NEW DELHI: In a bid towards building a formidable blue-water Navy for the future, the Modi government in India has approved the construction of six nuclear-powered submarines and seven stealth frigates, which together will cost about Rs1 lakh crore (INR), The Times of India reports.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has taken these decisions with “critical necessity” for India to bolster its “overall deterrence capability” in the Indian Ocean region, particularly its primary area of strategic interest stretching from the Persian Gulf to Malacca Strait.
Under the over Rs 50,000 crore ‘Project-17A’ for stealth frigates, four will be constructed at Mazagon Docks in Mumbai and three in Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers in Kolkata. “The contract will be inked with MDL and GRSE this month itself, with an initial payment of Rs 4,000 crore,” said a source.
The new multi-mission frigates will be larger, faster and stealthier than the Shivaliks as well as packed with more weapons and sensors to operate in “a multi-threat environment”.
The complex project for the nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) will take longer.
After the CCS approval, technical parameters or naval staff qualitative requirements (NSQRs) will now be drafted for the over 6,000-tonne submarines.
The SSNs are likely to be constructed at the secretive ship-building centre (SBC) in Vizag, where India’s first three SSBNs (nuclear-powered submarines with nuclear ballistic missiles) are being built to complete the country’s nuclear weapons triad.
Nuclear-powered submarines are much deadlier than diesel-electric submarines since they do not need to surface every few days to get oxygen to recharge their batteries.
“SSNs, which usually carry only conventional missiles, can swiftly and quietly undertake long-range patrols. They can run at high speeds like 30 knots for much longer distances, hunting for targets and gathering intelligence,” said an expert.
Armed with 300km range Klub-S land-attack cruise missiles and advanced torpedoes, INS Chakra can be a potent ‘hunter-killer’ of enemy submarines and warships as well as provide effective protection to a fleet at sea.
Modi vows to end India status as top defence importer
Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed Wednesday to end India’s status as the world’s number one defence importer, saying he wanted 70% of hardware to be manufactured domestically by the turn of the decade.
Speaking at the start of a major aviation industry conference, Modi told hundreds of foreign and local businessmen that his government would favour domestic firms when awarding defence contracts as part of a larger push to boost India’s manufacturing sector.
“We have the reputation as the largest importer of defence equipment in the world,” the prime minister said at the biennial Aero India show in the southern city of Bangalore.
“That may be music to the ears of some of you here. But this is one area where we would not like to be number one,” he added.
“We are reforming our defence procurement policies and there will be a clear preference for the equipment manufactured in India.”
India, which has long been the world’s largest buyer of defence equipment, is in the midst of a multi-billion-dollar upgrade of its ageing military hardware and recently lifted a cap on foreign investment in defence.
While his right-wing government has pledged to push forward with planned military purchases, which stalled under the previous centre-left Congress administration, Modi is determined that does not come at the expense of the domestic defence industry.
The prime minister said he wanted domestically made equipment to account for 70% of the procurement budget within five years, up from the current 40%, in what he said would be a major boon to the economy.
“A nation with a strong defence industry will not only be more secure. It will also reap rich economic benefits,” said Modi.
Modi also said he wanted global firms to invest in India, for example by transferring some technology to local firms, as part of negotiating their lucrative deals to sell hardware.
He said India’s offset policy, which requires foreign contractors to invest a percentage of the value of their deal in India, needed further reform.
“I want our offsets policy not as a means to export low-end products, but to acquire state-of-the art technology and skills in core areas of priority,” Modi said.
The five-day show, which is held at an air base on the northern outskirts of the city, attracts the bosses of hundreds of aviation and defence firms.
The United States has the largest contingent this year, with 64 companies including Boeing, followed by France, Britain, Russia and Israel.
France’s Rafale will be among fighter jets, transport and other planes showcased at the air show as the country attempts to seal a long-delayed $12-billion deal to supply 126 of the jets to India.
France’s defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, is due in India next week to discuss the deal.
India chose French company Dassault Aviation in January 2012 for exclusive negotiations for the jets but successive deadlines to complete one of the world’s biggest defence contracts have slipped by.
Indian newspapers reported this month that the deal had become stuck in a disagreement about prices.
Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon is attending the air show as the country also attempts to grab a larger stake of India’s military modernisation plans.
Reacting to Modi’s speech, the Israeli embassy said the country was open to technology transfer and joint production of hardware with India.
“It’s a great opportunity to expand the already-close cooperative relationship that we have with India,” embassy spokesperson Ohad Horsandi told AFP.
The United States displaced traditional ally Russia as India’s top supplier of armaments in 2013 and Washington and New Delhi renewed their 10-year Defence Framework Agreement during US President Barack Obama’s visit last month aimed at fostering stronger trade ties.