, it is learnt.

The Navy, which is staring at a dwindling sub-surface fleet, is looking to procure six advanced diesel-electric submarines under Project-75I estimated to cost over ₹45,000 crore. The project has been stuck for a while over technical issues.

“A proposal for submarines through the G-to-G route is being prepared and would be presented to the Government of India soon,” diplomatic sources said.

A visit by German Defence Minister to India in the next few months is in the works, officials and diplomatic sources said, during which the proposal could be formally presented.

The issue also came up for discussion during the visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in February, officials said.

In January 2020, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) shortlisted Mazgaon Docks Ltd. (MDL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) as the Indian partners for the P-75 deal, the first to be processed under the strategic partnership model of the procurement procedure.

The five foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEM) are Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (South Korea), Naval Group (France), Navantia (Spain), Rosoboronexport (Russia) and Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS, Germany).

The Request For Proposal (RFP) was originally issued in July 2021 to MDL and L&T with 12 weeks to respond and has since been extended several times, the latest being up to August 2023.

The project ran into rough weather, among other issues, over a specification that the submarine on offer should have an operational Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) module with an endurance of two weeks.

The OEMs also raised the issue of unlimited liability on them. Only Germany and South Korea technically meet this criteria, as reported earlier.

The DAC recently clarified a few issues, officials said. However, industry sources said concerns still remain. Recently, TKMS, which was in talks with L&T, decided to partner with MDL, while it is learnt that Daewoo has internal administrative issues, among others. Officials said due to this, it could end up being a single- vendor situation, stalling the entire process.

Officials had stated that once a selection was done, the deal had to be eventually processed through an Inter-Governmental Agreement, given the technical complexities involved.

The Navy has 16 conventional submarines in service — seven Russian Kilo-class submarines, four German-origin HDW submarines and five French Scorpene-class submarines.

The last and sixth Scorpene is expected to join service early next year. With the Kilos and the HDWs ageing, a Medium Refit-cum-Life Certification (MRLC) programme is under way to increase their life, but even that would not arrest the dwindling sub-surface fleet of the Navy.

An AIP module acts as a force multiplier as it enables conventional submarines to remain submerged for a longer duration, thereby increasing their endurance and reducing chances of detection.

An indigenously developed AIP module is set to installed on the Scorpene submarines as they go for refit from 2024 onwards.