P75 (I) Imbroglio also tells about the effectiveness of our acquisition method

Written by Amit Kaushish

The French industrial conglomerate Naval Group, formerly known as Direction des Construction Navales International (DCNS), is virtually out of India’s Project 75 (India), or P75 (I), in which one Indian built six conventional diesel-electric submarines. . Shipyard

Laurent Video, Country and Managing Director, Naval Group India, stated that the Request for Proposal (RfP) submarines, issued by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) on April 30, need to be equipped with sea-certified Air Independent Provisioning (AIP). System, ‘which is not yet for us since the French navy does not use this type of propulsion system’.

The decision by the Naval Group is significant because it has partnered with state-owned Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) for Project 75, of which the P75 (I) is an extension to build six Calvary (Scorpene) class submarines. The last of these submarines, the Vagshir, was recently launched. Expanding the system to build six more submarines of the same class would make perfect sense, but MoD had other ideas.

Following the unveiling of the Strategic Partnership (SP) model in 2016, the private sector decided to adopt the model to separate the MoD P75 (I) from Project 75 and build an additional six submarines to involve the private sector in the production of major defense platforms.

MOD made another important decision to find an AIP system for submarines that would enable them to sink for more than two weeks at a time without having to surface to recharge their batteries, while traditional diesel-electric submarines would have to appear every few days.

The SP model includes parallel shortlisting of foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) whose product meets the service requirements and Indian companies who are the main sellers may partner with the former to manufacture the product in India with or without modification. This model is a rhetorical and intricate version of the ‘Buy and Build (Indian)’ section that has been part of the acquisition process for over a decade.

Working on this model, MoD shortlisted two Indian shipyards in January 2020 as potential strategic partners for the construction of six AIP submarines in India with technology transfer from their foreign partners. One of these was the state-owned MDL and the other was the private sector defense company Larsen & Toubro (L&T). The MDL selection was not in the consciousness of the SP model, but it is another story.

In parallel, MoD has shortlisted five foreign OEMs as potential technology providers for Indian shipyards selected for submarine construction. This was Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), Russia’s Rubin Design Bureau, Spain’s Navantia, Naval Group of France, and Daewoo Shipping and Marine Engineering (DSME) of South Korea.

On July 20, 2021, MoD officially issued an RfP for the P75 (I), valued at approximately Rs. Submission is 21 November 2021, then extended to June 2022.

One of the reasons for extending the bid submission deadline is the unavailability of sea-proven AIP technology with some foreign OEMs and the inconvenience of some RfP terms, especially related to domestic content. The amount of liability of submarines made in India and foreign partners.

If these reports are true, P75 (I) will face an uncertain future. The Indian Navy’s 30-year plan to include 24 submarines by 2030 was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in 1999, but so far only six conventional Calvary (Scorpion) class submarines and a few nuclear-powered submarines have been built.

As it is, the plan is moving backwards; Any further delay in filling India’s maritime capacity gap, which seems imminent at this stage, would be a blow to operational readiness.

The impending irregularity indicates an indescribable lack of care in submarine acquisition plans. The MoD is required to issue a request for information (RfI) to start the process. It is intended to gather all the information needed to prepare an acquisition proposal

Feedback from foreign OEMs includes features of platforms already available to them. This response is combined with other information collected by the Service Headquarters (SHQ) to create a realistic specification of the platform or service quality requirements (SQRs) that will meet the operational requirements of that service.

Once the SQRs are finalized with the approval of the respective SHQ’s Service Equipment Policy, Foreign OEMs are required to express interest (EoI) so that they can provide details of the nature, range and depth of technology to Indian manufacturing companies. . Among other things, the level of nationalization and requirements related to the development of industrial ecosystem in India are also determined to achieve EoI.

It is unthinkable that foreign OEMs who responded to RfI and later to EoI incorrectly misrepresented that they possessed sea-proof AIP technology and complied with all other requirements mentioned in EoI, which they now deem uncomfortable. Going. It is possible that they responded honestly, but it was not given due importance when formulating the SQR, including the requirements of the AIP system.

It is also possible that MoD did not inform foreign OEMs about the possible terms of RfP or ask them if they had any concerns that should be kept in mind when finalizing RFP. Either way, it calls for introspection, if only to avoid such situations in the future.

To further surprise MoD’s pitch, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) claims to have developed a prototype of a domestic AIP system that could be ready to be integrated with submarines in a few years. According to media reports, the system could be integrated with Calvary (Sorpene) class submarines. It is unlikely that DRDO would develop an AIP prototype in the near future when SQRs are being finalized.

Under the circumstances, it is surprising that MoD Naval Group was not asked to build six more Cover (Scorpion) class submarines in MDL that could later be fitted with the native AIP system. This will ensure the skills acquired by MDL and the use of infrastructure built to build six submarines under Project 75.

Without a contract under MDL P75 (I), these assets run the risk of becoming inactive and eventually disappearing. If this happens then history will repeat itself, as in the past the assembly line set up to build the MDL German HDW submarine had to be shut down due to lack of orders from the Indian Navy.

The current situation calls for an honest reassessment of the effectiveness of the SP model. The question that MOD needs to ask is whether it would be more effective to go back to the good old ‘Buy and Build (Indian)’ section for such projects. It will be easier and faster for foreign OEMs to select and ask them to select the Indian company of their choice to build the platform in India so that mutually acceptable change takes place.

The contract for the C-295 transport aircraft to replace the Indian Air Force’s Avro transport fleet was awarded to Airbus in this manner. Under the agreement, Airbus will deliver 16 aircraft in fly-away condition and build 40 more in India in collaboration with Tata Advanced Systems Limited, which Airbus itself chose.

True, the deal took almost a decade to deliver, but only partly because it was the first time a foreign OEM had been allowed to select an Indian partner of its own, and a public sector entity – state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, in this case – Excluded from the competition. There were other reasons, but now that the precedent is being found, following this path will not take so long in other cases.

Although in the immediate case, the shortlist of MDL and L&T did not lead to strong protests from other shipyards, the process is complex and controversial. If nothing else, following the procedure adopted to terminate the C295 agreement will also avoid the hassle of shortlisting potential Indian partners of MoD.

(The author is a former Financial Adviser (Acquisition), Ministry of Defense. Published opinions do not reflect the official position or policy of Personal and Financial Express Online. Reproduction of this content without permission is prohibited).

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