Naval Group withdraws from India's P75i AIP submarine competition

Until recently, Naval Group was considered one of the favorites for the P75i competition launched in 2017 by New Delhi to design and locally build 6 new attack submarines equipped with an anaerobic propulsion system, designated by the English acronym AIP for Air Independent Propulsion. The French specialist in military ships and submarines could indeed rely on the previous P75 program, launched in 1999, based on the Scorpene submarine, and whose 6th and last unit was launched this Wednesday April 20. After a difficult start, as is often the case in India, the program has managed to build on an efficient industrial dynamic with Mazagon Dock Limited shipyards in Bombay, and deliveries followed at a steady paceu in recent years, offering the Indian Navy a new high-performance and particularly discreet submarine, far superior to the Kilo and Type 209 still in service.

This difficult competition led the Swedish group Saab and its shipbuilder Kockums to throw in the towel in 2020, and the German specialist TKMS had also announced that it wanted to withdraw in October 2020, leaving only thee Russian Rubin with the Amur class, the Spanish Navantia with the S-80, the South Korean Huyndai with the DSME-3000 derived from Dosan Ahn Changho class, and the French Naval Group with the SMX 3.0 to compete. It seems since then that TKMS has backtracked and remained in the competition with its Type 214. However, everything led to believe that New Delhi viewed the offer from Paris with great benevolence, until the conditions for awarding the contract were modified by the Indian authorities, requiring that the anaerobic propulsion system proposed by the manufacturers be already in service on board operational ships. Unfortunately for Naval Group, the next generation AIP system proposed has never been installed on a ship, effectively excluding the French group from the competition.

The Vagsheer, the 6th and last Kalvari-class submarine designed by Naval Group, was launched on April 20, 2022 in Bombay

However, this new requirement could well spell the end of the P75i program itself, since of all the submarines remaining in the running, only the South Korean model is actually in service, as well as that of the German Type 214 if at all. that TKMS has decided to return to competition. In reality, the initial requirements of the program, those which led the Swedes and the Germans to throw in the towel, and the Japanese not to compete, seem contradictory with the new requirements published, in fact excluding Naval Group, but also the offer the Russian Rubin in the same case as the French group, and the Spanish S80 which is not yet operational. Voices are already rising on the sub-continent against this new requirement leading to competition with a single bidder, the South Korean Hyundai, with the risks that this imposes on the conduct and serenity of the program.

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