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Following The Commissioning Of INS Khanderi, What Is Naval Group’s Outlook In India?

Following The Commissioning Of INS Khanderi, What Is Naval Group’s Outlook In India?
On September 28, INS Khanderi was commissioned by the Indian Navy in Mumbai, where the submarine is based.

The ceremony took place in the presence of Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh, Minister of State for Defence Shri Shripad Naik, Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Shri Arvind Sawant and the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, among other dignitaries.

INS Khanderi was launched in January 2017. It is the second Scorpène submarine –of the P75 program– to enter operational service in the Indian Navy. First of class, INS Kalvari, was commissioned in December 2017. Six ships were ordered in 2005 and are due to be entirely build in Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in Mumbai. The fourth Scorpène –INS Vela– was launched in May 2019 and all six ships should be operational by 2023.

P75 is a one of a kind project. While based on the French Scorpène design, construction of the Kalvari-class is the responsibility of MDL, who is directly dealing with the Indian Navy for the delivery of the six submarines. Naval Group is acting as a subcontractor for MDL and the whole program benefits from large transfers of technology (TOT) from Naval Group and its French subcontractors. At the peak of the program, around 300 Naval Group employees participated in the P75 project for the training of MDL engineers and technical personnel, either in Mumbai or in Cherbourg.

Now, the French presence in Mumbai is widely reduced, as the Kalvari succeeded its first operational deployments. The P75 production line is therefore reaching its nominal production speed, with only few corrections to be made after the delivery of each new submarine. Indeed, while three months separated INS Kalvari’s delivery to its commissioning, INS Khanderi commissioning occurs just a week after its delivery to the Indian Navy, on September 19.

Make In India on the P75 project

The P75 program is quite unique in the world. Usually, programs conducted under TOT imply that the first ship of a class is either build by the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer, in this case Naval Group in France) or assembled locally with modules from the OEM. While P75 contract was signed in 2005, it was clearly specified that MDL will be in charge of the construction of the submarines’ hulls and the integration of all subparts. The only comparable program in recent history is the Collins-class construction in Australia, even if it was more a localized design and production of a new type of submarine with foreign help rather than the transfer of an existing design.

Even if the contract was signed nine years before the Make In India policy was launched, Naval Group made the commitment to optimized locally sourced engineering, development and investments. With support of its subsidiary Naval Group India, the French industrial group managed to transfer at least 30% of the added value of the submarines to Indian subcontractors.

A tailored-made Scorpène for Indian operational needs

For the moment, Naval Group’s activities in India are mainly focused on the P75 production, alongside the production of gearbox equipment for the P28 corvettes.

Naval Group India, a subsidiary based in Mumbai, employs around 50 persons, including 60% of engineers. Most of them are Indian nationals and they are working on:

  • Detailed design for the P75 submarines,
  • Technical assistance to MDL and the subcontractors of P75,
  • Support of the Make In India.

The engineers at Naval Group India already contributed to the outfitting and the adaptation of the Scorpène design to Indian Navy’s needs. Some obsolescence of the original design had to be processed, and some modification of the design had to be made in order to adapt to specific requirements.

The most visually obvious modification of the Kalvari-class is the presence of an exhaust dilution system at the top of the submarine’s sail. But many other minor modifications were made on the Kalvari-class, mainly internally.

What’s next for Naval Group in India?

Contrary to what happened in Brazil, there is no life cycle cost maintenance contract between Naval Group and MDL or the Indian Navay. According to Indian tradition, the ships’ repair and maintenance responsibility belongs to the Indian Navy after the end of the OEM warranty. The Indian Navy is then free to conduct most of the maintenance in its own facilities and at MDL shipyards.

Nevertheless, Naval Group India, alongside the 43 qualified Indian companies, are expecting a participation in the submarines’ maintenance and repair programs in the following decades. Their skills and expertise on the P75 systems should allow for faster and cheaper maintenance.

In addition, Naval Group India engineers are already working with DRDO for the integration of an Indian designed AIP module. Initially, the 5th and 6th submarine should have received an AIP plug. But due to delays in the propulsion module design at DRDO, it was later decided that the AIP plug will be retrofitted to each Kalvari-class submarine during their first normal refit that occurs every 7 years.

Naval Group and its Indian partners are also competing in any Indian Navy program. They are proposing their Canto and F21 designs for the decoys and heavyweight torpedo project under MII. But Naval Group is also eager to offer its design and industrial knowledge in all major Indian Navy programs, from the Next Generation Missile Vessels corvette to the LHD or aircraft carrier programs.

It was also confirmed to us that Naval Group is interested in taking a stake in MDL, which is now a state-owned enterprise of the Government of India. In 2018, MDL share-sale has been postponed for a first time. Few days ago, the initial public offering (IPO) of MDL has been shelved once again and defered to an unknown date.

What can we expect from Naval Group proposal for P75I ?

Project 75-India is due to be the follow-on of the Kalvari-class. Six new submarines are due to be built in an Indian shipyard under Make In India, meaning that at least 50% of the added value has to be produced in India. At the origin of P75 and P75I, the Indian Navy wanted 24 conventional submarines from two different foreign manufacturers, which could have ended Naval Group’s hopes on the P75I.

But the considerable delays in submarine procurement in India offers new opportunities for the French group. Indeed, multiplication of foreign acquisitions and TOT could only help indigenous designs if the programs succeed one another in a timely fashion. When MDL started the production of the Kalvari-class, the knowledge acquired while building the Shishumar-class in the 1980s was already fading away.

On the contrary, developing a strategic long term partnership with a single OEM could lead to a fast growing local industry and a successful indigenisation program, just like the South Korean KSS-I, KSS-II and KSS-III programs.

Last April, the Indian Navy has issued an Expression of Interest for six submarines under the P75I project. France’s Naval Group, Russsia’s Rosoboronexport, Germany’s TyssenKrupp and Sweden’s Saab are the main contenders in the tender. But the choice of the shipyard is also a major political and industrial concern in this project.

Compared to P75, the P75I submarines will have to be bigger ships, with AIP propulsion, the ability to carry a dozen cruise missiles alongside the torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. Such requirements made the Scorpène unsuitable for the P75I.

Naval Group is therefore thinking about a whole new design for the Project 75I. As Naval News learned from Naval Group officials, “it will neither be a stretched Scorpène derivative, nor a Barracuda family derivative”. French proposal for P75I could then be a new design displacing around 3,000 tons specifically adapted for Indian Navy needs.

While the Scorpène is a best seller in the 2,000 tons-category, the Barracuda design is in a league of its own, in the +5,000 tons-category. A new 3,000 tons ship could fill a gap in Naval Group products family and allow the French company to compete with the Russian Lada-class, Japanese Sōryū-class, Chinese Yuan-class or even Spanish S-80 Plus design.

It is still unclear if such a new design, if selected, will be made solely by Naval Group’s teams or in cooperation with Indian shipbuilders.

Nevertheless, Naval Group officials confirmed that, in order to achieve the 50% of MII, the TOT can’t focus solely on design work and mechanical production. The transfer of technology will then have to include the Combat Management System that is currently one of the key features of Naval Group submarines.

INS Khanderi by the numbers

67,56 m
+10 m with the future AIP Plug

-Up to 52 days

Surface : 1615 tons
Submerged: 1775 tons

-Up to 44 men
-High level of automation allowing the crew to be limited to 25, not counting
-Ability to carry and operate commandos

-6 x 533mm tubes
-Up to 18 heavyweight weapons.
-SM-39 Exocet antiship missile (MBDA)
-SUT 266 Legacy heavyweight torpedo (Atlas Elektronik)


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