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The Hindu
The Hindu
Dinakar Peri

Top Spanish defence official to pitch for submarine deal in Delhi

As Germany pushes for an Inter-Governmental Agreement for the sale of six advanced conventional submarines to India, a top defence official from Spain — the second contender for the Indian Navy’s tender — is scheduled to visit Delhi next week.

Spanish Secretary of State for Defence Amparo Valcarce is scheduled to visit India on March 7 and 8 and the submarine deal is likely to be high on the agenda of the talks she is scheduled to hold with her Indian counterpart Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane, according to diplomatic sources.

Strategic partnership model

Germany’s Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) and Spain’s state-owned Navantia are the only two firms who meet the criteria to submit bids for the Navy’s mega-deal for six P-75I submarines, expected to cost upwards of ₹43,000 crore, the deadline for which finally ended in July 2023. Navantia has tied up with Larsen & Toubro (L&T) while TKMS has teamed up with MDL, the only two Indian companies that have been shortlisted. The deal is being processed under the strategic partnership model of the defence acquisition procedure.

As reported by The Hindu earlier, Germany has presented a government-to-government proposal to India for the sale of six submarines and a high-level team was here to discuss it in January.

According to the partnership agreement between Navantia and L&T, the Spanish firm will design the P-75I submarines based on its S-80 class of submarines, the first of which was launched in 2021 and was delivered to Spanish Navy last November, while L&T will be responsible for actually constructing the submarines.

Two week endurance

The P-75I acquisition process ran into rough weather over several issues, including one of the specifications requiring that the submarine on offer should have a proven Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) module with an endurance of two weeks.

The submitted bids are currently being evaluated and some preliminary evaluation has since been conducted, it has been learnt. Some preliminary assessment has happened and Navantia showcased its progress on proving its AIP module, according to a source who stressed that Spain was willing to do a complete technology transfer. Its AIP is a next generation module with higher efficiency. Spain will also provide governmental guarantees as Navantia is a state-owned shipyard, sources said.

An AIP module acts as a force multiplier as it enables conventional submarines to remain submerged for longer durations, 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 a refit later this year.

Delayed deal impact

India had contracted six Scorpene-class submarines from the Naval Group under a $3.75 bn deal signed in October 2005, under which they were manufactured by MDL under a technology transfer model. Five of the submarines have now been inducted and the last one is in an advanced stage of sea trials.

The Indian Navy is desperately short of submarines, with the majority of the current fleet more than 25 years old. With the P-75I acquisition significantly delayed, the Navy has decided to procure three additional Scorpene-class submarines. Their price bids have been submitted to the Defence Ministry, which has since set up a committee to arrive at the benchmark price for a deal.

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