At the sidelines of the week-long Aero India 2023 show, Deputy Director of the Russia Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Vladimir Drozhzhov shared details regarding its offer to the Indian Navy to “jointly develop” a non-nuclear attack submarine based on the former’s Amur-1650 with up to 80 percent localization production.

The proposal came after Russia said it would not participate in bidding for India’s ambitious Project-75I (India) or P-75i submarine project. In a report by Sputnik, Drozhzhov cited that despite not taking part in the tender, they are offering “Indian partners a variant of cooperation… including the joint designing and production of a national non-nuclear submarine under the 75 (I) program on the basis of an intergovernmental agreement.”

The Russian official continued: “Taking into account our experience of working with the Indian side on other naval projects, localization of production during the implementation of the program for the construction of Project-75 (I) submarines based on the Russian platform Amur-1650 can be increased to 70-80 percent.”

Project-75I is a planned diesel-electric submarine for the Indian Navy equipped with advanced capabilities—including air-independent propulsion (AIP); intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); special operations forces (SOF), anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare; land-attack capabilities; and other related features. Under the program, India initially issued a Request for Information (RFI) to five foreign naval manufacturers for six submarines to be built locally. These contenders include the Naval Group of France, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems of Germany, Rubin Design Bureau of Russia, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering of South Korea, and Navantia of Spain.

Germany was the first to withdraw from the bid in August 2021 due to “restrictive requirements,” followed by Russia in February 2022 and France in April 2022, both due to “technical reasons.” This leaves the project to the sole vendor from South Korea, offering a proven fuel cell AIP system. Due to successive delays and the withdrawal of major bidders that marred the program, some reports suggested that India’s ambitious submarine project might be shelved altogether. But with Russia’s renewed proposal, there may be hope for the project to move forward.

Russian Amur-1650

The Russian submarine is a fourth-generation design with a modernized look of the Kilo-class featuring improved acoustic stealth, new combat systems, and an option for an AIP system capable of diving a depth of up to 300 meters (984 feet), a maximum speed of up to 22 knots, an endurance of 45 days, and carry a crew of 35 sailors.

This isn’t the first time Moscow proposed the Amur-1650, as the submarine aligned itself to the major requirements the Indian Navy has been looking for, such as the AIP system—this adds up to 20 more days of underwater travel time—and a non-nuclear submarine. Moreover, it can launch anti-ship cruise missiles (like Kalibr and BrahMos), as well as deep-water torpedoes and mines via its automated command information system.

India’s Ambitious Sub Project

India has been working on its submarine-building program for 30 years, including designing and manufacturing, which currently needs to catch up to schedule. With major contenders withdrawing left and right, moving forward off Phase I is expected to worsen.

According to released official documents, the Indian Navy has two ongoing conventional submarine programs, with Phase III on the way. The first part of Phase I, or P-75, which composes of Naval Group’s Scorpene-class submarine, began in 2005 and was built by local manufacturer Mazagon Dock Limited shipyard in Mumbai, and so far has been commissioned four (S-21 to 24) while the remaining two (S-25 and 26) are expected to be delivered by the end of 2023.

Compared to the Amur-class submarine, the Indian Scorpene-class submarine, identified as Kalvari-class, measures 67.5 m (221 ft 5 in), is capable of diving a depth of up to 350 m (1,150 ft), reaches a maximum speed of 20 knots, an endurance of up to 52 days, and carry a crew of up to 44 men. Its armament includes 6x533mm tubes, up to 18 heavyweight weapons, an SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missile (MBDA), SUT 266 Legacy heavyweight torpedo (Atlas Elektronik), and mines.

INS Kalvari S-21 (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Russian Amur-1650 will be part of the second part of Phase I, or P-75(I), under the Strategic Partnership model endorsed by the Defense Acquisition Council in 2017. Here, six submarines are set to be produced locally with a budget of INR 43,000 crore (about USD 5.4 billion) and an initial target to induct these SSKs between 2030 and 2035.

Once the deadline is met, Phase II of the submarine program will follow with a target production of 12 submarines, which have been reported to be divided into six conventional and six nuclear-powered.

Amid its urgent need for military modernization, India continues to stick by its objective of prioritizing the indigenization of its defense industry, which includes planning, designing, and production.