The defence ministry on Friday cleared a project worth ₹43,000 crore for building six advanced submarines in the country under the government’s ‘strategic partnership’ (SP) model to bolster the Indian Navy’s underwater force levels and counter the rapid expansion of China’s submarine fleet, defence ministry officials said.
The defence acquisition council (DAC), India’s apex procurement body, approved the proposal at a meeting on Friday and the navy is expected to issue requests for proposal (RFP) for the programme, called P-75 India soon, the officials said.
This will be the first RFP to be issued under the SP model, which seeks to provide fillip to the government’s Make in India programme, said one of the officials cited above. The model envisages indigenous manufacturing of major defence platforms by an Indian strategic partner who will collaborate with a foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to set up production facilities in the country.
The new submarines will be equipped with air independent propulsion (AIP) systems that will enable the vessels to stay underwater for longer periods and enhance their combat capabilities, said a second official
In January 2020, the defence ministry cleared two Indian and five foreign shipbuilders to take part in the project to build high-tech submarines in the country, one of the biggest Make in India programmes in the military sector.
The Indian strategic partners cleared to collaborate with the foreign OEMs are Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited and L&T. The foreign yards they can team up with for the project are the French Naval Group, German conglomerate Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, Russia’s Rubin Design Bureau, Spain’s Navantia and South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Company.
The ministry will take the project forward by issuing RFPs to the shortlisted Indian strategic partners who will then respond with techno-commercial offers in collaboration with one of the shortlisted OEMs. In exceptional cases, rules allow the Indian strategic partner to submit techno-commercial offers in collaboration with two OEMs.
The next steps in the long process will involve opening and evaluation of technical offers, trials, staff evaluation, opening of commercial offers of companies technically compliant with the RFP and finally, the selection of the strategic partner with the lowest bid.
In August 2018, the DAC cleared a project under the SP model for building 111 naval utility helicopters (NUH) to replace the navy’s outdated fleet of French-designed Chetak choppers. But there has been no forward movement in the NUH project worth ₹21,738 crore.
Headed by the defence minister, the DAC is India’s top defence procurement body that evaluates and green-lights acquisition proposals made by the armed forces. The other members of the council are the minister of state for defence, the chief of defence staff, the three service chiefs, the defence secretary, secretary defence research and development, secretary defence production, and director general, acquisition.