With the field evaluation trials (FETs) of the Indian Navy’s mega-submarine deal under Project-75I over, one of the two bidders Germany’s tkMS (thyssenkrupp Marine Systems) said on Wednesday that it is offering a modified, bigger “Type 214” HDW class submarine for Indian Navy. Its submarine has an angular design to minimise the detection and a hybrid energy system of fuel-cell based air-independent propulsion (AIP) and lithium-ion battery for operational advantages.

tkMS, which has tied up with defence PSU Mazagaon Dock Ltd (MDL) as its strategic partner to become eligible for participation in the bid estimated to be over ₹43,000 crore, said it also has some other next-generation features customised to suit the Navy’s requirements. A team of the Indian Navy has visited tkMS shipyard for trials, while the second bidder Navantia’s offer was evaluated late last month. It is important to note that Spanish company Navantia has tied up with L&T.

tkMS CEO Khalil Rahman said his company is the frontrunner to get the contract because of the “industrial” and “technical” package offered to India.

“I think, technically, we are in a very strong position. I think the Indian Navy is happy with the performance of the boats. I think the fact that we have a sea-proven AIP, experience of transfer of technology, ability to localise and indigenise, a strong partner in MDL who actually has experience of building big submarines and integrating them. All of these would work in our favour,” he said at a media interaction.

He, however, clarified that the ultimate decision lies with the Indian Navy and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for awarding the contract, which is for six submarines under the P-75I project.

Talking about the specifications, Rahman said the stealth design of the P-75I submarines is very different from the old-generation “Sishumar Class” or “Kalvari Class” the Indian Navy is operating. The other element, as per the German company, is the AIP and lithium-ion battery combination, which gives both speed and long-range endurance at low speed.

Explaining the advantage of the AIP, tkMS Senior Vice-President, Commodore Anil Jai Singh, Indian Navy (Retd), said while the conventional submarines have to snorkel after three-four days for energy, the AIP-fitted platforms would take 10-12 days for snorkel, which would help it remain discreet if operating in the enemy waters. So far, 52 tkMS AIP submarines are in service or have been contracted, the company said.

Answering businessline’s query on how much would be the Indian content on the P75I project, Rahman said the Request For Proposal issued by the government specifies 45 per cent for the first submarine and 60 per cent for the entire programme. “The MDL is currently confident that they will achieve more than 45 per cent from the first programme. Over the programme, they are saying, that they will achieve close to 60 per cent indigenisation content. It remains to be seen what actually happens.”

However, the bidding process is expected to get over only by next year. A technical report on the FET will be submitted by the Navy, which then goes for staff evaluation. Subsequently, a CNC is convened and the commercial bid is evaluated. After the contract is awarded, the first submarine takes seven-eight years for delivery and for later ones the timelines get substantially reduced, Singh said.