NEW DELHI – India’s government has approved the launch of a $6.14 billion program for the construction of six conventional submarines under Project 75-I.

The approval was granted by the defense ministry’s procurement body, the Defence Acquisition Council, on June 4. It permits the Indian navy to publish a tender for six submarines, with a target audience of domestic shipbuilders.

Officials cleared the issue of a Request for Proposals (RfP), which “envisages indigenous construction of six conventional submarines equipped with the state-of-the-art Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system,” the ministry of defense said in a press statement.

“This is a landmark approval, being the first case processed under the strategic partnership model,” the statement reads. India’s strategic partner’s policy, introduced by the MoD in June 2017, allows the selection of private-sector companies to produce major weapons and platforms, including submarines, in partnership with overseas original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

A senior Indian navy official said the MoD has already shortlisted two domestic companies – state-owned Mazagon Dockyard Limited (MDL) and private firm Larsen & Toubro Ltd, and five foreign vendors: Rubin Design Bureau of Russia, Naval Group of France, Navantia of Spain, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) of Germany, and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering of South Korea.

The official said a formal tender will be issued to two domestic shipyards within the next two months, with the expectation that those companies will then team up with one of the five foreign vendors.

A senior MoD official said the foreign contractors have to clearly define the scope of technology transfer in specific areas, meet requirements for the extent of indigenous work, propose an economic framework for Indian prime partners and other Indian suppliers, and present a training program for the local workforce.

The foreign companies are free to set up joint ventures or equity partnerships or make royalty arrangements with Indian prime partners and other Indian suppliers, MoD officials added.

Defense officials are expected to take at least two years before making a final selection and signing a contract with the winner. The first submarine is not expected to roll out before 2030, the second navy official remarked.

Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

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