On June 4, India’s defence ministry kicked off the process to acquire six conventional submarines for Rs 43,000 crore. Requests for proposals will soon be issued to five foreign firms that will collaborate with two Indian shipyards. The winning consortium will be awarded the contract.
It is India’s third attempt to build a conventional submarine with a foreign technology partner in the last 40 years. The first attempt was in 1981 when India contracted to buy four HDW Type 209s from West Germany. The company was blacklisted in 1987, and in 2005, India placed another order for six Scorpene submarines from Armaris of France. Bafflingly, none of these contracts–which included huge sums for transfer of technology (ToT)–have yielded a conventional submarine design for India.
The P-75I represents a third attempt to acquire submarine-building expertise and technology from a foreign OEM. South Korea’s stellar track record in submarine construction is worth a closer study here. In the 1980s, South Korea was like India, completely dependent on imported platforms and designs. In 1987, South Korea imported a version of the same HDW design which India had bought six years earlier, then license-built it and finally mastered the design to build its own completely indigenous line of submarines–the 3,000 tonne KSS-3.
A version of this design is now being offered to India for the P-75I by South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Co Ltd (DSME). India’s ambitious 30-year submarine building plan meant to field 18 conventional submarines, meanwhile, stumbles along in fits and starts.