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Black Shark Torpedo – Scorpene submarine – Finmeccanica company

Kalyan Ray, New Delhi, March 11, 2013, DHNS : 21:39 IST
The VVIP helicopter scam has cast its dark shadow on yet another naval project as the defence ministry is withholding a decision on the procurement of 100 Black Shark torpedos from a Finmeccanica group company for six Scorpene submarines.

The government had not taken a decision on the procurement of these heavy-weight and long-range torpedoes, which may remain effective against all types of surface and under-sea targets for the next 20 years.

The torpedoes are manufactured by a firm named Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei, which is a Finmeccanica group company.

Following the VVIP-helicopter scam in which former top executives of Finmeccanica and its UK-based helicopter-making subsidiary AgustaWestland are involved, all deals with Finmeccanica group companies are under scanner.

Following the choppergate, the defence ministry has put on hold further delivery of nine VVIP choppers and all payments due to the company. The first three copters have arrived in December and Agusta received almost 45 per cent of the payment before the controversy broke. But still there is no clarity on how contracts being negotiated or concluded with other Finmeccanica group companies would be dealt with by the defence ministry.

Responding to a question in the Lok Sabha, defence minister A K Antony said the ministry received representation (on the Black Shark deal) from one competing vendor and members of Parliament. No names were given.

A special technical oversight committee was constituted with approval from defence acquisition council to review the evaluation process and complaints. After reviewing the documents, the committee opined the procurement progressed in accordance with the laid down procedure in a fair and transparent manner.

The DAC chaired by Antony, considered the STOC report and accepted it in September, 2012. But notwithstanding the report, no decision on the procurement was taken in the last six months.

Six French-origin Scorpene submarines are under construction in a Rs 18,798 crore project at Mazgaon dock in Mumbai. All the six submarines are to be delivered between 2015 and 2018 – almost three years behind the original schedule.

The Black Shark is a 63 mt long, fully stealth, wire guided and self-homing heavy-weight torpedo that can be integrated with any types of torpedo tubes. “But the contract has not yet been finalised,” said Antony.

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