The Indian defense ministry is now looking towards Germany to buy torpedoes for its six under-construction Scorpene submarines.
Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar is on a three-day visit to Germany where he will be exploring the option of getting Seahake torpedoes for the submarines.
While the official purpose of Defence Secretary’s visit is to attend the decade-old annual India-German Higher Defence Committee Meeting, he will also be visiting German defence firm, ThyssenKrup’s manufacturing unit at Kiel. Seahake torpedoes are made by Atlas Electronik, a joint venture between ThyssenKrup and EADS. Atlast Electronik had participated in the Defence Expo at Goa in March this year, Indian Express reported Tuesday.
Last month, defence ministry had withdrawn the tender for purchasing 98 Black Shark torpedoes for Scorpene submarines, which Whitehead Alenia SistemiSubacquei (WASS), a subsidiary of the VVIP helicopter scam-tainted Italian defence conglomerate Finmeccanica had won during the UPA regime.
If no other alternative is selected, the Navy would be inducting the first of these Project 75 submarines, INS Kalavari into service later this year without its main anti-ship attack system.
Under Project 75, six conventional submarines are being built at the Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) with technology from French firm DCNS. The total cost of Project 75 is estimated to be more than Rs 25,000 crore ($3.7 billion).
Questioned during his visit to MDL late last month, Parrikar had told reporters that the defence ministry was already looking for alternatives to Black Shark: “For purpose of secrecy, commercial importance of price, I will not inform you the alternative at this stage. Let the decision be taken by the government, then it will come (to you)”.
Notwithstanding the pressing need to get torpedoes, sources say that there are a couple of problems with acquiring the German Seahake torpedo. Seahake had participated in field trials along with WASS’s Black Shark torpedoes and was not found fit for selection. Selecting it now would set a wrong precedent, and could lead to legal challenges.
Moreover, MDL has already customised the six Scorpene class submarines to integrate its fire control system with the Black Sharks. Integrating Sehakes with the submarines will not only cost extra but also take more time, sources said.
During his visit, the defence secretary will also be discussing the German proposal to build six submarines in India under Project 75(I). Defence ministry has been looking for a foreign partner to commence its production of six more submarines.
Sources told The Indian Express that German defence minister had last month sent an official declaration of intent (DOI) to his Indian counterpart, expressing ThyssenKrup’s interest in building six submarines in India. The German DOI included a proposal to design and build its HDW Class 214 submarines under Make in India.
According to sources, having lost the $40 billion Australian submarine deal to the French company DCNS, ThyssenKrup is looking for new orders to keep its production lines going. The German firm had earlier supplied HDW Class 209 submarines to the Indian navy, which are still in service.