New Delhi, November 22
The country should rethink its submarine building programme and expand its fleet beyond the planned 24, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Tuesday.
This represents a major change in policy with growing underwater strength of Pakistan and China in the Indian Ocean. The Minister was speaking at a joint Navy-FICCI seminar, ‘Current and future challenges in design and construction of underwater vessels’.
The government had approved an ambitious “30-year submarine construction plan” in 1999 for building 24 conventional submarines till 2030. This was later converted to include nuclear attack submarines as well.
“We need to rethink about the real requirement based on our projection… We also need to assure that the skilled manpower and skills developed we need to retain it. To retain it, we need to have more construction of submarines,” Mr. Parrikar said. Critically short of submarines. However the plan has been delayed with only one programme approved so far — Project-75 — for six Scorpenes being built under by the Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL) with technology transfer from DCNS of France. The Navy is also set to induct the first of the Scorpene in January and the remaining five at nine month intervals.
The Navy is critically short of submarines, the most potent naval platforms, with 14 operational platforms, including one nuclear attack submarine leased from Russia. But with regular maintenance and high turnaround times the actual availability is much less.
A new plan to build the next line of submarines under Project-75I has been held up due to delay in formulating the guidelines for the proposed ‘strategic partnerships’ model under the Defence Procurement Procedure 2016, which Mr. Parrikar said would be finalised very soon.
“It [strategic partnerships] has already been approved and the drafting of the chapters is under way. Approval is needed by the Defence Acquisition Council [DAC] and probably by the Cabinet as well as it has financial implications,” Mr. Parrikar said, adding that once the strategic partnership model was approved Project-75I would be fast-tracked.
In this context, Mr. Parrikar called for higher level of indigenisation in submarine building. “Indigenisation in Scorpenes is not up to the mark but in the Advanced Technology Vessel [ATV] programme [nuclear submarines], it is over 70 per cent,” he observed.
New Delhi, November 22