Germany – Wooing India for subs and fighters
Lobbying for the submarine acquisition programme under P-75I of the Indian Navy has begun in a serious note with the visit of German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen to New Delhi and Mumbai from May 26 to 28, 2015. The request for proposal under the P-75I programme for acquisition of six submarines was released in October last, after years of deliberations in the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The German Defence Minister had extensive interaction with the Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and later the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue of defence and security cooperation. Her visit will be followed by the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in October during which the Chancellor is also expected to raise the issue of acquiring submarines from Germany. India has already acquired four HDW submarines, two and half decades ago and is working perfectly according to Navy sources.
During the later 1980s the Indian Navy was provided the two Type-209 HDW submarines in running condition and two were assembled later in the Mazagon Dock. There was option of assembling two more, but the German HDW also met the fate of the Swedish Bofors and cancelled the option of manufacturing two more in Indian shipyard. There were allegations of illicit transaction against the HDW and the then government in late 1980s cancelled the execution of the rest of the deal. There were talks of seven per cent kickbacks in ` 420-crore deal for four HDW submarines and the company was blacklisted by the Indian Government. Later the German company got the reprieve from the Delhi High Court and is now once again free to join the race for six submarines under the P-75I programme.
The official release issued by the Ministry of Defence spokesman on the Indo-German talks has given a scant idea of the conversations but sources said that the two sides discussed the Indian plan to domestically manufacture six advanced submarines with foreign collaboration in an Indian shipyard under the ‘Make in India’ plan. The German Defence Minister Ursula referred to the ‘Make in India’ plan and offered to support this initiative in the field of submarines. She described the two countries as natural partners. Interestingly under the ‘Make in India’ plan the Ursula also proposed the manufacture of European fighter in India in collaboration with any Indian partner. Since the mission MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) is only partially accomplished with only 36 of the 126 aircrafts ordered from France, Germany has offered India to transfer of technology and know-how to make the Typhoons in India. Indian Air Force is in the dire need of acquiring around 10 fighter squadrons and will soon have to make a choice.
Regarding submarines, it will not be easy for Indian MoD to take decision in favour of the Germans as there are others also in fray including the Russian Amur, the Spanish Navantia, the French DCN and even the Japanese Soryu submarine manufacturer may also be asked to join the race.
Sources said that Indian Shipyard Mazagon Dock had gained good experience of assembling the German submarines, but this time the government is seriously considering the issue of utilising the private sector shipyards. The government-to-government route adopted for acquiring the French Rafales may also be considered as the Indian Navy submarine strength has gone down at precarious low level and needs urgent augmentation of the fleet. The diesel submarine strength has come down to 13 and one nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra is on a 10-year lease. Another Indian nuclearpowered submarine is under sea trial and may join the Indian Navy by the end of the year.
According to sources the Germans have offered their most advanced, recently out of the design table, the Type-216 submarines to India. The basic design of this submarine is based on Type-214, which is double hulled with two decks and includes a fuel cell, Permasyn motor and Lithium ion batteries. This submarine is also equipped with air independent propulsion technology, which the Indian Navy wants to have in all its future diesel submarines.
The submarine has a displacement of 4,000 tonnes and has a range of 19,300 km at 10 knots while its maximum speed is 20 knots. It has endurance of 80 days and has 6 x 21 torpedo tubes and can accommodate 18 torpedoes or anti-ship missiles. The sub has vertical launch system. Since this design is not yet proven, the Indian Navy may ask for Type-214 submarines.
After hardselling the German military hardware in New Delhi during meeting with the top political brass in New Delhi the German Defence Minister flew in to Mumbai where she visited Western Naval Command Headquarters and met the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Vice Admiral S.P. Singh Cheema and also visited the Indian Naval Ship Mumbai.
Trying to show the closeness between India and Germany on security issues Ursula had said, while addressing a meeting of Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, “Prime Minister Modi made the case for international enterprises to set up shops in India and for closer collaboration with the German economy. But our focus today is not only on economic collaboration today it is also in security policy.”
Later commenting on German Defence Minister’s visit to India, the German Ambassador Michael Steiner said, “Her visit was a further boost for our strategic partnership at all levels. In October Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit India for the next round of intergovernmental consultations.” The Germans are expected one again to push the case for German subs and fighters to be made in India in late October.
Dr Ursula von der Leyen with Narendra Modi