Why is MDL unable to produce submarines even after ToT?

Recently Vice Admiral Narayan Prasad (Retd) who is Chairman & Managing Director of India’s premier submarine building shipyard, Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) speaking to the media just confirmed the sorry state of affairs in the Indian shipbuilding industry and why no Transfer of Technology (ToT) is not good enough and ToT is a scam to rake up some extra money in the name of ToT.

After Two Transfer of Technology (ToT) for two submarine classes under which it manufactured 8 submarines (6 Kalvari-2 Shishumar-class) over 40 years, MDL MD just confirmed that the ToT of these submarines was not adequate for India to develop its own, and manufacturers often in name of ToT ensure that many of the core techs in weapons fire control mechanism or the sensor suite are protected so keep dependency intact for all future upgrades and modernization till the ships are active in the Indian Navy.

Instead of deflecting blame, it should introspect why after local manufacturing 8 submarines in the country it has failed to come up with its submarine design and why it failed to develop weapons fire control mechanism or the sensor suite that is still controlled by foreign OEMs.

MDL until recently was backing the manufacturing of 3 more Kalvari class submarines for the Indian navy to keep its production line busy but made no effort to develop Indian-made substitutes. MDL again has been shortlisted to manufacture at least 4 of the six submarines that will be contracted under the Project-75I tender for six next-generation submarines that will again see the ToT of another line of the submarine type transferred to India.

MDL’s mandate with the previous two ToT was to absorb and learn how to fabricate submarines and also offer indigenous alternatives but it seems it has failed to offer anything to the Indian Navy that is good enough to negate the need to procure another six submarines from foreign OEMs.

MoD that has been promoting ToT as some changer initiative that will transform India’s underwater fleet is yet to sanction money to build a design bureau in MDL or elsewhere where the local submarine line can be developed. ToT and Make in India is fast becoming a corrupt way of promoting and buying products that are over-inflated in costs and delayed since the local shipyard doesn’t have control of foreign tech.

If the country’s premier submarine building facility is saying it can’t work on its design for the next line of submarines and the ToT of these submarines has failed. maybe it’s time for MoD and the Indian Navy to stop their obsession with foreign-designed submarines and under PMO develop its class of submarines like it’s with its nuclear submarine siblings.

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