The ‘Make in India’ submarine
Force Magazine - National Security and Aerospace Newsmagazine
Builder’s Navy

The ‘Make in India’ submarine
Bernard Buisson

India and France are truly partnering nations and their industries have interacted and forged long-term partnerships in the fields of energy, aviation, nuclear, automobile, defence and many more. In the field of defence, Indian defence shipbuilder and centre of excellence in submarine building, Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) is partnering with French shipbuilder Naval Group in India on the prestigious P75 project of the Indian Navy.

This successful Indo-French co-operation is reaching a positive conclusion with the first submarine Kalvari having already successfully demonstrated its maximum operating depth dive and undergoing final stages of preparations before its commissioning very soon; the second one, Kandheri, just got launched successfully on 12 January 2017.

Indeed, the P75 is the first submarine project significantly contributing to the objectives of achieving indigenous development, fostering innovation and creating a best-in-class manufacturing infrastructure through the ‘Make in India’ process. So far, the efforts of indigenisation by the Indian Navy and shipyards had been achieved with warships, but now the P75 project has extended the multiple benefits of indigenisation to submarines.

To achieve this level of indigenisation for a submarine, which is known to be the most complex machines ever built by man, both MDL and Naval Group in India have developed synergies with public and private industries. Being actively encouraged by the Indian Navy, it has been possible to create a sound industrial ecosystem anchored on MSMEs.

Since 2008, through gradual transfer of technology (ToT) and under strict quality supervision, indigenised content for each category — Float (hull hatches, ballast valves…), Move (steering consoles…) and Fight (weapon handling…) — has successfully been manufactured and delivered to MDL for integration in the submarines.

Builders Navy

Naval Group in India is so satisfied with the quality standard adhered to by Indian suppliers and partners that they have taken a step further and outsourced procurement of certain equipment for the French Navy’s latest submarines (under construction) to these Indian micro, small and medium enteprises (MSMEs). Not only industrial means, but also engineering capabilities of India have been, and will continue to be, boosted through such demanding submarine construction programmes. It is worth mentioning that the French shipbuilder is also assisting the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to integrate their indigenously developed air independent propulsion system in the P75 submarines.

For any ‘Make in India’ initiative to remain a continuous success, especially in fields as complex and as costly as submarine building with steep learning curves, the acquired expertise and highly skilled manpower will have to be preserved through continuous workload. Indeed, a break in production of only a few years have proven to be very detrimental to some shipyards, including few ones in European, who have lost their expertise and know-how and had to reinvest in new ToTs and training to resume building additional submarines. Consequently, it is important that the industrial eco-system created for the P75 programme is preserved through additional orders to the shipyard without lapse in order to preserve, nurture and build upon the expertise and qualified skilled man-power of both MDL and the network of associated small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The Indian Navy has been operating various classes of warships, frigates, corvettes and aircraft carriers as well as different types of submarines. Very soon, the Indian Navy will operate the latest generation Scorpene class submarines. Such naval assets along with a nurtured ship-building capacity, dedicated design capabilities and continued technical interactions with committed original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will add greatly to the capability of Indian industries and shipyards, gradually ensuring the Indian Navy to master all facets of naval technologies — paving the way to become a true ‘Builders Navy’.

(The writer is managing director, Naval Group in India India)


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