Three weeks ahead of the deadline to submit bids for the Navy’s submarine tender under Project-75I, Spanish submarine manufacturer Navantia and India’s Larsen and Toubro (L&T) on July 10 concluded a Teaming Agreement, to jointly bid for the project.
The other bid in the fray is jointly by German manufacturer Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) in partnership with Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL).
As per the agreement, Navantia would carry out the design of P75I submarines based on its S80 class of submarines, the first of which was launched in 2021 and is undergoing sea trials prior to its delivery to Spanish Navy at the end of 2023, while L&T will be responsible for constructing the submarines.
“The agreement ensures total transfer of technology on all aspects of the submarine including the AIP to L&T as early as possible,” said S. N. Subrahmanyan, CEO & MD, L&T after the agreement was signed at an event.
“One of the important parts of this programme is the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP). They have an AIP which is a working system working more efficiently than other such systems existing worldwide.”
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Augustin Alvarez Blanco, Naval Construction Vice President, and Member of the Board f Navantia said their AIP system is the “most advanced and most efficient” in the world using bioethanol to generate Hydrogen. “It is working full scale in our shipyard and will very soon be fitted on a submarine,” he added.
Apart from S80 class, Navantia, a Spanish Government-owned shipyard, has been involved in the design and construction of six Scorpéne class submarines together with the Naval Group of France which is in advanced stage of completion.
Speaking on the agreement, Spanish Envoy in India José María Ridao said Spain completely supports the idea of ‘Make in India’ and the agreement is proof that the Spanish Government is engaged with the idea of transferring technology to their partner, India. “Spain is also a good partner, in the sense that we have technology which is very convenient and we don’t influence balance of power in this part of the world. We don’t influence the idea of strategic autonomy of India. We respect it completely because the idea of Spain in this part of the world is contribute to stability. This is once again proof.”
Further, the Envoy said that this not just a commercial issue but also a diplomatic issue. Nothing that while India and Spain were far away geographically, he said they are close in many ways. “We think this agreement, this programme is a good opportunity to be here and to have a long-term cooperation with India. This is our main objective, to support this agreement as it is not just for commercial reasons but diplomatic reasons. Also to show that Spanish Government is completely engaged in supporting the programme,” he added.
In June, TKMS and MDL signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the presence of the visiting German Defence Minister to jointly bid for P-75I which envisaged the construction of six advanced submarines in India with significant indigenous content and estimated to cost over ₹45,000 Crore.
The P-75I is the first project being executed under the Strategic Partnership model of Defence Acquisition Procedure and the Request For Proposal (RFP) was originally issued in July 2021 to MDL and Larsen & Toubro with 12 weeks time to respond and has since several extensions the latest being August 2023.
The project ran into rough weather, among other issues over one of the specifications mentioned, that the submarine on offer should have a proven AIP module with an endurance of two weeks. In addition, some manufacturers had also raised the issue of unlimited liability on them. The Defence Acquisition Council has since cleared some of the issues. The AIP condition meant only two manufacturers are left in the race.
An AIP module acts as a force multiplier as it enables conventional submarines to remain submerged for longer duration thereby increasing their endurance and reducing chances of detection. An indigenously developed AIP module is set to be installed on the Scorpene submarines as they go for refit from 2024 onwards.
Jayant D. Patil, whole-time Director, and senior executive Vice President of L&T’s Defence Business noted that Navantia’s AIP is the only 3rd Generation AIP solution in the world making it the most advanced and efficient, apart from also being the most compact, easiest to exploit and maintain and environment friendly. It uses bioethanol as a source of hydrogen which is known to be cost-efficient, easily available and wide availability of ethanol enables the system to be refuelled anywhere in the world, he added.