Mazagon Docks Ltd along with French shipbuilder DCNS, its technology partner for the Scorpene submarines, has approached the Indian Navy with a repeat order for three Scorpene-class submarines, despite the data leak scandal that had threatened to derail the project last August.
Like the first six Scorpenes, the three new submarines would also be manufactured at the Mumbai site, and would be equipped with a new anaerobic propulsion system (AIP) developed by the DRDO.
Six Scorpene submarines were ordered in 2005, and are being built at the state-owned Mazagaon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai, with technical assistance and transfer of technology as well as equipment from DCNS. INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene class stealth submarine built under Project 75, is currently undergoing extensive sea trials, while INS Khanderi, the second indigenous Scorpene-class submarine was recently launched at MDL.
The Scorpene submarine is one of the newer submarines of the Indian Navy, and has the capability of launching an anti-ship missile from below the surface of water which is expected to give the Navy a boost. Sensitive data related to the Scorpene was leaked in the Australian media last year. A committee was set up to look into the matter.
In early March, the Indian Navy conducted the maiden firing of an SM39 anti-ship missile from INS Kalvari. The missile successfully hit a surface target at extended ranges during the trial firing, and was hailed as a significant milestone, not only for the Kalvari submarine, but also in enhancing the Indian Navy’s sub-surface warfare capability.
Sources in the know pointed out that all six Scorpene being built in India are to be equipped with anti-ship missiles, which can help neutralise surface threats at extended ranges.
Sources pointed out that a repeat order for three new submarines would also help the Indian shipyard maintain the know-how and skills it has acquired through the manufacture of the first two Scorpene.
“At a seminar in November 2016, former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikkar had expressed a need for 24 submarines to be built for the Navy, including the six P-75 Scorpene submarines currently on order.
“Given the extensive submarine building programme in other countries, the Minister was keen to strengthen the fleet. It makes emminent sense to continue to build on the first order,” said an official, requesting anonymity, adding that it was also an option under the P-75 programme.
Transfer of technology from DCNS also involves changing “the shells of the Scorpene by making them thicker with steel”, and the Indian counterparts have been educated on the same, as also integrating it with missiles and weapon systems.
Recently, the Indian Navy detailed a timeline for the induction of six Scorpene submarines, with the first two set to be commissioned end-2017.