EXCLUSIVE

Saab-Kockums pulls out of the $6.3 Billion Indian Navy competition to build new line of submarines

Among Indian contenders for prime bidder, Adani ties up with Government-owned HSL shipyard in surprise move

September 25, 2019 By Vishal Thapar Illustration(s): By Kockums (Saab Group)
SURPRISE WITHDRAWAL: With Kockum's A26 no longer on offer, the choice of platforms for India's next line of submarines narrows down to five options

Sweden's Saab has pulled out of the $6.3 Billion Indian Navy programme to build a new line of diesel-electric submarines under Project 75 (India).

Saab and its Kockums division were among the six foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) invited to participate in the programme under the ambitious Strategic Partnership Model aimed at building capacity in Indian Industry to manufacture major military platforms.

This reporter has learnt from reliable sources that Saab has not responded to the Expression of Interest (EoI) issued to it earlier this year for its A26 submarine being made for the Swedish Navy. The last date for submission of response to the EoI by the OEMs was September 24.

Sources link Saab's pullout to its multiple disappointments in the Indian defence procurement competitions, including the fighter aircraft and VSHORAD programmes

Sources link Saab's pullout to its multiple disappointments in the Indian defence procurement competitions, including the fighter aircraft and VSHORAD programmes.

The others OEMs who have responded are Navantia of Spain with an offer for the S-80 (Issac Peral class) submarine, Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems of Germany for the Type 218 (Invincible Class), Rosboronexport of Russia for the Amur, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering of South Korea for the KSS-3 and the Naval Group of France for a larger version of the Scorpene submarine.

The other big surprise in the competition so far is the bid by the Adani Group in partnership with the Ministry of Defence-owned Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL). The Adani bid was reported first by SP's Naval Forces recently ( http://www.spsnavalforces.com/news/?id=229&h=Adani-makes-surprise-bid-in-$6.3-B-Indian-Navy-programme-to-build-6-submarines-under-Project-75I )

The others OEMs who have responded are Navantia of Spain with an offer for the S-80 (Issac Peral class) submarine, Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems of Germany for the Type 218 (Invincible Class), Rosboronexport of Russia for the Amur, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering of South Korea for the KSS-3 and the Naval Group of France for a larger version of the Scorpene submarine.

HSL is also in the competition on its own, having submitted a response to the separate EoI to Indian companies wanting to compete for selection as a Strategic Partner. Under this process, shortlisted Indian companies will be required to tie-up with a shortlisted OEM to submit a bid in response to the tender. The OEM is intended to be the technology partner, and the Indian company the prime.

Of the five Indian companies or groups which responded to an open EoI (as opposed to select invitations to OEMs through a parallel process), the Adani group was the only one which is not known to have ownership of a shipyard or shipbuilding capability. It has entered the fray in partnership with a Defence PSU. The inference is that the bidding by this Gujarat-based group - a recent entrant into the Defence and Aerospace Industry - has the blessings of the Government.

The others Indian companies in the reckoning for the Strategic Partner shortlist are Mazagon Dock Limited (Mumbai), Larsen & Toubro (Katupalli shipyard), Reliance Naval & Engineering Ltd (Pipavav shipyard) and HSL (Vizag, on its own as well).

Under Project 75 (I), the Indian Navy is seeking an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarine for greater underwater endurance, and a more potent land attack capability with longer-range missiles than those available on its Scorpene (Kalvari) class submarines.

"We are aware that the Indian Navy wants additional and enhanced performance and capability in their future submarine after the Kalvari class. AIP and land attack missiles are some of the features known to be on the Navy's wishlist," a top executive representing an OEM in the fray told SP's Naval Forces.

The capability upgrade will also make the new line of submarines bigger than the Scorpenes which are now under construction (at MDL) and delivery.

Now with the responses of both Indian companies and foreign OEMs in, the field is set for the competition to unfold.

In accordance with the process stipulated under Chapter 7 of the Defence Procurement Procedure 2016, the Indian Navy will now submit the Indian companies to technical and financial gates in the evaluation process. Those who qualify will be shortlisted. In a parallel process, the shortlisting process will be applied to the OEMs too on whether they meet the Navy's service requirements.

Once both the shortlists are ready, the tender will be issued to the Indian companies, which would each need to bid in collaboration with a shortlisted OEM.

Project 75(I) is the second programme under the SP Model. The first is the $3 Billion acquisition of 111 Naval Utility Helicopters.