From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : P-75 I
Mains level : Indian navy modernization
Ahead of PM Modi’s scheduled visit, France has denounced its participation in the P-75 India (P-75I) project under which six conventional submarines are to be built in India for the Indian Navy.
Why did France pull out?
- The reason was that the Request for Proposal (RFP) requires that the fuel cell AIP be sea proven, which not the case is for us yet since the French Navy does not use such a propulsion system.
- AIP refers to Air-Independent Propulsion, a technology for conventional — that is, non-nuclear — submarines.
Backgrounder: Project 75
- Project 75 India is a part of India’s thirty-year-old submarine building plan by which all the six submarines which are under the project should already be sailing and it should have been followed by the submarines now for which the RFP has been issued.
- It is a long-awaited and long-overdue project.
- This should have happened way back but it got delayed because it was difficult to find a strategic partnership model.
What is P-75I?
- The Project 75I-class submarine is a follow-on of the Project 75 Kalvari-class submarine for the Indian Navy.
- In the late 1990s, around the time of Kargil war, a three-decade plan took shape for indigenous construction of submarines.
- It was known to have two separate series of submarine building lines – codenamed Project 75 and Project 75I — in collaboration with foreign entities.
- Under this project, the Indian Navy intends to acquire six diesel-electric submarines, which will also feature advanced air-independent propulsion systems.
- This is for enabling them to stay submerged for longer duration and substantially increase their operational range.
What is the status of the project?
- The navy is slightly behind the curve on P-75I.
- The project faces choppy waters; the Naval Group has already announced it is pulling out, and sources said the Russian and Spanish companies might also not proceed with their bids.
- Among the concerns, is the requirement to demonstrate a sea-proven fuel cell AIP.
- While some manufacturers may have the technology, it may not have been proven at sea yet.
- Another problem for the OEMs is the transfer of technology, which is built into the process.
Why does the Navy want AIP subs?
- Simply put, AIP technology allows a conventional submarine to remain submerged for much longer than ordinary diesel-electric submarines.
- All conventional submarines have to surface to run their generators that recharge the batteries that allow the boat to function under water.
- However, the more frequently a submarine surfaces, the higher the chances of it being detected.
- AIP allows a submarine to remain submerged for more than a fortnight, compared to two to three days for diesel-electric boats.
- IP has a force multiplier effect on lethality of a diesel electric submarine as it enhances the submerged endurance of the boat several folds.
What submarines does India have now?
- India has 16 conventional diesel-electric submarines, which are classified as SSKs.
- After the last two Kalvari Class subs are commissioned under P-75, this number will go up to 18.
- India also has two nuclear ballistic submarines, classified SSBN.
Strategic importance of submarines development
- Ageing arsenal: Currently, India has less number of submarines than what is required with some more of those from both types being at various stages of construction.
- Combat roles in near future: The nuclear powered and diesel-electric submarines have their designated roles in the Carrier Battle Groups, which are formations of ships and submarines with Aircraft Carriers at the lead role.
- Strategic deterrence: As per the basic principles of submarine deployment and the minimum requirement for India to create a strategic deterrence, there is a specific number of submarines of both types that India needs to have in active service.
Significance of P-75 I
- ‘Make in India’ Projects: It will serve to facilitate faster and more significant absorption of technology and create a tiered industrial ecosystem for submarine construction in India.
- Self-Reliance: From a strategic perspective, this will help reduce current dependence on imports and gradually ensure greater self-reliance and dependability of supplies from indigenous sources.
- Securing Indo-Pacific: China is increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and this is creating pressure on the Indian Navy in sprucing up the submarine arm.