Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Reliance defense teams up with Russia to build nuclear powered submarines

Reliance to carter Indian navy’s demand for six indigenously developed nuclear submarines.

    Russia one of India’s oldest ally, the nation which has catered to India’s various needs. Russia has supplied India with the most sophisticated technologies to India, not only has Russia been supplier but has turned out to be a key in India’s quest to master various critical technologies. Russia was one of the nations which pitched for India after the Pokran tests. Russia declined to pay heed to the sanctions the western bloc imposed over India soon after the test was made public. 

   Russia was also instrumental in helping India evolve towards a nuclear state. The civil nuclear pacts have received importance right from the soviet era, Russia was the key In India’s quest to nuclear power plants. Most of the nuclear power plants operated by India are mainly because of Russian supplied nuclear reactors which have powered India’s dreams over the years by supplying uninterrupted power to the nation.

      During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the Nixon administration fielded Task Force 74 headed by USS Enterprise off the Bay of Bengal as a show of power. With India’s limited naval reach it would have been impossible to even challenge this force, but it was Russia again to India’s rescue. Russia fielded its nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean blocking any further US assistance to the Pakistani’s. 

   The Indian administration then realized the need for nuclear submarines which could enhance India’s operational reach to a great extend. Even though India started several black projects to fuel their need for a nuclear submarine it was realized only with Russia supplying India, its first nuclear fueled submarine the ‘INS Chakra’ way back in1988. Russia leased its K-43 a Charlie class submarine that served with Indian navy from 1988 to 1991. Displaying its trust in India, in 2011 Russia least yet another nuclear powered submarine to be operated by the Indian navy.  The Indian Navy started operating an advanced Akula class submarine which was cherished as INS Chakra.

The home grown Arihant class nuclear submarine project has gained wings with the first vessel under the program, INS Arihant entering its sea trial phase. Addressing a press meet the Chief of Naval Staff, R K Dhowan had claimed that the sea trials were going very well. It is believed India is contemplating to build three more follow on ships of the class. To counter its diminishing number of underwater force and with China flexing its muscles along the Indian Ocean, 

   India has been forced to look at acquiring more nuclear powered submarines. Indian government has now given its consent to acquire six SSN, these submarines will have to be manufactured in India by a state owned company or a private company under collaborations with a foreign company. Realizing the crippling underwater capabilities of the Indian navy, the new government has fast tracked the Project 75 and Project 75I. Six new Scorpene submarines will be inducted under the P 75 and will acquire six more under P 75I.

       With the demands increasing for the submarine force various Indian based private companies and ship yards have now shown keen interest in working towards building home developed submarines. Mazagon docks have teamed up with DCNS to provide Indian navy with advanced submarines. L&T has also shown keen interest in developing submarines in its ship yard in Tamil Nadu. The newest to join the list is Reliance which has offered to team up with Russian companies in order to provide highly advanced submarines. Reliance boosts of an 18% share in the nation’s biggest ship building yard Pipavav shipyard. 

     Reliance has three subsidiaries, Reliance Defence Systems, Reliance Defence Technologies and Reliance Defence & Aerospace which have varied interests in the Indian defence sector. With its eye on the 10 billion orders for manufacturing six nuclear powered submarines, Reliance is believed to be entering with a Russian shipyard. Russia will offer its technology expertise to manufacture these submarines in India by Reliance. Reliance is now believed to have already negotiated with the Russian defence ministry is expected to be waiting for entering with Joint Venture (JV) with an undisclosed Russian shipyard. Officials from Reliance are believed to have met with the Russian defence minister Sergey Shoigu in Moscow.

    Reliance may also pitch in for the production of stealth frigates under P 17A. The project is believed to be worth around US $ 4 billion. The Modi government has increased the FDI in defence sector to 49 %. With Reliance opting for Russian partnership can be a huge boost to grab the project. Indian navy currently operates Russian origin Kilo submarines. The ‘ Make in India’ will also be a boost for the Reliance formed JV. 

   If a private shipyard masters the process of building nuclear submarines, Indian navies demand along the western and eastern naval boards can be easily catered to.  It has to be seen of a newly formed Reliance JV will be awarded the deal of the battle proven L&T and experience rich Mazagon docks and DCNS. It is also crucial that the Indian navy acquires these submarines at a fastened rate. Public-Private partnership will surely help India build its diminishing submarine force.

Editor - Karthik Kakoor

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