Mumbai: Construction of the highly advanced French submarine, Scorpene, began at Mazgaon Docks here on Wednesday, according to a report by leading national daily, The Hindu. The submarine, first of a total of six contracted for by the Indian Navy under a $3.5 billion deal with French shipbuilders DCN, will join the fleet only in 2012. The remaining five submarines will follow at intervals of a year thereafter.
"Today we are at the starting point, the construction of the first section of the hull has begun," the Hindu quoted Jean-Marie Poimboeuf, chairman and chief executive officer of DCN, as saying. DCN will be supplying technology, design, consultancy and components to Mazgon Dock for the construction programme.
According to Poimboeuf, the components for the first two Scorpenes would come from France. As for the remaining four submarines, most of the equipment and components required for their construction would be made in India by various Indo-French collaborations or joint ventures.
Designed for coastal defence against underwater threats, the 1,750-tonne submarine -submarine-killer (SSK) Scorpene is 67 meters long and can dive to a depth of 300 meters, possibly more. It can stay at sea for 45 days with a crew of 31. The standard version has six torpedo tubes and anti-shipping missile launchers.
According to Poimboeuf, the DCN had already supplied two Scorpenes to the Chilean navy and was constructing two more in France for the Malaysians. In the case of India, all six units are to be built in Mumbai. He said that though the general architecture, propulsion system and torpedo tubes were common to all the three navies, the Indian Scorpenes would differ in combat systems and living accommodation.
Poimbeuf said that the Indian Navy wanted the tubes capable of launching two different kinds of torpedoes, which he declined to specify. The supply of sea-skimming SM 39 Exocet anti-shipping missiles was a part of the deal.
The technology transfer agreement with DCN covers technology for the entire submarine, though it excludes that for the torpedo tubes. Poimboeuf told The Hindu that transfer of this particular know-how could however be considered, which would only be around 2009, when construction of the first submarine reaches that stage.
The Scorpene's albacore shaped hull is ideal for very silent operations, enhancing the effectiveness of its own sonar, even as it minimizes the risk of its detection by enemy submarines. The sub also features a seven blade, skewed propeller, which further helps in reducing the noise level of the submarine.
Being built under the Indian Navy's Project 75 programme, the Scorpene will be a standard unit for the Indian Navy in the 21st century. Project 75 hunter-killer submarines will be equipped with long-range weapons and will also feature advanced electronic warfare systems.
To undertake work on these submarines, construction facilities at Mazgaon Dock Limited in Mumbai have been suitably upgraded. These facilities had been lying unused after the construction of two Shishumar class (HDW 209 Type-1500) submarines in the early 1990s.
The Indian Government signed a contract on 6 October 2005 for six of Scorpene boats, at a cost of $3.5 billion. All six vessels will be built at Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai, with the first boat expected to be commissioned in 2012, and at the rate of one every year thereafter, until 2017/18.