New Delhi: The Ministry of Defence on Friday cleared a mega project to domestically construct six conventional submarines for the Indian Navy at a cost of approx Rs 43,000 crore in a major decision aimed at significantly boosting the country's naval prowess in the face of China rapidly expanding its maritime capabilities. "The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the issuance of the request for proposal (RFP) or the formal tender for the project which will be the first such procurement under the strategic partnership model that allows domestic firms to collaborate with foreign players to produce high-end military platforms in India", said the Ministry in an official statement released Friday evening.
The DAC, chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, also approved proposals relating to acquisitions of various military weapons including air defence guns and ammunition for the Indian Army at a cost of around Rs 6,800 crore. The formal clearance to the mega submarine programme called Project 75-India came two decades after it was mooted and it may take at least 10 years for the first submarine to roll out after the deal is sealed, mentioned the statement.
"The DAC approved the issuance of the RFP to leading shipbuilder Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and state-owned Mazagaon Docks Ltd (MDL) soon. The L&T and MDL were selected following a long-drawn process" the statement noted.
Both L&T and MDL will have to respond to the RFP by tying up with one of the five already short-listed foreign shipyards Rosoboronexport (Russia), Daewoo (South Korea), ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (Germany), Navantia (Spain) and Naval Group (France).
"This project envisages indigenous construction of six conventional submarines equipped with the state-of-the-art air-independent propulsion system at an estimated cost of Rs 43,000 crore," the defence ministry said about the naval project.
"This is a landmark approval, being the first case processed under the strategic partnership model. This would be one of the largest ''Make in India'' projects and will serve to facilitate faster and more significant absorption of technology and create a tiered industrial ecosystem for submarine construction in India," it said in the statement.
The ministry said the project will help reduce current dependence on imports and gradually ensure greater self-reliance and dependability of supplies from indigenous sources.
"With accord of this approval, the country will be enabled to achieve its 30-year submarine construction programme envisioned by the government to acquire national competence in submarine construction and for the Indian industry to independently design and construct submarines in India," it said.
It said the availability of new technologies and advanced manufacturing capabilities to the Industry will be an important step towards enhancing the nation's quest for self-reliance in modern conventional submarine construction
"This project under the SP model provides a unique long-term opportunity and planning certainty for the industry to invest and support submarine construction. It will also infuse the latest technology and weaponry for submarines in India through a strategic tie-up between Indian industry and leading foreign OEMs (original equipment manufacturers)," the ministry said.
Under the strategic partnership model, domestic defence manufacturers are allowed to join hands with leading foreign defence majors to produce high-end military platforms to reduce import dependence.