One of the stated aims of Project 75(I) is to make indigenous expertise to “make India the planetary hub for submarine plan and production”, arsenic stated by the MoD successful its property merchandise connected the subject. (Representational image)
By Commodore Anil Jai Singh,
On 20 July, the Ministry of Defence issued the much-awaited and agelong overdue Request for Proposal for the indigenous operation of six accepted diesel-electric submarines (SSK) successful collaboration with an established overseas submarine builder. This follows the support of Rs 43000 crores accorded by the Defence Minister for this programme designated Project 75(I). This is besides the archetypal programme which volition beryllium progressed successful accordance with the Strategic Partnership exemplary introduced successful the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) with the volition of transforming the country’s military-industrial scenery and remains unchanged successful the precocious issued Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020.
Project 75(I) is portion of the 30 Year Plan for indigenous submarine operation which had been approved by the Cabinet Committee connected Security mode backmost successful 1999. It envisaged the operation of 24 SSKs with the archetypal 12 successful collaboration with overseas OEMs by 2012 and the remaining 12 , indigenously thereafter. The purpose of the program was to streamline submarine operation and induction to guarantee modern capableness too consolidating the submarine gathering eco-system wrong the country. This Plan, though inactive extant successful the discourse of submarine construction, has achieved nary of its desired objectives; successful the 21 years that person elapsed, lone 3 submarines person been commissioned and nary much than different 3 volition beryllium commissioned by 2030.
This support truthful presents an accidental to regain the momentum successful indigenous submarine operation and apprehension the widening capableness shortage successful our undersea warfighting capableness which the state tin sick afford. However, it besides presents galore challenges associated with the Strategic Partnership model, the intended grade of Transfer of Technology and the contractual exemplary betwixt the OEM, the chosen Strategic Partner and the Ministry of Defence and the outgo of the programme. However, the astir important situation volition beryllium to guarantee that the Indian Navy, which volition person to run these submarines for the adjacent 4 decades successful a hotly contested maritime information environment, gets the champion and not needfully the cheapest. It is truthful important that this programme is progressed with that being the main objective.
The contented of the RfP to the 2 shortlisted imaginable SPs has enactment the shot successful their court. Of these, 1 volition beryllium selected by the MOD arsenic the strategical partner. Here too, determination is already a contradiction that needs to beryllium addressed. The SP Model is meant to promote backstage assemblage information but successful this case, Mazagon Docks Ltd, Mumbai, 1 of the 2 shortlisted firms, is simply a Defence PSU (which successful a mode of speaking is already a Strategic Partner of the GoI). Creating a competitory concern conscionable for the involvement of doing truthful oregon due to the fact that the process says truthful whitethorn not ever beryllium the champion mode forward. Infact, if the Strategic Partner is so to beryllium strategical and is processing a halfway capableness from a federation gathering perspective, it should beryllium encouraged done an enabling situation to go 1 successful the existent consciousness of the term.
One of the stated aims of Project 75(I) is to make indigenous expertise to “make India the planetary hub for submarine plan and production”, arsenic stated by the MoD successful its property merchandise connected the subject. However, amongst the pitfalls successful achieving this is the rigidity of the process and the inflexibility of the MoD which regards a RfP arsenic a request that is carved successful chromatic and which, if not complied with 100% leads either to disqualification of the OEM oregon astatine times, the retraction of the RfP itself. One of the reasons for this inflexibility is the deficiency of capable expertise successful the MoD’s civilian bureaucracy to recognize the finer details of subject hardware, the complexities of subject operations and desired subject capableness which makes it safer to instrumentality to the written script. Unfortunately, this rigidity has been the undoing of galore acquisition programmes. The Navy, connected the different manus has the experience, the expertise and the champion knowing of the operating environment; it is truthful ideally qualified to determine its request but seldom has the last say.
For this programme to person adjacent the remotest accidental of succeeding, this rigidity volition person to springiness mode to a flexible and adaptable approach. Developing an indigenous capableness with futuristic technologies is an evolutionary process. The 5 overseas OEMs successful the fray person a large woody of acquisition successful exporting submarines and submarine exertion to countries each implicit the satellite but their models whitethorn vary. It would truthful beryllium unrealistic to expect a ‘one size fits all’ attack and could derail the full process. Instead, a consultative attack betwixt the overseas OEMs, the shortlisted SPs, the MoD and the Navy indispensable beryllium encouraged to code the complexities and make an optimum solution for the agelong term.
Another large contented that often afflicts RfPs is the insistence connected proven technology. This whitethorn enactment successful immoderate cases wherever the equipment‘s induction is apt successful the abbreviated word but is counter-productive for ample and analyzable agelong word acquisitions. In the lawsuit of the Project 75(I), adjacent the astir optimistic guesstimate would suggest that the archetypal submarine volition lone participate work successful the aboriginal 2030s astatine the precise earliest. The absorption truthful should beryllium connected futuristic technologies. There is, of course, an constituent of hazard but this tin beryllium mitigated to a ample grade by an adept appraisal of the contiguous signifier of development, the credibility of the steadfast and evaluating the chances of success. There is capable expertise wrong the state to marque a just hazard assessment.
Chapter 7 of the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020, which describes the Strategic Partnership model, stipulates that the L1 bidder (lowest bidder) volition beryllium selected arsenic the Strategic Partner. This attack is fundamentally flawed if the state is seeking futuristic oregon adjacent precocious modern technologies. In this case, the MoD Press merchandise intelligibly states that India is seeking heavy Transfer of Technology (the know-why and not conscionable the know-how) from the overseas OEM to make the indigenous capableness to plan and physique submarines. However, the process mandates that the declaration is awarded to the lowest bidder. These 2 requirements are mutually incompatible and an insistence connected this has the imaginable to jeopardise India’s aboriginal undersea warfighting capableness arsenic good arsenic its aspiration to go a planetary hub for submarine plan and construction. India cannot spend either. Hence, the outgo origin requires acold much deliberation and possibly a much mature and blase method of terms find than a crude L1 fig with each the attendant risk.
The Defence Minister approved a sum of Rs 43000 crores for the programme which, adjacent by the astir blimpish estimation appears to beryllium unrealistically low. This programme envisages the operation of six submarines with modern technology, a analyzable concern model, aggregate contractual obligations, heavy transportation of technology, sharing Intellectual Property (IP), superior non-recurring expenditure, underwriting the hazard constituent and the anticipation of clip and outgo overruns too a big of different imponderables that are bound to originate arsenic the programme progresses. All these person the imaginable to considerably summation the wide outgo and it is hoped that this volition not go a millstone astir the Project’s neck. .
The details of the RFP are not disposable successful the unfastened domain truthful 1 is incapable to remark connected the method specifications highlighted successful the papers oregon the quality of the OEMs to beryllium afloat compliant adjacent though their strengths and weaknesses are well-known worldwide. However, these notwithstanding, the cardinal to the occurrence of this programme volition prevarication successful the Government’s steadfast committedness astatine each signifier (budgetary and otherwise), the MoD’s quality to beryllium flexible successful its approach, the manufacture looking beyond L1 astatine the larger nationalist nonsubjective and the Indian Navy, which volition person to triumph a warfare with these submarines, taking ownership of the programme.
(The writer is Indian Navy Veteran and Vice President, Indian Maritime Foundation. Views expressed are idiosyncratic and bash not bespeak the authoritative presumption oregon argumentation of Financial Express Online.)
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