With Launch of INS Vela Submarine, India’s Project 75 Gains Momentum
(Source: Forecast International; issued May 06, 2019)
by Daniel Darling
After an initial delay of five years in building the first Scorpene submarine, India’s naval industry is keeping to the original rate of construction for the following boats, and INS Vela is the fourth boat of this class of six to be launched. (NG photo)
The Indian Navy launched the fourth of its eventual six Scorpene submarines in its Project 75 effort on May 6. The launch marks an inflection point for a program that began in October 2005 when – after four years of negotiations – India inked a $3.5 billion contract with French shipbuilder DCNS (now Naval Group) for six diesel-electric attack submarines (SSKs) of the Scorpene design, plus technology transfer and localized production involving Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL).

At the time of the contract signing, a tentative delivery schedule called for the first submarine to be delivered within five years.

However, by April 2010, the Indian government publicly admitted that the Project 75 program had been hit by massive slippages, which, in turn, would adversely impact the Navy’s underwater combat capabilities.

Like many of India’s large-scale defense projects, Project 75 fell victim to defense inflation stemming from cost growth in crucial parts. The byproduct of these rising costs became a delay in procurement of necessary components. Coupled with problems in absorbing the new technologies and augmenting industrial infrastructure at Mazagon Dock, the end result became delivery schedule slippage.

Due to these repeated delays, the delivery of the first submarine – INS Kalvari – slipped by almost five years, pushing its handover out to September 21, 2017. The sub was finally commissioned into Indian Navy service on December 14, 2017.

The delays with Project 75 exemplify the larger issues with India’s procurement approach and ambitious plans to modernize its armed forces in order to deter a potential collusive threat from neighboring rivals China and Pakistan. Goals such as broad artillery replacement for the Army and a revitalized and upgraded combat aircraft fleet for the Air Force remain ongoing decades after initiated, with new assets only added in spurts while aging, obsolete platforms continue in service.

In the Navy’s case, a long-standing 30-year diesel-electric submarine building plan approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in 1999 called for the introduction of 12 new conventional submarines by 2012, followed by another 12 by 2030. However, that plan fell way off track, with just two new submarines – one of which is a nuclear-powered vessel, the SSBN Arihant – inducted through 2018.

With the Project 75 build finally gathering production momentum, however, a new class of submarines will soon be filling the Navy’s ranks. All six submarines are now either commencing sea trials or in advanced stages of manufacturing at MDL. The INS Vela was just launched; only the INS Vagir and INS Vagsheer remain to be launched, while the second and third submarines of the class, INS Khanderi and INS Karanj, are expected to be commissioned in June and December, respectively.

Completion of Project 75 will mark a key milestone for the Indian Navy as its next major program, Project 75(I), was finally cleared by the country’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in January.

This program – which calls for six diesel-electric attack submarines (SSKs) featuring air-independent propulsion and land-attack capability – falls under the Strategic Partnership (SP) category of the latest Defence Procurement Procedures.

Local media reports indicate that India’s Defence Ministry will initiate a global tender before the end of 2019 with the aim of selecting a foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and shortlisting the necessary local manufacturer to tie up with the global bidders.

This matching of OEM and local industry partner is expected to take two to three years, after which the selected strategic partners will be expected to bid for the 6-ship SSK tender. With downselection, then price negotiation and contract finalization to follow, the lead-in submarine will not arrive for at least ten years.

Thus, Project 75(I) constitutes yet another lengthened procurement timeline under the Modi government’s Make in India initiative. But at least the Indian Navy will have its six Scorpene-design submarines to operate until then, as it confronts a growing Chinese submarine presence in the Indian Ocean Region.


Launch of Fourth Scorpene Class Submarine - VELA
(Source: Indian Ministry of Defence; issued May 06, 2019)
Vela, the fourth Scorpene class submarine being constructed by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited for the Indian Navy, was launched today, on 06 May 2019, by Mrs Veena Ajay Kumar, wife of Dr Ajay Kumar, IAS, Secretary Defence Production, who was the Chief Guest on the occasion. VAdm AK Saxena, CWP&A was also present during the launching ceremony.

This event reaffirms the steps taken by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL) in the ongoing ‘Make In India’ programme, which is being actively implemented by the Department of Defence Production (MoD).

The submarine was towed to Mumbai Port Trust, for separation from the pontoon, after which she will undergo rigorous trials and tests, both in harbour and at sea before delivery to the Indian Navy.

The contract for the construction and Transfer-of-Technology for six Scorpene class submarines in series, has M/s Naval Group (formerly DCNS) of France as ‘Collaborator’ and are being built by MDL.

Cmde Rakesh Anand, Chairman and Managing Director, MDL said on the occasion that with the launching of the P15 B Destroyer ‘Imphal’ on 20 April 2019 and the, launching of Vela on 06 May 2019, were indeed some of the major events for MDL so far this year.

Presently Eight Warships and five submarines are under construction at MDL. MDL is one of the India’s leading shipyards with a capacity to meet requirements of the Indian Navy.

The Scorpene class of submarines can undertake multifarious tasks typically undertaken by any modern submarine which include anti-surface as well as anti-submarine warfare. The transfer of technology involves appropriate technical support by Naval Group to MDL in the field of construction, integration and tests of the submarines in India which is achieved through transfer of technical data package to MDL through information system as well as on job training to MDL’s personnel on critical technologies.

Leveraging the experience and the transfer-of-technology of the Scorpene project, with enhanced and upgraded infrastructure, MDL, is ready for undertaking construction of the future submarines.


Launching of the Vela, the Fourth Indian SCORPENE-Class Submarine Entirely Made In India
(Source: Naval Group; issued March 16, 2019)
MUMBAI, India --- On May 6th 2019, INS Vela, the fourth of P75 SCORPENE-class submarine, totally built by Indian shipyard Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) through years of technology transfer and partnership with Naval Group, was launched by Smt Veena Ajay Kumar, wife of Dr Ajay Kumar, IAS, Secretary Defence Production, Ministry of Defence.

After a series of remarkable events such as the commissioning of INS Kalvari in December 2017 and launching of the Karanj (the third submarine) in January 2018,the Vela submarine is the fourth of the series of the Scorpene-class submarine ordered by India in 2005 to be launched. After this launch, the trained and skilled MDL team will undertake the integration of the equipment and machinery onboard, right before the beginning of the sea trials. This event highlights the success of indigenous submarines construction programme of the Government of India. These submarines have been completely built by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) through technology transfer and partnership with Naval Group, in line with Indian Government’s “Make in India” policy.

This series of six submarines have been fitted with a number of equipment, built in India by qualified and highly trained industrial MSMEs which form the sound base of submarine building ecosystem of India.

“Naval Group is proud to reiterate its long-term commitment to India. The P75 program is the key element of the strategic partnership built in domain of submarine building, over the last decades between India and France. This launch represents a new milestone for this unique and one-of-a-kind industrial program and illustrates the self-reliance of Indian Navy”, emphasised by Massi Begous, SVP of the international industrial development at Naval Group.

P75 submarine program demonstrates the success of the large transfer of technology, given the complexity of building submarines along with a high indigenous content. By building upon and nurturing these know-how and skills in India, Naval Group is committed to significantly enhance the level of indigenisation in future projects of the Indian Navy supported by the Indian Government.

The SCORPENE, a modern, high-performant, and stealthy submarine

The SCORPENE is a 2,000-ton conventional-propulsion submarine designed and developed by Naval Group for all types of mission, such as surface vessel warfare, anti-submarine warfare, long-range strikes, special operations or intelligence gathering. Extremely stealthy and fast, it has a level of operating automation that allows a limited number of crew, which reduces its operating costs significantly.

Its combat edge is highlighted by the fact that it has 6 weapon launching tubes, 18 weapons (torpedoes, missiles, mines).

With 14 submarines sold internationally by Naval Group, the SCORPENE is an essential reference product in the area of conventional attack submarines (SSK) for Navies across the globe. The product is easily adapted for improvements requested by any naval customers. The progressive improvement through dedicated and experienced designers of Naval Group ensures this seamless advances and modern technology integrations.

Naval Group is a European leader in naval defence. As an international high-tech company, Naval Group uses its extraordinary know-how, unique industrial resources and capacity to arrange innovative strategic partnerships to meet its customers’ requirements. The group designs, builds and supports submarines and surface ships. It also supplies services to shipyards and naval bases. The group reports revenues of €3.6 billion and has a workforce of 14,860 (data for 2018).

Naval Group India is a 100 % owned subsidiary of Naval Group, which is headquartered in Paris, France. Established in September 2008 as DCNS India, it has its presence felt in 2 major cities: Mumbai and New Delhi. The main purpose of Naval Group to be in India would be to support the Indigenisation through ‘Make in India’ activities for Scorpene submarine equipment, to develop the Indian defence eco-system, as well as to develop design services in India with talented Indian engineers.


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