Following the news that India’s Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. (MDL) and German company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) signed a MoU to cooperate on submarine manufacturing, Tushar Mangure, defence analyst at GlobalData, a data and analytics company, offers his view:
“TKMS and MDL are expected to jointly bid for the Indian Navy’s Project-75I program, which includes the acquisition of six conventional, air-independent propulsion (AIP)-equipped diesel-electric attack submarines.
If selected, the new submarine would most likely be based on the TKMS Type 214 design and may incorporate several India-specific customisations to enhance its attack and operational capabilities. These new submarines are expected to replace the aging Sindhughosh-class and Shishumar-class submarines, the majority of which were inducted between the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“Moreover, the collaboration will enable MDL to improve its submarine construction capabilities by adopting the latest technologies and expertise from TKMS, which is one of the leading submarine manufacturers globally. As part of the partnership, TMKS may also share the fuel-cell-based AIP technology that the Indian Navy has been trying to acquire for a long time. The partnership will also help MDL expand and strengthen its local network of suppliers and vendors capable of supporting complex defence projects.
“The Indian Navy has been facing persistent hurdles in modernising its conventional submarine fleet. While India has already obtained the design and manufacturing knowhow as part of the transfer of technology agreements for the U-209-class and Scorpène-class submarines, the country is yet to capitalise on the experience for developing any similar diesel-electric indigenous alternatives. Furthermore, in the absence of additional orders for the Kalvari-class, the MDL’s submarine production line is anticipated to go idle after the completion of the sixth and final vessel scheduled for delivery in early 2024.
“Although the Indian Navy is at the forefront of indigenisation, the Project-75I program has been plagued by policy paralysis and technology related issues from the onset. Some of the leading global submarine manufacturers have already withdrawn their designs due to their inability to comply with the conditions laid down in the request for proposal (RFP) released by the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD). Any additional delays in the program are expected to significantly impact the navy’s operational capabilities and widen the technology gap with regards to India’s traditional adversaries in the Asia-Pacific region.”