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Vineet R. asked: If India can indigenously make the more complex SSBNs under ATV, why is it importing SSKs under P-75(I)?

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  • Abhay K. Singh replies: At the outset, it is pertinent to highlight that the acquisition of P-75(I) submarines is not being planned through import. The P-75(I) submarines will be indigenously constructed through the strategic partnership model (SPM) of procurement, which aims to revitalise the defence industrial ecosystem and progressively build indigenous capabilities in the private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon systems for the future needs of armed forces. Under this policy, selected Indian public and private companies would tie up with shortlisted global equipment manufacturers to manufacture the platforms in India under technology transfer. The government has shortlisted two shipyards, i.e., Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T), for the construction of P-75(I) submarines.

    As per reports, five foreign submarine makers, i.e., Naval Group (France), TKMS (Germany), JSC ROE (Russia), Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (South Korea) and Navantia (Spain), have been shortlisted as foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). They need to choose between MDL and L&T. The order for all six submarines will go to the lowest bidder (L1) and will not be split between the two Indian companies.

    The Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) programme for construction of SSBNs, which began in 1983, is unarguably a shining example of an indigenous defence project that surmounted major challenges to deliver an enormously complicated weapons platform. The project has proved India’s mettle in indigenising several cutting-edge technologies—compact nuclear reactors, nuclear-tipped missiles and submarine hull construction—through active collaboration among the private sector, Indian industry, MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), and a host of Indian high-tech labs and institutions. The ATV programme had achieved an indigenisation content of more than 70 per cent.

    Submarines are one of the most complex engineering platforms requiring the integration of numerous technologically advanced systems in a constrained space. Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design (Submarine Design Group) is the only organisation in the country having expertise in submarine design. Through its participation in various submarine programmes, Indian Navy has acquired capabilities to undertake platform design of all types of submarines.

    Nuclear and conventional submarines are not only differentiated by their propulsion package but these differ considerably in their overall design. While India has a functional design for SSBN, which is being further evolved for planned nuclear attack submarines, the SSK submarine design remains a work in progress.

    Posted on 28 March 2022

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.