French defence major wants to be part of six submarines to be built under P75I

Even as the Scorpene submarine project, which France cites as a unique example of its successful collaboration with India, is behind schedule, Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN) Shipyard hopes to take part in the future programmes of the Indian Navy.

Project 75 to build six Scorpene submarines by the Mazagoan Docks Limited, along with the DCNS, got the go-ahead in 2005.

The project also provides for transfer of technology. But the schedule for the delivery of the first submarine was pushed back by nearly three years, from December 2012.

The DCNS' bid assumes significance with President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to India.

Though no agreements for the purchase of defence items, including the upgrade of Mirage 2000, is on the cards, the number of business leaders who accompany Mr. Sarkozy, including defence industry representatives, highlights one of the focus areas of France.

One of the reasons for the delay in the Scorpene project is that besides being huge, it is a complex as well as challenging programme. “This programme is challenging both for the competence and industrial means involved… technical… integration of large teams of personnel from different countries… we faced teething problems,” Bernard Buisson, Chief of DCNS-India, told The Hindu.

Earlier this week, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma said that as per the revised schedule, the first submarine was expected to be with the Navy by 2015, and the last by 2018.

The MDL plans to cut the time lag in building the subsequent submarines from 12 to 9 months to make up for the delay. Mr. Buisson said the MDL were done with the work on the hulls of the first and second submarines; the hulls for the third and fourth were being built. The frame to receive the hulls for the fifth and six submarines was being made.

The outfitting work was also progressing, and the work on the combat system equipment for the first submarine would be completed this year.

Technology transfer

Besides transferring the technical data package, DCNS was working with the MDL to establish a group of suppliers for indigenisation of P75. It also hoped to be part of the next line of six submarines to be built under P75I, which the government cleared this year. While two will be built at overseas yards, three will be made in India. Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL), which was handed over to the Defence Ministry this year, will build one, entering a new area, as thus far it has been only into repairing submarines.

The DCNS hopes to get a look-in, having responded to the Request for Information. Sources in the Navy said the Request for Proposal could be ready by the next few months.


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