At last, India will induct its first new conventional submarine in 16 years, INS Kalvari , by the end of this year.
However, it will be a metal shark without teeth.
According to ‘The Times of India’ report, government has scrapped Rs 1,200 crore proposal to buy heavy-weight torpedoes from a subsidiary of Italian firm Finmeccanica to arm the six new Scorpene submarines.
As per report, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has directed officials to look for "an alternative" to the "Black Shark" torpedoes manufactured by Finmeccanica subsidiary Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel (WASS).
Navy hoped that exception would be made on ground of "critical operational necessity" for the Black Shark torpedoes as they had emerged the winner over the Seahake torpedoes of the German Atlas Elektronik Gmbh in the selection process some years ago.
Nonetheless in the middle of ongoing war of words between the BJP and the Congress over the VVIP chopper scam, which revolves around Finmeccanica and its UK-based subsidiary AgustaWestland, the defence minister has directed the "closure" of procurement case for the Black Shark torpedoes.
"The process will begin afresh, with a global tender being floated. Another option is to go in for a government-to-government deal to fast-track the acquisition," the source told the paper.
Heavy-weight torpedoes are the main stealth weapons of diesel-electric submarines to take out enemy warships and submarines, even while they also have some anti-ship or land-attack missiles.
Black Shark torpedoes were to arm six French-origin Scorpene submarines, which are being constructed at Mazagon Docks for Rs 23,652 crore.
Whole project itself has been plagued by cost escalations and a delay of over four years, with the first Scorpene in the shape of INS Kalvari now expected to be commissioned by November-December. The other five will follow at nine-month intervals till 2020.
INS Kalvari began its sea trials on May 1. After tests, it will be included in Indian Navy with only the tube-launched SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles.
Ship will have to wait for its key weapon to maintain stealth till government obtains the requisite heavy-weight torpedoes.
Under the present "partial ban" imposed on Finmeccanica and all its subsidiaries since August 2014, no fresh contract can be inked with the Italian company but ongoing contracts are allowed to continue unhindered.
Under this graded ban, all acquisition cases where Finmeccanica companies were declared as the L-1 (lowest bidder) after competition — like in the case of the Black Shark torpedoes — were to be kept on hold till further orders. "From being on hold, the project has now been scrapped," said a source.
In fact, acquisition of the Black Shark torpedoes was previously also on hold after Atlas Elektronik protested to Central Vigilance Commission about "irregularities" in the selection procedure.
But after some time, it was cleared by all.
Interestingly, UPA-II regime's Defence Acquisitions Council had cleared the Black Shark torpedo project days before it cancelledthe Rs 3,546-crore contract for 12 VVIP helicopters with AgustaWestland on January 1, 2014.