Project 75I : Unexplained decision to sideline L&T - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Tuesday 31 August 2010

Project 75I : Unexplained decision to sideline L&T

Images from the Katupalli shipyard, being constructed by L&T in Tamil Nadu. L&T says that Katupalli will be inaugurated by mid-2011

(This is the third article of a four-part series on India's critical, yet significantly delayed, submarine programme)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st Sept 10
Katupalli, Tamil Nadu; and Hazira, Gujarat

Near Ennore, an hour’s drive north from Chennai, a stream of dump trucks ferrying boulders from mines in Andhra Pradesh marks the site of Katupalli shipyard, the centrepiece of L&T’s audacious diversification into warship building. Curving into the ocean like giant pincers are the two arms of what will be a 4-kilometre long breakwater, keeping out the choppy Bay of Bengal from a lagoon calm enough for shipbuilding. The pincers extend steadily as the dump trucks drive to the end and tip out their loads; some two million tonnes of boulders will finally go into the breakwater.

Elsewhere in L&T’s 1225-acre facility at Katupalli, hundreds of engineers and workers labour round the clock, three shifts a day, building a giant ship-lift capable of lifting a 14,000 tonne ship --- the Indian Navy’s largest destroyers are just 6,800 tonnes --- clear out of the water and onto one of several dry docks where vessels can be serviced at leisure. Rows of massive workshops, some 250 metres long, have almost been completed. By June 2011, says L&T --- and the engineering giant does not miss many deadlines --- Katupalli will be commissioned as India’s biggest defence shipyard.

Given this Rs 3500 crore statement of intent from L&T; its state-of-the-art facility at Hazira, which builds hull sections for India’s nuclear submarines; and the company’s experience as the prime integrator of INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear-powered, ballistic missile submarine, there is outrage within L&T at being sidelined by the MoD in Project 75I, which involves the construction of six conventional submarines for the Indian Navy.

In this ongoing series on submarine production, Business Standard has reported the MoD’s decision to build two Project 75I submarines abroad, in the shipyard of a foreign technology partner, and the remaining four in MoD-owned shipyards, Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai (MDL), and Hindustan Shipyard Limited, Vishakhapatnam (HSL).

L&T’s Chairman and Managing Director, AM Naik, told Business Standard, “We are extremely concerned that our engineering expertise, our facilities already set up at Hazira in line with our commitment to serve the national interest, and our experience in building submarines will be grossly under-utilised if such a decision were to be implemented.”

L&T sources stress that the company’s experience of building the INS Arihant --- at 5000 tonnes, thrice as large as the average conventional submarine and significantly more complex --- has given the company the expertise, the facilities and the confidence to build conventional submarines faster and more cheaply than any MoD yard. The MoD, allege these sources, is giving the Project 75I submarine contract to its own shipyards to keep them in business.

In 1999, the government had sanctioned a 30-Year Submarine Construction Plan, for building 24 conventional submarines in India. Two construction lines were approved: one based on western technology (Mazagon Dock’s ongoing Project 75 to build six Scorpenes); and a second construction line building six submarines with Russian collaboration. After that 12 indigenously designed submarines were to be built.

L&T sources assert that, over the preceding decade, the MoD and the Indian Navy had conveyed repeated assurances that the second submarine construction line would be set up by L&T at Hazira, in partnership with Russia.

According to Naik, “To implement this, a committee was constituted, headed by an MoD joint secretary, and comprising members from the Indian Navy and MoD. After assessing the capabilities of all shipyards, as per our understanding, the committee cleared L&T Hazira in 2001 as the second line for submarine construction.”

But if the MoD cleared L&T’s Hazira facilities in 2001, another MoD committee in 2008 found Hazira unsuitable for constructing submarines on the grounds that the water draft was too shallow. L&T counters that the nuclear submarine hull sections were built here; and that Hazira builds and ships out petrochemical reactors that are bigger and heavier than a conventional submarine.

The MoD committee also rejected Katupalli, which it visited when construction work on the shipyard had just begun in 2008. By next year, Katupalli will be ready, says L&T; while the MoD admits that Project 75I cannot be sanctioned before 2014-15. But Katupalli has been ruled out based on the situation in 2008.

The MoD’s Secretary for Defence Production, RK Singh, admits that L&T’s experience in submarine building needs to be tapped by the MoD. “We will find some role for L&T… it has capabilities that are very important for us,” RK Singh told Business Standard. “But this will have to be done in a transparent manner, allowing other private sector shipyards to compete as well.

Flip-flop on Hazira

Oct 2000 : Indian Navy officers and Russian specialists accept Hazira for building Amur class submarines.

Dec 2001: Indian Navy and Mazagon Dock officials visit Hazira to evaluate the technology required for Amur construction.

Sept 2004: L&T proposes JV with Mazagon Dock to construct submarines

Oct 2007: Secretary, Defence Production tells a CII delegation that L&T would get the second submarine line.

Aug 2010: MoD sidelines private sector shipyards from second submarine line


  1. This is to say the least tragic. Unfortunately this is the challenge of dealing with the Indian government. There is unfortunately lack of professionalism and callousness towards private enterprise which the Indian Governement displays time & again.

  2. Ajai sir

    there is a typo
    (This is the second article of a four-part series on India's critical, yet significantly delayed, submarine programme)

    Its actually the 3rd article.

  3. There is enough space for everyone. Still we will be short of submarines. So let L&T and Mazagaon, both build subs for the next 20 years so that we will be in a position to counter the Chinese in sub building.

  4. "But if the MoD cleared L&T’s Hazira facilities in 2001, another MoD committee in 2008 found Hazira unsuitable for constructing submarines on the grounds that the water draft was too shallow. L&T counters that the nuclear submarine hull sections were built here; and that Hazira builds and ships out petrochemical reactors that are bigger and heavier than a conventional submarine."

    Following questions need to be asked and answered:

    1. Did the 2001 committee not consider water draft requirements? How did they clear the facility if they did?

    2. What was the basis for 2008 committee rejecting on basis of water draft if L&T has delivered from the same location before and promises to do so again. Possibly they cannot 'launch' submarine from Hazira but is that the only option available?

    3. Again, why not put a penalty clause around this and transfer the risk to L&T. Let them worry about it. MoD has to just ask for the execution strategy and the plan for shipments out of Hazira.

    Hazira is such a lovely fabrication facility. We can rest assured that L&T will create similar facilities at Katupalli and be able to 'launch' submarines and ships from there.

    MoD, wake up!!!!

    - Manne

  5. Thanks, Joydeep. The dangers of cut-and-paste...! I've amended it.

  6. Mr. Shukla these revealations has created a great impact on readers like cause we know L&T Hazira facility is very fine. It has capacity to handle much beyond Submarine hulls. As stated about petrochemical reators, there are other structures which are much more complex and works in more demanding situations than the submarines. The project of Arihant was so quite that most of employees at L&T Hazira were unaware of what they were building. Such decisions by MOD personnels will greatly detoriate the interest of Private sector in Indian Defence hardware.

  7. Ajai sir

    India is hugely short on submarines. By 2015 it will be left with just 7-8 active kilo class and the INS Chakra and INS Arihant.

    Indians plan to have 24 conventional and 6 nuclear powered subs by 2025 is as per the details provided by you way behind schedule. I dont see these 30 operational before 2030-5.

    If there main job is to fire missiles, how about deploying couple of missile cruisers (Moskva and the 90% complete Ukrayina, which is sitting idle in the Black Sea port).

    L&T can be given the job of refurbishing these ships and deploying them. Both ships weigh above 12000 tons. That will keep the yard busy till 2020 till they get fresh orders.

    The 2 missile cruisers can easily atleast fill the gap in submarines till 2040 and beyond.

    You can say that is like going back on tech and warfare, but if Gorshkov can be put to use then why not Moskva and the 90% complete Ukrayina.

  8. Humm, don't know what to say. Looks like defence of country is not the top priority for Ministry of Defence. If it is, then how do they intend to achieve it by not strengthening private defence industry in the country. Though they are happy to help private industries of other countries.

  9. Ajai Sir ,

    Will Amur be chosen as a preferred submarine for Indian Navy 2nd line of sub ?

    Considering L&T had decided to go along with Amur and MOD was in the loop for the same ?

    Can you please clarify that point ?

  10. In India we take 1 step forward and 2 steps back when it comes to defence. God bless India. AK Antony can make a nice jalebi maker, for such are his policies that no one can know where he starts and where is ends.

  11. Joydeep:

    You think missile cruisers can do the job of submarines because both fire missiles?

    Hmmm! That's a new way of looking at submarine warfare!!

  12. Possible reasons

    1. More Arihant's are on way
    2. A third line of submarines
    3. MoD is terrible

    I hope 1 or 2.

  13. I see only one reason.

    In 2001, when L&T got the green flag, BJP Govt was in power. BJP Govt was an ardent supporter of private-public defense relationship. They knew that, if a public company takes 1 year to complete a project, a private company like L&T can do the same job under 8 months!

    There was a plan to sell Cochin Shipyard to private companies. Cochin Shipyard has one of the worst work cultures in public company, thanks to unionism and politics.

  14. Today it seems that they do not agree, but tomorrow they may agree.

  15. Looks like Public Sector babus dont want any better managed private sector competition, They are more interested in their own job security and they have put their personal interest above national interest.

  16. Ajai sir

    I never said the missile cruisers can replace the submarines. The subs are more stealthy and untraceable and can reach as close to the chinese shoreline to fire a missile.

    But here is a point if the subs do get that close they have to circumvent Philipines and Indonesia to make it back to Indian Ocean. Thats a long a hazaradous route and the chinese can easily give Indian subs a chase in those waters.

    Where as a missile cruiser stationed in the tip of Vietnam can easily fire a volley of Agni-5 and safely make it back to Indian shores.

    Still why i said we need missile cruisers is that our prime concern is protecting our own shoreline from the Chinese 'String of Pearls' strategy.

    I think the 2 Slava class cruisers Moskva and Ukrayina and easily cover the east and west coast.

    I hope now you can understand my point of view.

  17. Heberian aka K-LT2 September 2010 at 08:58

    @ Joydeep Ghosh

    Interesting logic you present for the case of missile cruisers.

    Pardon my lack of understanding of military matters; but would you please help me understand the following:

    1) You explained that subs would have to circumvent Philipines and Indonesia to get back to India. So how do you propose that the slava class get to the "tip of Vietnam"?

    2) Intersting thing this String of Pearls strategy huh.. So, how is having "missile cruisers" more advantageous than having SLBMs on submarines?

    3) I heard about this new fangled DF 31s which can target and potentially deny seas to even an American carrier group. Would the slavas help us in this scenario?

    4) Agni 5's on ships. Hmm. Thats an entirely new class of seaborne weapons. So, may I assume that an Agni 5 and a Bazalt or Granit missile has the same kind of launch parameters?

    5) Will the Ukrainians do the R&D and integration of Agni 5's onto the slavas, or do we do it?

    6) Oh, and one more doubt.. I thought the Agni 5's were meant to reach North Eastern China from places in India... so why put them on some ship and send them all the way to Vietnam and then "fire a volley"....

    Your point of view brings forth entirely new and quite amusing angles... please do help me understand more of your logic..

  18. @Heberian aka K-LT

    Answer 3: The DF 31s (supposedly aircraft carrier killer)are not hypersonic that cant be tracked. Do you expect a aircraft carrier or missile cruiser to sit idle at one place and inviting the DF 31s saying 'come hit me'. Dont forget the Barak 1/2, and other usual systems that can be put to use.

    Answer 4: What makes you think that firing a Agni 5 missile from ships is a problem, if a Brahmos or Prithvi can be fired so can be the Agni 5 (albeit a bit of rework on propulsion will be needed). We cant have Bazalt or Granit (due to MTCR).

    I think you are aware of DRDO capability (VK Saraswat, DRDO chief has said India has Anti Satellite capability but wont put it to practical use)

    Answer 5: 'Will the Ukrainians do the R&D and integration of Agni 5's onto the slavas, or do we do it?' WHY???

    Its the job of DRDO and Indian Navy, they can do the needful (restoration, rework, refurbishing) at the upcoming L&T shipyard coming up in Tamil Nadu (it can easily handle ships of over 12000 tons).

    All operational Slava class missile cruisers are with Russian navy, so any assistance (as in case of Gorshkov)will come from Russia. The only 90% complete Slava class missle cruiser waiting to be finished is the 'Ukrayina', which is stationed at a Black Sea port managed by Ukraine.

    In May 2010 Russia agreed to help complete 'Ukrayina' (possibly a sale will comeup, India needs to act fast or it ill lose this ship like it lost the Varyag).

    Answer 6: You said 'Oh, and one more doubt.. I thought the Agni 5's were meant to reach North Eastern China from places in India... so why put them on some ship and send them all the way to Vietnam and then "fire a volley"....'. Who said these can be fired only from land, pls refer to my answer 4.

    The more options we have the better chance we have to spring a surprise. Now you can amuse yourself, but request you to come up with a real name.

  19. Heberian aka K-LT3 September 2010 at 20:03

    @ Joydeep da

    Thank you for kindly illuminating me. Sadly, I am unable to return the courtesy of being "un-anonymous" becasue then I would not be able to freely comment. I just a student of military matters in general and military aviation in particular, apart from a very deep interest in Chinese history, strategy and philosophy. Rest assured, I am Indian :) from the other, sadly Red state in India.

    Forgive me for being dense, but this line of thought from you was quite interesting, especially when aided by a glass of Old Monk.

    So here are some additional doubts for you to consider clearing; and maybe you can help me understand more.

    1) What is the weight of a Bazalt or a Granit? ( I believe the Slavas were designed to handle these)
    2) Where did our BrahMos evolve from? ( Thats for the MTCR part, I am told that the range change in BrahMos is not rocket science, forgive the pun)
    3) What is the weight (approx) of a Slava class cruiser?
    4) What is the weight of the smallest SSBN we hear of?( Arihant is not yet quite an SSBN really, I am talking about SSBNs that can launch SLBMs, or say a future mod of the Agni)
    5) What would the be the effects on the hydrodynamics of a Slava when an Agni 5 is launched?
    6) How many naval ships out there have IRBM launch capabilities? And why not?
    7) " albeit a bit of rework on propulsion

    will be needed" - Are we talking about the Slava's propulsion OR the Agni 5's propulsion; and this "but of rework", defined in Project Management terms, would be done by us based on our experience in what?

    many thanks ol boy!

    - Heberian

  20. @Heberian

    you have called me a 'old boy', your are welcome to call me whatever you want. As for your doubts

    Answer1 and Answer 3: you can type the missile names or the cruisers name in google, and get all the needed info (everything is available in wikipedia). we cant get the bazalt or granit missile (MTCR), so lets not talk about them.

    Answer 2: Why are we talking about 300 km Brahmos, ever heard of Nirbhay Long Range Cruise Missile (its a nuclear capable missile with range possibly over 1500 km). Its being developed by DRDO to be fired from land, air, sea.

    I will say Nirbhay is far more effective than Brahmos with its extended range. (vis-a-vis China)

    For your kind information both Nirbhay and Agni-5 will be tested one after the other and will be inducted around the same time (if everything goes right).

    Answer 4 : Arihant has a weight of over 6000 tons (hence called baby boomer)and its follow on will be possibly close to 9000 tons and will built by L&T at it Hazia docks.

    ANSWER 5: 'What would the be the effects on the hydrodynamics of a Slava when an Agni 5 is launched?'

    for exactly that reason I said the refurbishing, refitting needs to be done on the Slava cruisers at the upcoming L&T shipyard in Tamil Nadu. (refer to my previous reply concerning the L&T shipyard)

    Answer 6: you asked '6) How many naval ships out there have IRBM launch capabilities? And why not?'

    2 Sukanya class ships and INS Ranvir fire Dhanush ballistic missile.

    So its about refurbishing Slava class cruisers so that they fire Agni ballistic missiles with reworked propulsion system. How DRDO and IN does it leave it to them. (DRDO is supposedly working on Agni 3SL to be fired from Indian Navy SSBNs)

    Now to main topic why I said India needs missile cruisers. reasons

    1. I have already talked about Indias severe shortage of submarines (refer to my previous answers)

    2. The Chinese are developing Type 96 Tang class submarine to fire 24 LR missiles. India does not have a single ship or submarine that can fire so many missiles.

    3. Sending a SSBN without a back up of SSN to fire 2-3 missiles (INS Arihant) is risky (it has to operate all alone). A missile cruiser on other hand can have a small battle group to protect it.

    4. I said buy and refurbish 2 Slava cruisers at the upcoming L&T shipyard, it will keep the shipyard busy for next 10 yrs.

    I think you have got all your answers

    Joydeep Ghosh

  21. Joydeep:

    You just don't seem to be getting the point that Heberian is making.

    Firstly, an Agni-5 cannot --- for many reasons --- be configured and fired as a ship-borne missile. Think about that.

    Secondly, why would you want to fire an Agni-5 from "the tip of Vietnam", when you can fire it from a land-based launcher in India and still reach any target in China?

    Military strategy not just about randomly picking up the names of platforms and weapons systems and cutting-and-pasting one over the other.

  22. Ajai sir

    Agreed with your point of view, and if you say that Agni 5 cant be fired from ships, ok I accept it.

    But the reason I said why India needs a couple of missile cruisers still stands potent, such as

    1. You said 'SSBN is not part of naval fleet and is a strategic asset', an asset which everyone wants only to scare others away and never to be in a position to put it to use.

    2. A missile cruiser on the other hand with its capability to fire several missiles will always be a part of naval battle plans. As for India the 2 Slava class cruisers (if purchased) can act as a power projection system with their mini battle groups in the Indian Ocean Rim.

    As for 'Tip of Vietnam' it was a hypothetical situation from where a India Navy sub/ship can operate with better safety.

    Hope now you understand my point of view.

    PS: Ajai sir it seems you will break your own record of articles in 2010.

  23. @ Joydeep Ghosh

    Joydeep, I apologise if you felt bad at me referring you as "Ol Boy". It was not in any way derogatory.

    "Old boy" originated as a friendly reference to alumni of various schools and colleges. In many circles in England its primarily used nowadays as a slang comparable to our "yaar".


    @ Ajai sir: Thank you.


  24. Hello Mr. Joydeep, your suggestion though quite ingenious does have a few shortcomings which both Mr. Shukla and Mr. Heberian pointed out.I'd like to add that deploying missile cruiser strike groups wouldn't be as cost effective as a submarine with a missile launch capability. India has hardly been the aggressor in the wars it has fought but even if the situation arises it would strategically advantageous to draw a 'sting of pearls' with stealthy SSBNs than send a more visible strike group.

  25. @nikhil

    I may be wrong in some of my assertions, but do you think its wise to send a SSBN on missile firing mission without backup from a SSN.


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last