According to Rahul Bedi, Jane’s Defence Weekly correspondent, India has invited Japan to compete in the Indian Navy’s (IN’s) long-delayed INR500 billion ($8.1 billion) Project 75I (India) requirement for 6 diesel-electric submarines with land attack and Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) capabilities. Official sources said India had recently forwarded a proposal to Tokyo asking it to consider participating in the Project 75I tender with its 4,200-tonne Soryu-class submarine.
In this connection it is interesting to note that the Soryu class is currently under evaluation by the Royal Australian Navy as a replacement for its six Collins-class boats. India’s offer to Japan to join Project 75I is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s effort at forging closer strategic and defence ties with Tokyo and formulating a wider maritime quadrilateral grouping that would include Australia and the United States.
India is also in advanced negotiations with Japan to acquire 12 ShinMaywa US-2i (formerly Shin Meiwa) amphibious search-and-rescue aircraft for around $1.65 billion, a deal that is likely to be concluded in early 2016.
The Project 75I tender, delayed by nearly seven years, was approved by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in October 2014 and is likely to be dispatched later this year. It is aimed at boosting the IN’s underwater assets, which at 11 submarines is 13 fewer than their sanctioned strength.
Project 75I envisages licence-building a submarine shortlisted from multiple contenders, including DCNS (France), TKMS subsidiary HDW (Germany), Navantia (Spain) and Rosonboronexport (Russia), under a Joint Venture (JV) with an Indian shipyard.
A committee headed by Vice Admiral A.V. Subedar recently completed an audit of seven domestic shipyards – five of them state-owned and two private – to evaluate their submarine-building capability. Officials said it would submit its report to the MoD in February, after which the selected shipyards, along with IN-approved overseas submarine manufacturers, would be invited for trials around 2016 and a platform shortlisted by 2018.
Price negotiations would follow, and IN officials anticipate the first Project 75I submarine being commissioned around 2025-27. Meanwhile, the MoD has for the third time postponed the deadline for local vendors to respond to its Requests for Information (RfI) to indigenously build more than 140 twin-engine Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH).
Industry sources said the RfI response date, for nine potential local bidders, was deferred to 28 February – from the earlier deadlines of 24 November 2014 and 24 January – as many had been unable to conclude JVs with foreign original equipment manufacturers.
India is keen for Japan to participate in its domestic materiel manufacturing programmes as it is seeking technology to boost its defence industrial base. It is also keen to propagate its bilateral strategic partnership with Japan to counter China’s growing military assertiveness in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
Both countries have unresolved territorial disputes with China that erupt periodically. The United States has also been advocating increased defence co-operation between India and Japan and Australia, which shares their collective concerns regarding China.