Since the Indian Navy initiated the process to acquire six stealth submarines under Program – 75I, through the introduction of a RFI, several global maritime warfare solution providers have flocked to the country, offering their latest underwater combatants to the Navy.

Amongst these manufactures is French based Naval Group, which is offering the Navy a highly advanced version of its Scorpene submarines which comes equipped with an AIP system. Having already engaged with the Indian market through Program – 75, Naval Group enjoys a clear lead in the competition.

Life of Soldiers recently interacted with Mr. Bernard Buisson, Managing Director, Naval Group India, to gain a deeper insight into his company’s offer to the Indian Navy.

An extract from the Interview has been reproduced here –

LoS – The Indian Navy has recently issued a RFI (Request for Information) for the much delayed Program – 75I. Naval Group is believed to be one of the first companies to have received the RFI. Could you shed light about the progress your company has made with the tender ever since?

BB – On P75I, we responded to the RFI during October 2017 with solution which is fully compliant with Indian Navy’s technical requirements and expectation of high level of performances. This includes the maximum usage of indigenous content, transfer of technology and advanced weapon systems.

We have proposed our best technical solution to Indian Navy in line with their requirements for additional and enhanced performances. Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) and Land Attack Missiles are one of few of such features that are well known to be in their wish list. We believe that it is a very pragmatic and practical choice that Indian Navy has in mind.

LoS – With the Strategic Partnership (SP) model in place, global manufacturers are scouting for local partners. Naval Group, however, has a unique status having already partnered MDL for Program – 75. Could you please detail the working partnership you have been able to draft with the Shipyard and also the technology infusion that has taken place.

BB – Through P75 program, today MDL is undoubtedly one of the few centers of excellence around the world having comprehensive, knowledge, infrastructure and manpower dedicated to submarine building. This remains a great achievement in frame of real submarine building capabilities for all the boats made at MDL and of course will remain an intangible know-how for years to come for MDL in building more submarines.

This Transfer of Technology (ToT) from Naval Group to MDL encompasses transferring manufacturing capabilities and expertise in quality control for several tasks including the safety dive. This has resulted in training and qualification of skilled local man power.

We can clearly believe that the investment needed for any future submarine building in India is already done by MDL. The required infrastructure, tools and most importantly the skilled technical team exists in this Mumbai based shipyard. All these have been through patience and huge investment patronage of the Government of India.

Based on our own long term experience in submarine building, we at Naval Group strongly believe such key competence can be definitively lost if not nurtured. It is very important to make sure that the shipyard continues to manufacture submarines over decades, without lapse in order to preserve, nurture and build upon their expertise and qualified skilled man power. Consequently Naval Group will be happy to maintain the collaboration with MDL through consistent ToT.

Mr. Bernard Buisson, DCNS India

LoS – Through Program – 75, Naval Group already has a strong presence in India. How do you think this will help your company in gaining a lead over your competitors in the run up to P-75I tender? Further, will the existing manufacturing facilities and technical capabilities reflect in the financial offers for the P-75I tender?

BB – Naval Group has been a pioneer offering best in class naval technologies for our customer adapted to their high-tech requirements. This expertise and experience spanning 400 years as designer, integrator and builder of complex naval platforms has always been the unique edge over our competitors. We are also only ones who have successfully executed program with main Indian shipyard MDL through ToT tackling extreme complexities and technical challenges of building a submarine.

In addition we believe that our close cooperation as technology partner for P75 has given us a unique opportunity to create value based entity in India. This entity in form of NAVAL GROUP India has been successful in creating sound and sustainable industrial ecosystem of Indian subcontractors to execute quality defence manufacturing for the submarine. In addition we have trained and highly motivated Indian engineers, working closely with our engineering offices at Cherbourg and also supporting MDL in submarine building. All these competence and ecosystem needs to be preserved, nurtured and extended through future contracts.

LoS – A major part of Indian Navy’s technological demand under Program – 75I is the need for an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system. What is Naval Group’s expertise in this field and what are the capabilities of the system? Further if requested, will your company be willing to part with the technology and to sustain the efforts of Indian developmental agencies that have already been engaged in development of these systems?

BB – AIP is a strong requirement of the Indian Navy. Its development in India is in line with Naval Group’s objective to continuously increase the indigenous content of the P75 submarines. Naval Group has always been supportive of the indigenous DRDO AIP being developed at NMRL.

We are indeed keen to have the DRDO AIP integrated in the P75 submarines sooner or later. Naval Group is advising NMRL on the safety requirement so that they can adapt their technology accordingly. Also, as the designer of the Scorpene submarine, we have been requested by the DRDO to study the functional and physical integration of DRDO AIP into the Scorpene submarine. Integrating DRDO AIP technology will require increasing the hull by several meters. This will be achieved by adding a hull section (plug-in) that will accommodate the specific AIP equipment and all other systems, equipment and components which are required to interface with the rest of the ship.

In addition, it is worth mention that Naval Group is the only company in the world with vast experiences in submarine design, both conventional and nuclear, having developed two different AIP technologies with the latest fuel cell based for which we own 40 patents. Based on our rich experience in propulsion and complex system integration, spirit of our involvement in the AIP topic will be by making available locally all the know-how required to safely integrate the DRDO AIP system in P75 submarines, including the support of MDL shipyard for integration, setting to work and testing of the AIP plug-in sections, and to provide Indian Navy with indigenous maintenance support.

Naval Group’s Tryst with Make in India under Program -75

LoS – The Kalvari-class submarines are the maiden Made-in-India submarines. What has been the Make in India efforts that Naval Group and MDL partnership has witnessed to make this possible?

BB – Under the guidance of MDL and Indian Navy, Naval Group in India has implemented an indigenisation program around P75. Through this program, qualification and TOT for equipment has been transferred to Indian companies to create an Ecosystem of MSMEs for manufacturing of mechanical and electrical supplies. We have qualified their processes and manufacturing capacities along with training their experienced engineers for creating a value based industrial partnership.

These achievements cumulatively empower the indigenous submarine building capacities of India and will mark 2017 as the year of submarines in line with Golden Jubilee of Indian Navy’s Submarine Arm. Building upon the acquired knowledge and expertise, more technology transfers in equipment and design, under the ‘Make in India’ and DPP 2016, will be achieved through future submarine programs. NAVAL GROUP is really keen to continue to support them and to transfer “Know How” and “Know Why”. It is our genuine intention rather than just talking.

LoS – Could you detail a few updates about Program – 75, what is the current delivery timeframe?

BB – The first Scorpene, christened ‘INS Kalvari’, set afloat last year, has completed all its sea trials and was delivered in September 2017 is now awaiting its commissioning in a few weeks. It is an incredible success story of Make in India submarine – more so after it attained combat readiness, having fired the anti-ship missiles and torpedo.

The second in the series called ‘Khanderi’ was launched beginning this year and has also commenced its sea trials.