Daily Archives: December 14, 2012

Russia sees opportunities in India’s new submarine deal

Russia sees opportunities in India’s new submarine deal
Russia sees opportunities in India’s new submarine deal. Source: Press Photo

India is set to loosen its purse strings for some big ticket arms acquisitions in the coming months. The latest order about to come out from the Indian repertoire is for submarines, which is going to be worth a whopping ten billion US dollars. The Russians will be close competitors for this deal and Rosoboronexport of Russia would be high up among the competing companies. Other serious contenders would be HDW of Germany and Navantia of Spain.

Earlier this year, India had released a 15 billion dollar defence deal which went to the French, much to the chagrin of the Russians and other players in the international arms market. In February 2012, India had awarded the highly lucrative deal worth $15 billion to the French company Dassault Aviation for 126 fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force.  The talks with Dassault on fastening the nuts and bolts of the deal are presently going on.

The upcoming defence deal is for the Indian Navy. It is aimed at buying six state-of-the-art submarines, mainly with an eye on China. The deal with Dassault for 126 fighter aircraft too was aimed at developing Indian defence capabilities vis-a-vis China.

Project 75I

 The Indian government is soon going to come up with a Request for Proposal (RFP) for six next generation submarines. Indian Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi has gone on record as saying that the Defence Acquisition Council a high-powered body of the defence ministry, has already given the green signal for buying six submarines under a project codenamed P-75I and a global tender would be floated “very soon”.

This will be a huge opportunity and a challenge for the Russians to bag the deal because the RFP would be a global competitive bid process in which the winner takes all. The Russians and the French are expected to be among the top contenders. Both would have plus and minus points for getting the deal, and needless to say, no country would like to miss the bus.

Russia to Face Stiff Competition from France

 Russia will inevitably face a stiff competition from the French for the new submarines deal. The French have an edge because they are already building six Scorpene submarines for India. The argument for them is that since they are already working on a submarine project with India it would be logical to have continuity as the French already have an elaborate infrastructure in place. But the flip side is that the upcoming $10 billion submarine deal would be a global competitive bid. It is like playing an entirely new match on a new turf where it would depend on which players emerge as performers of the day.

The Russian USP would be that India is already operating over a dozen Russian-made submarines and Russia is a tried, tested and trusted arms supplier for India. The latest order, as an when it materialises, is aimed at significantly beefing up the muscle of the Indian Navy whose existing humble submarine fleet comprises of just 10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDWs and an Akula-2 nuclear-powered attack submarine leased from Russia at $1 billion. This will be in addition to the six Scorpene submarines which are being built in India with technology from Dassault under a project codenamed P-75.

A USP of the new to-be-ordered submarines, according to Admiral Joshi, would be that these would be bigger than the Scorpene  and would be equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems to recharge their batteries without having to surface for more than three weeks. Besides, the new boats would also have land attack missile capability.

INS Chakra’s Delimitations

 The Indian submarine fleet got a valuable addition when INS Chakra, the nuclear submarine from Russia was finally inducted in April 2012, thus once again heralding the Indian Navy into the nuclear age after an interregnum of two decades. However there is a flip side to INS Chakra, the Akula-2 class submarine given by Russia to India on a lease for ten years. INS Chakra cannot be armed with strategic weapons or nuclear tipped ballistic missiles. Its symbolic importance is that it will certainly help India keep a watchful eye on the vast expanse of Indian Ocean which of late has emerged as the epicentre of global naval activities.

India, a principal littoral state with fourth largest naval fleet in the world, needs to have a robust navy in Indian Ocean and beyond considering the rapid advancements of the Chinese Navy. China is stepping up its naval presence in the Indian Ocean though it is not an Indian Ocean power. China has almost five dozen submarines, including a dozen nuclear submarines, which give them a head start over India in naval terms.

The Russian Edge

 

The upcoming RFP for the six submarines is aimed at correcting this anomaly.  India, which at one point of time had 18 submarines, is now down to just 14 submarines, including ten Sindhughosh class Russian Kilo submarines and four Shishumar class German HDW diesel submarines. For 17 years India did not construct indigenous submarines. Further bad news from the Indian perspective is that its submarine fleet is expected to go down to half as the Kilo class submarines acquired in late eighties are facing retirement after two and half  decades  of service.

Under the six-submarine Scorpene deal, India is expecting to get the first two submarines in 2014 and 2015. The delivery schedule for all the six boats is likely to be completed by 2019. But the flip side is that the first two out of six would be simple diesel submarines and the next four would be equipped with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology called MESMA in French parlance.

This is where the Russians can smell the kill for the new $10 billion submarine deal. While the Scorpene deal with the French did not focus on the AIP technology, the proposed deal would have all six submarines equipped with AIP technology.  The Russian engineers have already mastered the AIP technology, in vogue for the past one decade. India has retained Russian engineers since 2011 in Vishakhapatnam to understand complex operational aspects of a nuclear powered submarine.

Source – Indrus

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Top-secret submarine may settle Russia’s claim in the Arctic

A unique Arctic expedition has brought a top-secret Russian submarine into the limelight. The AS-12 bathyscaphe Losharik has now been enlisted to help Russia gain evidence of its right to territorial waters in the Arctic.

Top-secret submarine may settle Russia’s claim in the Arctic
The Arctic region is expected to be the disputed territory between the world’s powers. Source: Alamy / Legion Media

Moscow is prepared to present evidence to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea that would expand Russia’s territorial waters in the Arctic, thus asserting its right to the bed of the Arctic that is extremely rich in hydrocarbons. Russia filed a similar application once before, but the bid was turned down due to a lack of geological samples. The new evidence has been obtained by AS-12 Losharik – Russia’s top-secret deep-sea nuclear-powered bathyscaphe.

The North Pole expedition was undertaken in late September as part of the Arctic 2012 research project. The mission required working at a depth of 1.5-1.8 miles for 20 days. The deep-sea station collected earth samples using robotic arms, a dredging device (a rock filtration system), a clamp bucket (a scoop with a video camera) and a hydrostatic sampler. The results of the sample tests will be released in early 2013, when they are also expected to be handed over to the United Nations.

Losharik will very soon be getting a younger “sister.” According to Izvestia, Russia has resumed the construction of another top secret deep-sea nuclear-powered station. A source in the defense industry has told Izvestia that the vessel will actually be a smaller version of Losharik that is intended, just like her older brother, to conduct special operations on the ocean bed, including in the Arctic.

Until recently, the competing territorial claims to the Arctic made by Russia, Norway, Canada, the U.S. and Denmark have been ineffectual, since, apart from political statements, none of the countries has been able to provide any factual evidence to justify their claims. If Losharik’s recent operation does not close the matter for good, then it at least puts Russia ahead of the game. Before Losharik, no one had been able to bring up any actual samples from the seabed that could formally prove Russia right.

Meanwhile, little is actually known about the main character in the story – the nuclear-powered deep-sea bathyscaphe AS-12, nicknamed Losharik (NATO reporting name NORSUB-5).

One of the reasons behind the scarce public knowledge is the fact that the submarine was created for the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Defense Ministry and, given the specific nature of the ministry’s mission, was never intended to be declassified – just like an undercover spy. However, Moscow eventually decided to go all in and play for the sake of winning the territorial dispute.

The submarine was dubbed Losharik for its extraordinary shape: Its hull consists of spherical titanium modules. The nickname comes from the name of a Soviet cartoon character – a funny little horse with a body made up of small spheres.

Russia sees opportunities in India’s new submarine deal

losharik

Russian submarine passes Arctic trials

According to its engineers, the unusual hull construction permits the 196-foot-long bathyscaphe to withstand the enormous pressure of ocean depths of up to 3.7 miles. Losharik is powered by a small nuclear reactor with a fundamentally new model of nuclear steam generating plant: the KTP-7I Fenix. The reactor enables the bathyscaphe to travel at a speed of up to 30 knots (37 miles) per hour and does not limit the time it can stay submerged in virtually any way. The crew consists of 25 officers.

The bathyscaphe is carried by the K-129 Orenburg submarine, which is a Project 667BDR Kalmar strategic nuclear submarine redesigned specifically for the purpose.

While assigned to Russia’s Northern Fleet, the submarine is not actually part of it, as it remains an asset of the Main Intelligence Directorate. It is stationed at Olenya Bay, where Russia’s naval spies are based.

While the AS-12 does not carry any weapons, it still poses a serious threat to the national security of many countries, since it is equipped to perform intelligence and diversion operations at depths out of reach of any other vessel in the world.

The kind of operations that the vessel could perform include using its mechanical arms not only to collect seabed samples, but also to disrupt telecommunications between continents or, conversely, plant wiretaps, which, even if detected, would be impossible to remove because of the depths.

There is also an apocalyptic theory that the work of designing the bathyscaphe was launched back when a nuclear conflict between Moscow and Washington was still on the table. The bathyscaphe is believed to have been intended to become an invincible carrier of a gigantic T-15 thermonuclear torpedo (5 feet in diameter) developed by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Andrei Sakharov.

The Soviets believed that, if detonated at a depth of 3.7 miles, the torpedo could generate an unprecedented and deadly tsunami that would wash away an entire coast of the United States, West or East.

Whatever their past plans, Moscow and Washington are now partners intent on resolving their disagreements at the negotiating table. This was the main reason why, in the mid-1990s, Russia almost stopped financing the Losharik project. The country even invited the United States to be a co-investor, suggesting that the deep-sea bathyscaphe could be involved in rescue operations.

While Losharik failed to become a rescue vessel, it has nevertheless proved a very valuable national security asset.

Source – Indrus