The news about building the 6 P-75I subs entirely in India is fraught with danger.Our total sub building experience barring the most heavily classified ATV project,with generous assistance from Russia,has been an unmitigated disaster.The U-209/1500 subs took aeons to build at MDL and after we mastered the art of sub building highly sophisticated German U-boats,we simply threw the skills we had learnt into the sea!
We then decided that we would not acquire the first 2 Scorpenes from abroad,after torturous negotiations over the price ,but build the lot at a greedy MDL,which had to go to sub-school once again to learn it "A,B,C..".The splendid manner in which the contracts were signed forgot about the timely supply of vital components,not to mention torpedoes,that lucky winner still not decided,without which the subs will go to sea unable to even sink a bumboat! This great deal is now running 5+ years late,costing almost as much as a nuclear boat (Akula 10yr lease),infinitely more capable,and we now want to use the "Men in Black" memory erasing device and start farcically all over again with a pvt. yard (which one?),where none of the country's pvt. yards have ever built a sub before (only hulls and components)!
While applauding the decision to build subs in pvt. yards instead of appeasing an incompetent MDL or HSL,are we not running a grave risk yet again in following the Scorpene pattern for disaster? So how will we build these subs pray? Let's examine the issue in detail.
1.Where will the design come from? (Great MMRCA style competition likely,taking "X" number of years) 2.Where will the weaponry come from? (Russia will not allow some of its weaponry aboard a non-Russian sub and vice versa and we don't manufacture anything totally indigenous,just venturing out into torpedoes) 3.Where will the components come from? (How much of the sub will be imported from abroad? One can easily make out a huge list from 'scopes,combat systems,TAS,engines,etc.)
4.Where will it be built? (which pvt. yard? L&T would be favourites) 5.How will it be built? (Hand held by the foreign entity like our experience with the Scorpene where the Spanish just packed their bags one day and said "adios"?) 6.AIP system,which one? (We've yet to evaluate the various foreign systems for the Scorpene alone and have yet to develop and perfect our own) 7.What is the cost per sub? (for just 6 subs the cost of indigenisation of all the components would be higher for just 6 subs,possibly making it even more expensive that acquiring an Akula!) 8.What is the time schedule?
The amount of coordination and confusion in building a foreign design for the first time in India-and the sub certainly will have only IN specific variations in the design (like the U-209s),cannot be underestimated.Lastly,the schedule of timely funding for the entire programme has to be scrupulously maintained by the GOI/MOD.It matters little if the subs were built in DPSU yards as there is little or no accountability whatsoever,but for a pvt. yard,timely funding is crucial for it to succeed as it has to import the various components.One cannot see the first of these subs ever kissing salt water at the earleist 7 years from now. This does absolutely zero to mitigating the current sub capability and numbers crisis either. Another long-running TV serial appears to be in the offing.We'll have to see whether it is played out as a comedy,action thriller,or melodramatic tragedy Bollywood style.
PS:There is still no guarantee that the subs will be built in a pvt. yard.Watch how the decision will be delayed and delayed until MDL say that they can do the business now that the Scorpene work is nearing an end.
While we have mastered to an extent N-sub building,we should instead set up a parallel line for more N-subs,SSGNs to complement our SSBNs in the pipeline.These will be far more capable and cost wise more effective than building exorbitantly expensive conventional AIP subs.It would be far better for acquiring a design of a smaller cost-effective AIP design for the littorals,while building steadily creating a nuclear sub navy ,which is the real backbone and strength of any major great power/superpower navy.The ATV design is already with us.Modifying this would be an easy task for an SSGN. This would save enormous time and money and be far more indigenous than what is planned.