Stating this, Patrick Boissier, Chairman and CEO of French shipbuilder DCNS, confirmed that the design of the existing Scorpene submarine could be lengthened with the addition of more sections including Air Independent Propulsion (AIP).
Boissier was part of the trade delegation visiting New Delhi with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. India is already building six Scorpene submarines at the state-owned Mazagon Docks Ltd under a Rs 18,000-crore contract signed with France in 2005.
Last year, the Indian Navy sought global Requests for Information (RFIs) from global vendors for six Project 75I class submarines independent of the 2005 contract.
DCNS responded to the Navy RFI last September. Next year, the Navy is to issue its Request for Proposals (RFPs), which will define the size of the submarine and other critical parameters. Naval officials say a contract for the first P75I could be signed around 2012-13.
The Project 75I submarines are expected to be bigger than the 1800-ton Scorpene class and call for the fitment of AIP systems allowing greater underwater endurance and land-attack missiles.
Indian Navy officials say a commonality of components will mean the second line of six Scorpenes will be cheaper than any competitor, though it is unclear what the quantum of these savings will be. The first two submarines are to be built in the foreign shipyard that wins the contract, the next three at MDL and the last one at the Hindustan Shipyard Limited, recently acquired by the defence ministry.
The submarines are to be built simultaneously in India and abroad to ensure speedy induction into the fleet. This is because the Navy is faced with a fast shrinking submarine arm. It has not added a new submarine in a decade. From 18 submarines in 2000, the Navy is down to 14 and will start retiring the first of its 10 Russian-built Kilo class vessels from 2015 onwards. The Scorpene submarine programme has been delayed by four years. The first submarine is now expected to join the Navy only by 2015.
India's long-term submarine building programme, conceived in the mid-1990s, envisaged the building of 24 submarines over the next two decades.