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New Indian submarines to be toothless amid ongoing AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 25 May 2016, 11:55 IST

India will finally induct INS Kalvari, its first new conventional submarine in 16 years, by the end of 2016. However, it will not have its main weapon loaded on it.

This is because the government has scrapped the long-pending Rs 1,200 crore proposal to buy heavy-weight torpedoes from a subsidiary of Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica to arm the six new Scorpene submarines.

AgustaWestland, the company involved in the VVIP chopper scam is also a UK-based subsidiary of Finmeccanica and because of the ongoing tussle between the BJP and Congress over the chopper scam, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has directed "closure" of the procurement case for the Black Shark torpedoes.

According to The Times of India, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has directed officials to urgently look for "an alternative" to the "Black Shark" torpedoes manufactured by Finmeccanica subsidiary Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel (WASS).

The Navy was hopeful that a "special exception" would be made on the grounds 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 several years ago.

"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," a source told TOI.

The Black Shark torpedoes were to arm the six French-origin Scorpene submarines being constructed at Mazagon Docks for Rs 23,652 crore. The entire project has been plagued by cost escalations and a delay of over four years, with the first Scorpene in the shape of INS Kalvari now likely to be commissioned by November-December. The other five will follow at nine-month intervals till 2020.

As was reported by TOI, under the existing "partial ban" imposed on Finmeccanica and all its subsidiaries since August 2014, no fresh deal can be inked with the Italian conglomerate but ongoing contracts are allowed to continue unhindered. Interestingly, the UPA-II regime's Defence Acquisitions Council, chaired by AK Antony, had given the green signal to the Black Shark torpedo project just 10 days before it finally scrapped the Rs 3,546-crore contract for 12 VVIP helicopters with AgustaWestland on 1 January, 2014.

First published: 25 May 2016, 11:53 IST