France backs out of P-75 Indian submarine project
French defense contractor Naval Group announced on Tuesday that it is pulling out of the multimillion-dollar P-75 submarine project for the Indian Navy.
The company revealed that it could not participate in developing six conventional submarines for India due to air independent propulsion (AIP) system issues.
AIP allows a non-nuclear submarine to stay submerged longer, reducing the need to surface to charge its batteries.
According to Naval Group managing director Laurent Videau, the firm “has always been ready” to offer the best solution for India’s P-75s.
However, the project’s request for proposals (RFP) states that the fuel cell AIP system must be sea proven – a feature that Naval Group can not fulfill, since the French Navy does not operate such a propulsion system.
“Due to certain conditions in the RFP, the two strategic partners could not forward the request to us and a few other FOEMs (foreign original equipment manufacturers) and thus we have not been able to place an official bid for the project,” Videau said, as quoted by The Hindu.
India seeks to integrate the AIP system on future submarines, as none of its current vessels have the technology. The country’s closest rivals – China and Pakistan – both have AIP-equipped subs.
The P-75 India Project
In 1999, the Indian government approved a plan for the navy to build and induct state-of-the-art indigenous submarines by 2030.
As part of the initial program phase, India signed a $3.75 billion contract with France’s Naval Group to build six Scorpene-class submarines.
The next phase of the program is for construction of six conventional submarines with improved sensors and weapons. They must also have an AIP system for better performance.
Apart from Naval Group, four other companies are part of the bidding: Russia’s Rosoboronexport, Spain’s Navantia, Germany’s Thyssenkrupp, and South Korea’s Daewoo.