Pak adding submarine muscle as India dithers

TNN

Even as India dithers in even finalizing its new submarine programme called ” Project-75 India”, Pakistan has moved swiftly to seal a deal with China to acquire six advanced submarines equipped with crucial air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems.

Conventional diesel-electric submarines have to surface or snorkel every few days to get oxygen to recharge their batteries. But those fitted with AIP can stay submerged for much longer periods to significantly boost their stealth and combat capabilities, somewhat narrowing the gap with nuclear-powered submarines which of course can operate underwater for virtually unlimited periods.

While India is still years away from getting an AIP-equipped submarine, Pakistan already has one in the shape of PNS Hamza, one of the three French Agosta-90B submarines inducted by it over the last decade. Moreover, work is also underway to retrofit the French “Mesma” AIP in hulls of the other two submarines, PNS Khalid and PNS Saad.

The six new-generation submarines from China, the improved Yuan-class boats with “Stirling-cycle” AIP, will further add a punch to Pakistan’s underwater warfare capabilities.

India, in sharp contrast, has so far refused to consider the Mesma AIP option in the ongoing Rs 23,562-crore project (P-75) to build six French Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Docks (MDL), already running three years’ behind schedule with the boats now slated to roll out from 2015 to 2020.

“There has also been a huge cost escalation. To incorporate the steam-based Mesma AIP in the 5th and 6th Scorpenes would cost another $100 million or so,” said a senior defence ministry official.

“Moreover, Navy is more keen on fuel-cell AIP. DRDO is developing one such system, which has been tested on shore. If it comes through, it can be considered for the 5th and 6th Scorpenes,” he added.

To further compound matters, there is excruciatingly slow progress on P-75I, which envisages acquisition of six new stealth submarines, equipped with both tube-launched missiles for land-attack capabilities as well as AIP, for over Rs 50,000 crore.

The RFP (request for proposal) to be issued to foreign collaborators like Rosoboronexport ( Russia), DCNS (France), HDW (Germany) and Navantia (Spain) will be possible only towards end-2011 at the earliest.

“If one foreign shipyard can give AIP, it cannot provide land-attack missile capabilities, and vice-versa. So, P-75I is very complex…it will take at least two years to even finalize it, and another six-seven years after that for the first submarine to be ready,” he said.

The plan till now is to directly import two submarines from a foreign collaborator, with three being built at MDL in Mumbai, and the sixth at Hindustan Shipyard in Visakhapatnam under transfer of technology.

Incidentally, Navy will have only five of its existing 10 Russian Kilo-class and four German HDW submarines by 2020. Consequently, even with the six Scorpenes, India will be far short of its operational requirement of at least 18 conventional submarines for the foreseeable future.

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Posted by pilotpaul on Apr 11 2011. Filed under All News, World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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