Scorpene submarine delay costs Centre dear


Despite falling force level, the Centre took nine years to decide manufacturing half a dozen new Scorpene submarines leading to a project cost hike of almost Rs 2,800 crore.

The Centre’s decision to buy six French submarines with Exocet anti-ship missile — being manufactured at the Mazagaon Dock Ltd in Mumbai — comes after abandoning plans to manufacture submarines indigenously, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) noted in its report tabled in Parliament recently.

In the mid 80s, the submarine design group of the Navy designed a conventional diesel-electric submarine. In 1997, the Defence Ministry accorded formal approval for indigenous construction of two submarines.

However, the project was abandoned in 1998, the CAG said. After seven years, the ministry sanctioned construction of six Scorpene submarines at a total cost of Rs 18,798 crore with foreign exchange component well above Rs 12,000 crore.

While French armament major DCN-Armaris will manufacture the submarine under a Rs 12,022-crore contract, a separate Rs 1,062 crore agreement was inked with the MBDA for the Exocet missiles. But the delay in price negotiation led to an increase in the project cost by Rs 2,838 crore, the CAG said.

Reduced range

Though the requirement of tube launched missiles — possibly the Exocet — guided the final selection, the Navy accepted the missile with reduced range by amending its own qualitative requirements.

The construction is lagging behind. As against envisaged achievement of 27.43 per cent up till December 2008, only 9.34 per cent progress had been achieved.

The CAG finding on the scheduling has been corroborated by Defence Minister A K Antony who informed the Lok Sabha on July 20 that on account of teething problems, absorption of technology, delays in setting up industrial infrastructure and material procurement, slippage in the delivery schedule are expected.

The submarines are expected to be delivered to the Navy between 2012 and 2017.
India operates 16 submarines of which two British Foxtrots are on the verge of retirement and phased decommissioning of the other 14 will begin from 2010. The British subs were inducted in 1968. In the 80s, ten Russian kilo-class subs and four German HDW submarines were inducted.

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