2011-11-12 (China Military News cited from News Desk) – India’s submarine fleet is dying of old age, and new boats are not going to arrive in time as it believes it needs at least 18 non-nuclear subs in service to deal with Pakistan and China.
It’s not like this was a surprise, but the Indian defence procurement bureaucracy has long been noted as slow, sloppy and stubborn, especially in the face of demands that it speed up.
The twisted tale of the tardy submarines is particularly painful. The plan was to have a dozen new subs in service by the end of the decade. At present, there will be (with a bit of luck) six of them in service by then. The other six might arrive five years later. It’s hard to say, because the manufacturer of the second six has not been selected yet. The defence procurement nabobs speak of ‘fast track’ for this project, but long-time observers of these officials are not expecting speed.
India’s effort to build the first six subs (French Scorpenes), under license, has been delayed several times, and the price has gone up to $5 billion ($834 million each). While this effort will leave India with thousands of workers and specialists experienced in building modern submarines, all that will be wasted because the defence procurement bureaucrats seem to have learned nothing. These officials already caused numerous delays, and cost overruns, during negotiations to build the Scorpene diesel-electric submarines. The bureaucrats mismanaged this deal to the extent that it is nearly three years behind schedule. But it is even more behind schedule if you count the several years the Indian bureaucrats delayed it even getting started. The delays and mismanagement have so far increased the cost of $4 billion project by 25 percent. The first Scorpene is supposed to enter service in 2015, with one a year after that until all six are delivered.
There’s some urgency to all this, because by next year, five of India’s 16 subs (10 Kilo and two Foxtrot class Russian built boats and four German Type 209s) will be retired (some are already semi-retired because of age and infirmity). Two years after that, India will only have five working subs.
But the bureaucrats and politicians dithered for nearly a decade, and it wasn’t until 2005 that India signed a deal to buy six French Scorpene class boats. The delays led to the French increasing prices on some key components, and India has had some problems in getting production going on their end. The first Scorpene was to be built in France, with the other five built in India. While some problems were expected (India has been doing licence manufacturing of complex weapons for decades), the Defence Ministry procurement bureaucrats never ceased to amaze when it came to delaying work, or just getting in the way.