Naval Group shows support to MDL partnership for stealth submarines

French defence major, Naval Group, which in collaboration with an Indian government shipyard, Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL), to produce advanced Scorpene class submarines for India, today strongly supported partnering with MDL again for manufacturing India’s future generation of stealth submarines. Naval Group, which is in the fray with three other foreign firms for providing these new submarines, in a conversation with ET explained that MDL has the requisite team, management, infrastructure and capability to produce these submarines, in comparison to any other shipyard in India.

The development is in relation to the Project 75 (I), which is the follow-on submarine program of the earlier one, Project 75, whose six submarines are being currently produced by MDL through technology transfer from Naval Group, formerly known as DCNS. In mid-July this year, the Indian Navy issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the Project 75 (I) program to six Original Equipment Manufacturers- Naval Group, Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, Sweden’s Saab, Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Spain’s Navantia. Sources added that Japan and Spain are out of the fray.

Bernard G Buisson, the Managing Director of Naval Group in India, told ET that on October 16 the firm responded to the RFI, stating that it is compliant with the navy’s requirements. This includes the maximum usage of indigenous content, transfer of technology and weapon systems.

“In a parallel process, the government has to select the Strategic Partner (an Indian firm), but as far as we know this has not started. We are waiting for this selection,” said Buisson.

On being asked if Naval Group sees itself partnering with MDL again for the Project 75 (I) program, Buisson said yes adding that, “Although we are open to collaborating with any shipyard selected by the MOD and navy, but today MDL have proved that they can build submarines. So the investment in this regard is done. They have the team, management and infrastructure to build more submarines. They can build 11 submarines at different stages of construction in Mumbai. They have the same standard as a French shipyard. We will be pleased to continue our strong cooperation with MDL.”

He added, “It will be sad if MDL loses this competency to build submarines if they have no more work beyond the Project 75 program. It has happened earlier.”

The Project 75 (I) program is the first project under the Defence Procurement Procedure’s Strategic Partnership model, which aims at enhancing indigenous defence manufacturing capabilities through the private sector. When asked if selection of MDL- a government shipyard- would be a loss to the private shipyards- of L&T and Reliance Naval Engineering Limited- in regard to the procurement model, Buisson said, “It is a good thing to increase the capability of the private industry, but it is also important to maintain what has been created. The Defence Ministry should find a win-win situation of how private companies can be incorporated in this approach.”

Meanwhile, French Defence Minister Florence Parly will visit MDL facility in Mumbai and view Kalvari, the first Scorpene class submarine which is likely to commissioned by end of this year. “She will be given a briefing by the Western Naval Command,” said Buisson. Parly is also likely to discuss the two submarine programs with her counterpart, Nirmala Sitharaman.

By: ET

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