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France Pulls Out of P-75I Project

Context:

Recently, France’s Naval Group, one of five shortlisted Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) for the Navy’s P-75 India (P-75I) project to build six conventional submarines within the country, announced it would not bid for the project. The reason, Naval Group said, was that the Request for Proposal (RFP) “requires that the fuel cell AIP be sea proven, which is not the case for us yet since the French Navy does not use such a propulsion system.”

  • AIP refers to Air-Independent Propulsion, a technology for conventional — that is, non-nuclear — submarines.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the P-75I project?
  2. What is the status of the project?
  3. Why does the Navy want AIP subs?

What is the P-75I project?

  • In June 1999, the Cabinet Committee on Security approved a 30-year plan for the Navy to indigenously build and induct 24 submarines by 2030.
  • In the first phase, two lines of production were to be established — the first, P-75; the second, P-75I.
  • Each line was to produce six submarines.
  • The contract for P-75 was signed in 2005 with the Naval Group, then known as DCNS, in partnership with Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL).
  • The first Kalvari Class (Scorpene Class) submarine under the project was commissioned in December 2017. Another five submarines have been built since; the final one, Vagsheer, was launched last month, and will be commissioned by late 2023.

What is the status of the project?

  • On the P-75I, the navy is a little behind the times.
  • The project is in trouble; the Naval Group has already announced its withdrawal, and sources say the Russian and Spanish companies may also abandon their bids.
  • The requirement to demonstrate a sea-proven fuel cell AIP is one of the problems.
  • Some manufacturers may have the technology, but it has yet to be tested at sea.
  • Another issue for OEMs is technology transfer, which is a necessary part of the process.

Why does the Navy want AIP subs?

  • AIP technology allows a conventional submarine to stay submerged for a substantially longer period of time than normal diesel-electric submarines.
  • All conventional submarines must surface in order to run their generators, which recharge the batteries that allow the boat to operate underwater.
  • However, the more often a submarine appears, the more likely it is to be discovered.
  • AIP allows a submarine to stay submerged for more than a fortnight, whereas diesel-electric vessels can only stay below for two to three days.
  • IP has a force multiplier impact on a diesel electric submarine’s lethality because it increases the boat’s submerged endurance by many times.

Significance of P-75 I

  • ‘Make in India’ Projects: It will serve to facilitate faster and more significant absorption of technology and create a tiered industrial ecosystem for submarine construction in India.
  • Self-Reliance: From a strategic perspective, this will help reduce current dependence on imports and gradually ensure greater self-reliance and dependability of supplies from indigenous sources.
  • Securing Indo-Pacific: China is increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and this is creating pressure on the Indian Navy in sprucing up the submarine arm.

Source: Indian Express

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August 2022
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