Coastal Protection: The Indian Navy wants to acquire portable sonar diver detectors to better defend littoral regions. (Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI — The Indian Navy plans to buy 78 portable diver detection sonar (PDDS) systems to improve littoral defenses, but only from domestic sources.
The US$70 million tender seeks to procure the systems under the “Buy and Make (Indian)” category, under which domestic firms forge joint ventures with overseas companies, but at least half of the system has to be sourced from homemade components.
The Navy uses sonar detection systems on ships procured from Sonardyne International of the UK; this will be the first time it has used portable diver detection systems.
Indian Defence Ministry sources said negotiations to procure PDDS gear from Israel on a fast-track basis were halted last year, when India changed its policy and decided instead to explore possibilities in the domestic market. While no domestic companies have built a PDDS system, MoD sources said defense companies will tie up with overseas defense companies to compete for the tender.
In a policy change aimed at helping domestic defense companies, MoD last year released new procurement procedures that stipulated gear will be imported only after domestic avenues are exhausted.
This is the second tender in a year issued by the Navy under the Buy and Make (Indian) category. Last year, MoD floated a tender for the purchase of surface surveillance radars valued at more than $300 million.
The tender for the PDDS gear has been sent to state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd. and Keltron, and to private companies Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Tata Power SED, Mahindra Defence Systems, Tata Advanced Systems, Elcome Integrated Systems and Data Patterns.
An executive with India’s industry lobbying agency, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the domestic companies have been preparing for tie-ups and are negotiating with overseas companies for the PDDS tender.
BEL is negotiating with Thales of France while L&T has completed negotiations for tie-ups with Atlas Elektronik of Germany. Mahindra is negotiating with DSIT Solutions of Israel, Tata Power SED has tied up with Kongsberg of Norway, and Data Patterns has teamed with Sonardyne.
The PDDS must be capable of detecting divers, underwater saboteurs and midget submarines in littoral waters.
Divers will deploy the systems at five to 50 meters underwater; the weight of the PDDS should not be more than 50 kilograms and should not measure more than one meter in diameter.
The PDDS system will allow a diver to navigate underwater and map targets on a real-time basis. The system will gather data from targets and then display the information, allowing the diver to map the bottom’s topography. ■