Russia has said that it has critical technology that enabled conventional submarines to remain under water for extended time, to meet India’s order, but has suggested that the technology transfer be done under an intergovernmental agreement, given the complexity of the project.
The Indian P 75I project — to build six conventional submarines in an Indian yard with foreign collaboration — has been given a go ahead by the defence ministry this month and will involve a competition between Russia, France, Germany, Spain and South Korea to provide technology.
The most important aspect of the technology is Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) that enables submarines to remain underwater for over two weeks, steps ahead of the current fleet that needs to surface after a few hours to take in oxygen for burning fuel.
Russian officials told ET that its AIP technology was under development and an operational system onboard a seagoing vessel can be demonstrated next year for offer to India. “We will be able to meet the expectation as we are planning to run the system for sea operations by next year. We can have a more precise target once the formal tenders are out,” Aleksey Rakhmanov, head of the Russian United Shipbuilding Corporation, told ET.
The availability of AIP technology will be critical to the selection of a foreign collaborator for the project. The submarines, expected to cost over `43,000 crore, are to be built either at Mazagaon Docks or Larsen and ToubroNSE 1.32 %, with the winner to be decided on techno-commercial proposals to the defence ministry.
Russian shipbuilders say that they have been working on AIP for years and will be in a position to demonstrate it on a vessel by next year. There is yet no clarity whether the Indian requirements will specify that the technology has to be demonstrated on an operational submarine but the formal tender is expected next month. The contract is being processed under the strategic partnership model, which is a competitive process involving technology transfer to Indian companies. Russian officials suggest acquisition also be given the umbrella of an intergovernmental agreement, given the scope of the project.
“Due to the nature of the project we think and intergovernmental agreement will be the best scenario for both sides as we have to deal with complex intellectual property rights as well,” Rakhmanov said. As things stand, both Germany and South Korea have operational submarines with AIP technology while other nations bidding for the Indian order have experimental models at different stages of development.